Two new Siuslaw words-steelhead & creek

Slogging slowly thru Harrington’s notes has its benefits – occasionally I still find new words, especially Siuslaw/Lower Umpqua ones.

Today’s finds were the words for steelhead and stream.  In Hanis, the word for steelhead were recorded in several sources (tsgwá’al), word only turned up in Milluk just once, in St Clair, where he recorded it as tskwál.  Per Clay Barrett, steelhead is qaxaihl.  Then Clay was thinking of ways to translate that from the Hanis name of Big Creek (the one between Heceta and Yachats) which was ‘steelhead creek’ into Siuslaw/Lower Umpqua: he came up with qaxaihlta and qaxaihl tsómstom.  Tsómstom is apparently the name for ‘creek’ (as opposed to inqa’ai which means river).

Steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss) are supposed to be running now.  Indians used to go out and fish for some from January to March at places like Big Creek.  Steelhead are unique among the Pacific salmon species – they are the only ones who can spawn, live, and return to spawn again.  All other species of Pacific salmon die after spawning.  According to Lottie Evanoff, Coos people believed a person who ate a spawned out salmon with white head and tail would die.


About shichils

Just sharing some fun on language
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