Place name: Millicoma

The name Millicoma (the tributary of the Coos river) is derived from the Hanis language, but ironically it is named after the Milluk people and the contemporary name is applied to the wrong river.

The real Millicoma river is what is marked on today’s maps as South Fork Coos River. The name, in Hanis is Millukw-u-me, meaning Milluk’s people (if translated literally into Milluk that’d be Millukw do k’a, and for fun if we translate into Siuslaw/Umpqua that’d be Millukwamhl hiich). According to Lottie Evanoff and George Bundy Wasson (in Harrington’s notes and Maloney’s notes in the Melville Jacobs archives) at least some Millukw Indians had fishing rights far up the South Fork/Millicoma River. George Bundy Wasson said ‘summer home on Millicoma, main winter village on South Slough and lower Bay’. He said the main Millukw village was near Tarheel Point. This would have been my many-times-great-uncle’s village of Dayaqwaq’w, which was near that point. (Harrington 24:863a) He also said there was a summer village at the forks of Millicoma.

How ever did the name get switched? I assume some early settler asked an Indian the name, but when maps were made the cartographer put the name on the wrong river fork. And thus, the name has stuck ever since.

So, if the real Millicoma is South Fork, what is the Indian name of the North Fork, aka today’s Millicoma? According to Lottie, the name is kuggwiich. She gave no etymology for that name.  Although it does look like the root of the word for ‘south’ and ‘Coos Bay region’, kuukw-.  There was a trail that went from Kuggwiich to Scottsburg, and along the route was an old stump where people left gifts for it when they passed by.

Finally, Lottie learned of a story that happened far up the original Millicoma/South Fork Coos River that happened at Smith’s Basin. I am not sure Smith’s Basin is on many modern maps, but it is a bend of the river along a big flat near Dellwood. It is privately owned timberland (I think Weyerhauser, or at least used to be) and I visited it many years ago, as most days the timber company kept the gate open and people could visit. I tried to find the rock mentioned in the story, but had no luck. Maybe if you search for it this summer you will have better luck than I – let me know!

Lottie’s story:

Long ago, some South Slough Indians went up Millicoma (points towards S Coos River region). Traveled in canoes. Saw sea lion there [on a rock]. “Now we can eat.”

They kill & eat sea lion except for 2 young men.

Went to sleep, changed into sea lions, except for those 2 men who didn’t eat any.

This is the place they call Basin (Smith Basin) – round rock still show where they drink & eat.


About shichils

Just sharing some fun on language
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2 Responses to Place name: Millicoma

  1. cis says:

    i love this. i wish there was a Patty-tour.

    • shichils says:

      I would love giving a “Patty-tour” hah!! Well, there are so many place names, and sometimes odd etymologies or stories attached to said places… OK I sorta have thought a book of the indigenous names and stories of the OR coast would be cool, but it would take a lot of research and work to coordinate with the Siletz for the south coast and then other tribes for the north coast. I dunno, might be an interesting thing to attempt, some day….

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