So recently in the news have been stories about the 1st pair of wolves within the last century or so to take up residence in southwestern Oregon.
Wolves once lived along the Oregon coast, there are words for them in the tribal languages. In both Hanis and Milluk they were known as dliimekw, and in Siuslaw/Lower Umpqua as q’axauxt. In Chinook Jargon they are lilu (LEE-loo) and according to the Chinuk Wawa dictionary, this word came into Jargon from the French word for wolf, le loup, possibly through the intermediaries of Métis or Cree.
The wolf is often treated as a terrible monster in many Eurasian mythologies (and I suspect that is why many Euro-Americans still hate and fear wolves in large part – their mythological heritage) – kind of fills the same role in some ways as the dread Grizzly Bear does in our stories. Indian people for the most part did not hate or fear wolves. They were regarded as loyal family creatures and good hunters. Some tribes like the Alsea believed Wolf Power was a very good power to have, especially for those who wanted to be good hunters. Others thought that power came with a price. Spencer Scott (Lower Umpqua/Siuslaw) once noted that while wolf was a good hunter, that Wolf Power might make a person a little mean.
Lottie Evanoff (Hanis) said wolves’ last hideout was Siuslaw. At Yachats, Indian agents tried keeping sheep and occasionally wolves attacked the sheep, and horses too.
Wolves occasionally appear in myth. Below is an adaptation of a Lower Umpqua story set in and around the village Takimiya (which is Umpqua Eden, near Winchester Bay), told by Jim Buchanan and recorded in Frachtenberg’s Coos Texts:
THE WOMAN WHO MARRIED THE WOLF
A young woman lived in Takimiya.
She had five younger brothers.
Everybody wanted to marry her, but she did not want a husband.
In the afternoon she was always chopping wood.
She had five pack-ropes.
Once she went to pack wood, she came back four times.
The fifth pack she put on top of a log.
“This may be a good load.”
She put the pack-rope on the top of her head.
She could not stand up.
Something was holding it back.
She shook it around to see whether she wouldn’t tie and untie it but there was nothing holding it.
“I don’t know what’s the matter with my load.”
For a long time she did it thus;
she got tired and began to cry.
All at once a man stood there.
“You are my wife.
I was holding your load.
That’s why you couldn’t stand up.”
He called her thus, “my wife.”
The woman became somewhat ashamed.
She did not know the man.
She never had seen him.
Then she was thinking thus, “I will go with him.”
The fifth pack she still had left there.
Her folks found the pack.
“Some one must have killed her.”
They all looked for her everywhere.
So they went back of the shore into the forest.
And he took her up there to a big plank-house.
When he had taken his wife up there, he said,
“Please wait her, your mother-in-law will take you in.”
So she was sitting there waiting.
Suddenly a Wolf ran out.
She became frightened, and it seemed that he was growling.
He opened his mouth and growled.
The woman turned back.
The Wolf said to the young man,
“This woman does not want to come in.
The woman is frightened.”
Then the young man got angry.
“What’s the matter with you?
You shall change yourself into a person.
She will not be afraid of you then.”
Wolf went out again, and assumed the shape of an old woman.
Then she said to the woman, “Come in.”
So she entered.
Many other old people were lying inside when she entered.
The people had gone hunting, and hadn’t returned yet.
Then in the evening the young men came back.
Each of them had as a load a deer, and they threw it down outside the house.
The had all sorts of things inside –
much money and all kinds of dried meat.
She stayed there, and had two children.
And the children grew up.
Thus she said to her children, “You mustn’t play down the river.”
When the children grew larger,
they went down the river.
They saw some people.
The hair on their heads was cut short.
They were walking around the forest, and they cried.
When the children came back, they told what they had seen.
She said “They must be looking for me.”
Then one day the husband took his wife to her folks.
They carried large load, all kinds of meat, money and valuables.
He was hiding a little ways off in the brush, and said to his wife “Go and see your folks.
You shall come back soon.”
So when she arrived there, she said to her folks,
“After this I will always give you meat.
I will say thus to my children, and they will always drive meat here.”
Then the two went back.
They were driving deer and elk there, and then they killed them themselves.
Her husband was a Wolf.