More Coos River names

A couple of posts back I blogged about names for Millicoma and South Fork Coos River.  Today we’ll blog about the lower river.

Few names were recalled for Coos River, by the time anyone bothered to ask.  The lower part of the river, from Eastside to the forks was called kwilwitl’ach (also sometimes pronounced kulwitl’ach or kwil’witl’iich).

There was a village where the forks of Millicoma and South Fork met, sadly destroyed long ago and the midden scattered over the fields as fertilizer.  The name of the village is uncertain.  The only name Lottie Evanoff recalled was tl’eyxnii which just means ‘forks’, where any two streams or rivers meet.

Jim Buchanan told St Clair in 1903 that this place was called aíqonihiich, which he referred to as ‘at the forks’ and that there was a giant flounder that lived there and people had to portage their canoes around it (presumably the current there where two rivers met was a bit dicey).  Thirty years later he gave Jacobs the name Elqníhich ‘at the forks’ and this is certainly the same place.

Graveyard Point was a major seasonal salmon fishing site.  A dredging crew working at Graveyard Point in the 1920s dug up out of the mud a couple of weir stakes that had carvings of men and fish on them.  I don’t think anything like that has been found elsewhere in the bay since.

Doloos Jackson went there regularly for salmon but his daughter Lottie was unable to recall the name.  Unfortunately JP Harrington got it into his head that this site must be called Takimiya (which Lottie disagreed with) but based on other sources Takimiya is Umpqua Eden, not Graveyard Point.  Sadly no one recalled the name of this site, but going by Buchanan’s list of place names in Jacobs there are a couple of possibilities.  One is la’oltl which he said mean ‘mud hole’ and another is k’umiis which he called ‘salmon head place’.

There is also a story that takes place in part here.  Once there were 5 brothers and a sister living there.  The brothers refused to let her marry anyone.  They had turned down any suitors that came along.  One day a well dressed man came and offered to marry her.  He was turned down.

One day she was swimming in the cutoff there.  Something bumped her legs.  Unknown to her, it was Orca who bumped her.  That suitor who had come was an Orca headman, he bumped up between her legs when she was swimming and he made her pregnant.

Her belly began to grow, and her brothers demanded to know who the father was.  She had no idea; she did not realize the thing that bumped her in the water had done this.

When the baby was born he cried all the time.  Her brothers told her to take the baby to where she made it.  She took the baby out of the house and he stopped crying.  So she made a bed for him outside.  When she went to check on him in the morning, his lips were greasy as though someone had fed him seal grease.

Not long after that, when she went out in the morning, there was a good looking man there.  He told her he was her husband.  He had come to take them to his home.  He told her to hold on to his belt as they entered the water and all would be fine.  It was; they got into the water world and went to the sea to his people.

The brothers did not know where she and the baby went.  They looked for her.

Meanwhile the baby grew and cried for arrows as toys.  So sister took 6 sea otter skins and  held them over her and swam around the bay.  Her brothers were in a canoe in the bay, still looking for their sister.  They saw the skins and thought it was an otter.  They shot arrows at it.  They followed it toward the bar.  They saw their sister on the little beach that once existed below Coos Head [the jetties created the modern Bastendorff beach].  They went there and she told them about her Orca family.  She said her inlaws would send her brothers things on the beach like sea otters and whales.

The brothers got those things and became wealthy.  Up until then they were poor, but after their sister married an Orca, they were wealthy.


About shichils

Just sharing some fun on language
This entry was posted in Myths, toponyms and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to More Coos River names

  1. Sofia cis says:

    Oooh! this one is so good. I love the orca story. i never heard that one before. What a gold mine you are. Question, do we have a picture of Bucannan somewhere? I have visual memory of Chief Doloose but not Bucannan…

    • shichils says:

      The Orca story came from Lottie, she told it to Harrington. About Buchanan – good question! I can recall only seeing one photo of him, where he is standing with Frank Drew and one of the Metcalf family – I think his name was Eli Metcalf. Hasn’t been published often ( or maybe ever I am not sure). I don’t know if there are any other surviving photos of him.

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