Photo courtesy US Forest Service
Cape Perpetua is such a beautiful place on the central coast. And even though it is in Alsea country, it has meaning for our tribes too, when many CLUS people were removed to Yachats. While there, they spent much time socializing with the Alsea, and learning some of the place names and stories of the region. And today we can visit the Amanda trail and statue, a place of contemplation and beauty.
In the Alsea language, Cape Perpetua was called Halqaikʸ. When the Coos Bay and Lower Umpqua people were moved to Yachats (recalling that the Siuslaw people stayed on their river) they adopted their own versions of the Alsea’s name. In Hanis, it became hélaq’aich meaning ‘brother in law place’. Spencer Scott recalled for the Lower Umpqua it was há’laq’áich. Both are likely derived from the Alsea name – indeed the Hanis one seems to be a funny folk-etymology turning the Alsea word into ‘brother in law place’ because Halqaikʸ sounds a bit like the word for brother in law (heleq’).
Does the Alsea word have its own etymology? The word comes down to us from John Albert, but he didn’t offer a meaning of the name. Out of curiosity I emailed Dr. Gene Buckley, a linguist who has studied Alsea, and he noted that –aikʸ appears to be a locative case ending (it also appears in the Alsea name for Yachats, Yaxaikʸ). I went walking through Frachtenberg’s Alsea wordlist, and he has the verb halq-/halaq- ‘to take out, to uncover, to open; to put into play’. Dr. Buckley noted its use in the texts – twice as a reference to digging graves, and once for uncovering the shinny ball. To start shinny, the ball is just buried under the surface and two players ‘dig’ for it to start play. It isn’t clear where Frachtenberg got the meaning ‘to take out’ (unless it is inferred from its use in the texts) – perhaps Frachtenberg had some additional notes in his notebooks.
Anyway, if this is the verb at the root of the name for Cape Perpetua, it would give it the meaning something like ‘uncovered place, open place, dug-up place, exposed place’. Well, that could make a certain descriptive sense. It is a high promontory exposed to wave and wind. So perhaps this is the meaning within a meaning of the name in Alsea.