Da’nis village: a possible etymology

Out of dozens of place names given in the CLUS languages, some have clear meanings (because the speaker offered a translation); others have etymologies easily figured out.  But some are hopelessly opaque. Da’nis village, which was located in North Bend, has an unclear meaning.  No one offered a meaning of the name, but poking around in the Hanis word list brings up a couple of possibilities. For one, the suffix -s is a general nominal suffix in Hanis.  That would leave a root dan- or tan-. According to the word list there is a verb dan- or tan– that means (fish or whale) to be stranded ashore.  So we have phrases like:

Hlche’isiich bintl’uwai da’na’at = a whale stranded on the beach (beach=on whale stranded=passive-causative) [Harrington 24:364]

Bintl’uwai dan’tsat=a whale has stranded (whale stranded=transitive=transitive) [Harrington 22:961a]

Ihl daniiyat = they landed them, they sent them ashore (they stranded=causative) [St Clair volume 2 page 91)

Hon yiqanchom yuxwe kwe tantan lo bintl’uwai, yixei tshlim ta his kwe qaluu = Afterwards two whales came ashore, one (it seems) in summer and one (it seems) in winter. (the behind 2 it.seems stranding/coming ashore the whale, one summer and also it.seems winter) [Frachtenberg Coos Texts p. 162:20]

Ihl taniiyat lo bintl’uwai = they brought ashore the whales. (they stranded=causative the whale) [Frachtenberg Coos Texts p. 162:21]

Xayanii tla kihluuwit tana’at=Only an old dog-salmon he saw, washed ashore (spawned.out.salmon only see=transitive stranded=passive causative) [Frachtenberg page 130:3)

Then once the verb appears with the meaning ‘to be in front of something’: Ihl taniiyat lo qwais=they put the boards in front of them. (they be.in.front-causative the boards) [Frachtenberg Coos texts p.52]

There was a similar verb in Milluk.  Page 218 of Melville Jacobs’ Coos Myth Texts we get t’sehém dán•dán•u = a whale has stranded (ts’ehem being the Milluk word for whale).

As you can see, depending on who wrote down the verb (Harrington, St Clair, Frachtenberg, Jacobs) it appears as tan- or dan-.  Frachtenberg always wrote it as tan-.

I wonder if what at first appears to be two verbs – to be stranded ashore and to be in front – might be related.  After all, if something has been pulled or stranded ashore and you’re looking at it, it is ‘in front of you’.  I don’t know for sure if these meanings are related, but they might be.

Second, does either fit for the Village site of Da’nis?  (And it is Da’nis, not Danis – I noticed that each time a trained linguist wrote down the word, it was recorded as Da’nis; English-speaking nonlinguists wrote it all sorts of ways – Donse, Donze, Doniss)  If we conjecture one of these meanings fit, then the village name is a noun meaning something like Stranded Ashore, or Landed Ashore, or In-Front.  Being a village site on a point in the bay, I could see that as a descriptor or the place.  What the story behind this name was, we don’t know (sadly).

Of course, we don’t have a full vocabulary for Hanis, so it is possible some other unrecorded word was behind the village name; or it was an old, old name and the etymology has been obscured over time.  No way to be certain.  However, I must say, I kinda like the idea of “Stranded Ashore”.

Are there any stories of Da’nis?  Not much, really.  Lottie Evanoff told Harrington in 1942 that she thought all the Da’nis people had died of small pox as she could not recall offhand knowing any Da’nis people.  However, Jim Buchanan mentioned Coos Chief Jack Rogers (childhood nickname Gwiihlk’wiya) was from there.  He was married to Lottie’s older half-sister Kitty Hayes at one point.  (Either that happened when Lottie was too young to remember, or she forgot Rogers was from Da’nis).  Lottie said it was a windy place and that the Da’nis people played shinny on the big sand flat below the point. Sadly much of Da’nis village was destroyed during construction in the 1930s.  Marcus Seale did an excavation there during that time period.  He was not a professional archaeologist and indeed today is regarded as more of a looter than a scholar (and, he dug up a lot of bodies during that time, all around the bay.  I think these were the ones stored at University of Oregon and repatriated to the tribe a few years ago).

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About shichils

Just sharing some fun on language
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One Response to Da’nis village: a possible etymology

  1. sof cis says:

    fascinating! Thank you so much Patty.

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