Sea Lions

Well wouldn’t you know not long after publishing a post about whether or not Indians knew of Sea Lion Cave before Capt. Cox ‘discovering’ it in 1880, I find some more information.  Frank Drew said “…the only place Frank knows is ledges at foot of a 200 ft cliff which is slippery, s[outh] of the lighthouse. Some [Indians] paddled forth from the m[outh] of the Sius[law] & into the mouth of Sealion Cave, when it was still water only.” (Harrington 22:962b)  Given that there are stories of canoeing offshore (including the one of Daloos Jackson’s grandfather paddling a canoe back to Coos Bay from the Columbia River) I think it is very likely Indians knew of and visited that cave.  Another ‘discovery’ story shot down.

It got me to thinking of sea lions.  There are two species found along the Oregon coast.  The larger species, and the one commonly seen at Sea Lion Cave is the Steller Sea Lion, Eumetopias jubatus.  The other one is the smaller and darker California sea lion, Zalophus californianus.   They are distinctive looking species, but curiously there seems to be only one word for them in each of the tribal languages:  tuxwsii in Hanis and Milluk, yaqq’us in Siuslaw/Umpqua.  I say ‘seems’ because in Hanis there may have been two words, but due to a lack of data one on of them, I don’t know what exactly it meant.  tuxwsii is used several times in Harrington by Lottie Evanoff and Frank Drew.  However, a decade earlier, Frank mentioned the word yuwíyuwi exactly once to Jacobs as a word for ‘sea lion’.  He doesn’t describe which species – just noted people used their blubber.

Lottie does say her father told her there were two different types of sea lion and they did not interbreed.  “There are 2 kinds of sealions: yellow and black. The black ones never come to the mainland shore, these black ones come only to the islands. My father came from Yahatc to Heketa Head (where the lighth[ouse] is now) and there were lots of [Indians]From Ya[chats] camped there drying seal meat. My father when camping there went out to the [island] off Heceta Head & approached a black-sealion, & touched the muzzle of the gun to the head whereupon he shot & killed that black sealion. It was the custom to carry such a big black sealion tied in the bottom of a canoe, for he was too big to tow, wd tip over the canoe, such a blac-sealion will sink & pull a canoe down with it.” (Harrington 22:966ab)  Steller sea lions tend to be tawny-colored and lighter than California sea lions, but it isn’t an absolute – when wet, California sea lions are dark; but when dry some of them have lighter brown coats as well.

“She [not know] any nomenclature for black-sealion and for yellow-sealion. The H[anis] spoke of either kind as [túxwsii].” (Harrington 22:967a)

So unfortunately the word yuwíyuwi is a mystery.  Either it was a second descriptive word of some sort for sea lions, or it referred to one of the species.  But since it was never mentioned ever again in any other source, there is no way to know.

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About shichils

Just sharing some fun on language
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