Fossil Point

So I finally translated “Fossil Point”.  It is a story Annie Peterson told to Melville Jacobs; he recorded it in his notebook 100 and published it on page 69 of “Coos Narrative and Ethnologic Texts”.  Jacobs said he asked Mrs. Peterson about it because he spoke to a local who was curious about the site.  Jacobs said “On the beach called Fossil Point, at the old Barker place and near the present Barview auto camp across from Charleston, there used to be a number of rocks curiously water worn.  The Indians thought them effigies of persons, canoes and other things that had been turned to rock at some ancient time.”

There are still some words I need to work out all the morphemes, but basically this is it:

Le tl’dachiyuwech tomiduwech lau kwnaiwat lex me

Since the world was started people saw it there.

Le chuuleyetl’ kwhli’yix, guus dijenendiihl

The wonderful rocks, all kinds of things.

Chii lau sotletl’, hats kwa tsiichii leu hich’unihiiye, le guus dijenendiihl.

There they fastened, just as if they were gathered together there, all manner of things.

Le la’mak, le me chii lau yech’uuwe’ni, he estis chiichu shdawedo lo méqmiyámidúwaq

The bones, the people were all gathered there, some in the manner in which people were cooking.

Xwench chii lau tahama le hiime, alu nobi’ihle, lau tikiniim lehlk’wonyau, lehl q’miyams lau limyim lenchwehl.

Thus all the children were there, in cradleboards, food was standing there, their cooking stood by the fire.

Ta le me lau guus lau he estis kwa banaq’ai.

And the people, it seems as though some were sunning themselves.

He estis kwa manch tlu’wutlu’wai

Some it seems were about to eat.

Wenchex kwinauch.

That’s how it looked.

Ilau chii setl’i.

There they were stuck.

Kwhli’yixeiye heme

The people turned to rock.

Ilau chii ihlta.

There they all were.

Lehl ix chii lau sinyim.

Their canoes beached there.

Nant lehl ix he estis noqalsa.

Many of their canoes were loaded down.

He estis milet’i, he estis lehl chima, leu wench he i’lt lexme.

Some of their paddles hung down, that’s what the people said.

Diihlkwin yuwuts stlotsawaq ihlq’mots.

Maybe they ate a poison fish.

Ihl q’mots.

They ate it.

Hluutlenwe laqawayims le stlotsawaq I hlu maq’miiyu.

The ‘poison fish’ that’s the only thing that cause death if they ate that sort of thing.

Hats diihlchech me st’li.

Those people got stuck.

Wench he’ihl ilt lexme.

That’s what the people said.

Hluu kwin ihlq’mots.

“They must’ve eaten that”.

Na hi’ni ‘ihsltli’ye.

Because there they got stuck.

Naim ihl in k’wa’aniya leleu xchiich le lau hi’ni stli’ye le me.

Because they didn’t know, that that must be it, that’s why the people got stuck there.

Leu wench he ihl gha’alani, le me yuwe lau ihl ghalt.

That is what they were saying, whenever the people spoke of it.

Hi’ni me stli’ye, hluu shwen ihlq’mots le stlotsawaq.

There the people became stuck, they must’ve cooked that ‘poison fish’.

Leu lex meu ma’anyas xeke hen lau yaq’aim hluu hauwi’wat, naim hluwech duwaya tsxauwat lex tuumitl’.

The People’s Father, he is the one who no more wanted that think, because the old man wanted to kill with that thing.

Leu wench diihl lelau induwaya lex meu ma’anyas.

That’s why the People’s Father no longer wanted it.

T’omiiduwech k’ehluu le stlotsawaq.

From that time on there are no more “poison fishes”.

Tsihewentl ihl ilt lix me.

That’s just what people will say.

Le chii yu nant me sotletl’ kwhli’yixech

So many people got stuck on the rocks there.

Chuuleyetl’ hen lex me I lau kwna’yaqham guus diihl chiisotletl’.

The people thought it wonderful when all are seen stuck there.

Hats kwa tsii chii xso’ltat.

It was like they were melted there.

Wench he ihl ilt lex me.

That’s what the people said.

Tsu tsi leu nek’wa’anya.

Now that’s all I know.


There is a word that appears twice in this story, and I’ve never seen it recorded anywhere else.  Chuuleyetl’ – the first time it appears Jacobs wrote it down as ‘wonderful to see’, but the second time just as ‘wonderful’.  Both times it is used to describe the rocks that were said to be once people.  So perhaps chuuleyetl’ means something like amazing, causes one to wonder, stupefying, and the like.

She says the people were turned to stone long ago because they ate a ‘poison fish’, the stlatsawaq/stlatsawaq’.  This word has also been used to describe inland whales (whales who were stuck in the hills after a great flood).  These whales were also said to be inedible.  The word also seems to be based on the verb stl’– to be fastened, to be stuck.  Which would describe the ‘fossil people’ and inland whales.


About shichils

Just sharing some fun on language
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3 Responses to Fossil Point

  1. Pingback: The annual Halloween-inspired post of strange stories | Shichils's Blog

  2. Could “poison” = spirit power, as in various California & Oregon Native communities’ English?

    • shichils says:

      Maybe – doctors were said to poison people with their powers. There were special names for them. I don’t recall all the names offhand but there was k’xai a ‘pain power’, chilchil caused pains as well (I think mainly around the stomach), there was a ‘slime’ one (probably for bad lungs). slt’i- to be stuck/to stick never appears among the poison pain powers, that I can recall.

      I don’t know for sure what Annie was thinking when she provided that phrase in English. At least I am thinking that was her English wording. My understanding as to how Jacobs and Annie worked was, she would tell a story in Milluk or Hanis, he would write it down. Then he would read it back to her, phrase by phrase or line by line, and she provided the English translation. There are margin notes in the notebook, about where he apparently asked questions about some words – got some different uses, or if the story were Hanis he got the Milluk term and vice versa, and things like that. Or noting different ways to say something. But the core of it were Annie’s own words in English.

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