Looking through some archival materials uploaded by a friend, I found some notes I had not seen before taken down in the early 1930s by a man named Maloney that were included in Jacobs’ papers (a friend sent him a copy in 1934). Maloney interviewed pioneers and Indians (mostly Lottie Evanoff and some members of the Wasson-Metcalf family) and he made note of some place names. The place names often require a bit of interpretation as he was no linguist, but most of them look familiar. The surprise for m e was, he mentioned an etymology for the Coalbank Slough’s indigenous name. And that etymology made sense as soon as I saw it, and was annoyed with myself for never ever noticing it before.
Coalbank Slough was recorded as Qaltat or Qaltat’. Maloney, in talking with Lottie, noted down it meant ‘digging down’. I had to smack my forehead – qal means hole in the ground in Hanis and Milluk, and is also the root for digging stick (qalqal) and the Hanis verb ‘to dig’. The –tat ending is a doubling up of the verbal suffix t. 20/20 hindsigh, and all thatt.
Then I wondered why it’s called ‘digging down’. There were coal mines in the area, but those were post-settlement creations. I wondered if it were possible that Qaltat was a recently coined name to refer to the mines, replacing an older one. Which is possible, particularly if the name only came from one person. I went back and checked my sources and they actually come from several people – in addition to Lottie, the same name also comes up in interviews with Annie Miner Peterson, Frank Drew, and Laura (Lolly) Metcalf (a Milluk speaker). Since it was used consistently by so many people, that might point to it being an older name.