Euchre Creek and The Octopus

First published 7/14/14

So usually I blog about CLUS stories but while poking around Harrington’s notes I found this curious story about Humbug Mountain and Euchre Creek.  The coast along Curry County is so beautiful, and I wanted to share this story about Humbug and Euchre Creek. The storytellers were a couple of SW Oregon Athabaskan people, Ada Collins and Wolverton Orton. The story was jotted down in a disjointed way over the course of several pages (reels 27:444b, 27:448b, 27:449a, 27:463, 27:466a) so I’ve tried to write it out in such a way so the story is a little easier to follow.

The story is about two brothers who have a skin that represents a strong power.  The brothers act rudely and scare everyone else at Euchre Creek.  They enrage the ocean and an octopus attacks them, ultimately having dire consequences for the brothers and an affect on the geography around Euchre Creek:

The Euchre village people were afraid to go out on the ocean to fish. The 2 brothers left to go hunting in the woods. Then they suddenly came back to the village and asked where the people were. They received no answer from the secretive ones who still remained in the village. The brothers went out & talked good on way out to sea, but talked bad when out in the water.

When the villagers saw the tough guys coming they cut their line and paddled for shore. And then the 2 talked bad and the octopus got mad & with his tentacles one [brother] slipped through and the other he threw inland way to Humbug Mountain.

These 2 tough guy brothers had a power called ch’akkíi which overcame any opposers and which was the skin of some wild beast and which one was not supposed to take out into the ocean. When they got way out in the ocean, one of the 2 brothers tore this [skin] in two, which enraged the ocean.

The 2 tough guys looked out to sea & saw the canoe of the Euchre village out there fishing in a canoe. They villagers when they saw the 2 brothers coming out from the shore in a canoe, cut their own fishlines and escaped to the shore, knowing that the 2 tough guys would kill them.

They escaped to the beach. The 2 brothers talked good on the way out but when well out, they used their ch’akkii, at which the ocean’s animal became very angry.

Kwahla the octopus, came forth from the ocean angry and suddenly attacked the 2 tough guys, throwing his arm about the canoe and all. The 2 talked bad at him and he struck at the 2 with his tentacles threw one of the 2 brothers through the air so that he fell way over by Míítash (Humbug Mountain). The other brother slipped through (between tentacles) and swam ashore, and on not finding his brother there, killed himself, thinking his brother dead and not wishing to live on alone.

Then the one thrown into the brush inland, two days later came home and finding that his brother had killed himself, killed himself too.

The octopus, angry, threw his tentacles out on the hills making them as they are – gullies that all run together to form the Euchre River.

The name for Euchre Creek ultimately comes from the name of the Athabaskan band that lived there, which is listed in the Oregon Geographic Names book is listed as Yukichetunne.  There is another story set at Euchre Creek that Coquelle Thompson told, called “Mountain People” and published in Pitch Woman and Other Stories on page 227.  The Mountain People in that story sound very much like our ‘little people’ known in the Hanis language as the la’la’la’la.

They give kwahla (or gwahla)  as a SW Oregon Athabaskan word for octopus.  Lottie Evanoff recalled the word wi´naqes for octopus, derived from the Hanis and Milluk verb root winq- to weave.  So the Hanis equivalent would be winqas, a word used to describe spiders, water striders and basket starts (because of the way they look – a central blob with spokes coming out, like a basket start).

About shichils

Just sharing some fun on language
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