Jim Buchanan’s Flood Stories, the Short Quiver people, and the Giants.

There are several versions of Coos ‘flood stories’ – Jim Buchanan told a couple of different versions in 1909 to Leo Frachtenberg (a linguist that did some work on Hanis, Siuslaw and Alsea), and Lottie Evanoff told yet another version (in 1942 to another linguist, J. P. Harrington). Jim kind of referenced this story again in a brief conversation he had in 1932 with Melville Jacobs (from the University of Washington). Jim said “It’s history that there was a flood that made the people get on qa’látƚ (Kentuck) mtn. On Coos Bay, the only one that stayed above water. Lots of whales got inland. They say lots of people who went inland never came west again, but settled east.”

Of Jim’s “Flood” stories, only one was published, from his Hanis language work with a visiting linguist, Leo Frachtenberg. In this version, he says there were many people who one day saw the water keep coming in, no ebb tide. All who could jumped in to canoes. Only a hill by Qalatƚ (Kentuck slough) stuck out of the water, but many other people got carried far away by the water. So that when the water went down there were people scattered all over the world. In Lottie’s version, she says the flood began due to the tears of a grieving crow. The only ‘hill’ that floated in her version was Glasgow. When the waters receded, a canoe was overturned on top of Blue Ridge mountain (remember this detail, it will come up again). 

But Jim told another version of this story that has never been published, that Frachtenberg jotted down in a notebook in English only, and this version is different in some details from the published version that was told in Hanis and translated into English.

Below is the story that was never published. I changed the paragraph breaks a little and changed the grammar slightly here and there to make it more ‘readable’ & added my own notes in parenthesis, but it closely follows the version in the notebook:

“The Flood” from Frachtenberg’s notebook

There were two men. One they call tcêxtī´yu kwî´sîts (chextiiyu kwisits, “short quiver”), the other they call cī´ƚwā´ya (shiiƚwaya, the tall people of the forest). They act like persons. Sometimes they steal women for their wives. Tcextiyu kwî´sits has very strong power. If you meet him and wrestle with him and if you can throw him down he will kill you. If he has the best of you he disappears and you don’t know how and when – you fall in a sleep. And then wake up. You are a strong man (you have gained spirit power from the chextiiyuu kwisits). Cī´ƚwāya (shiiƚwaya) was a rich man.

There are many people living on one river. Many people lived there. It was in Coos Bay. One day the tide came in River kept filing up all the time. The people don’t notice it at first. Afterwards the bottom of the river is covered up with water. One man says; “What’s the matter, the water keeps filling up. We never get as big a tide.” 

Another says: “It must be something wrong.” Some of the fellows had a big canoe, some have small canoes. Some have grass braided ropes. They keep it. Some have none, most of them. Some have very long pieces of rope. The water came up to their houses. The people get to their canoes, and get ready to get in the canoes. The water was rising. All the places are covered with water. The water was very swift. They tie their canoes to the tops of trees that stretch out from the water. Some of the people have no ropes and have to hold on the tops of trees-for a while. Most of them have no canoes. A little piece of land remain dry, and those that have no canoes, go on this piece. About half of the people pile up there. The place is called qalátƚ it is a hill and creek and both still exist today, today known as Kentuck Slough. People pile up there very thick in pairs. Also beasts come there in pairs. And also birds of all kinds. The people that are in the canoes, drift and drift without knowing where they go. They had no ropes to tie their canoes, and are carried by the water in all directions. Those that have rope tie their canoes to trees, but some times the ropes break and the canoes begin to float. The flood lasted one day. Then the water began to recede. Slowly the trees, hills, emerge from the water. Night comes. The people get sleepy, those that have their canoes tied. The water runs swift. The people do not watch their canoes, who break loose, and tip over and the people die. Good many of them tip over. The people on the piece of land are safe. In no time the land is dry again. 

The people on the land are scattered about; because they want to find their homes. They go across in pairs. The land looks different after it got dry and they came to find their homes. The game goes back in hills. The people settle down where they can and make a living. All canoes are lost. Only one big canoe come on land somewhere. I do not know how many people were in this canoe. They go in & from canoe and look around. They do not know where they are. One says, “Let us turn over the canoe.” They left the canoe that way.

The other fellows in canoes that broke loose drift in all directions. They cannot come back where they lived before. They scatter all over the woods and become wild people. They are called tcêxtī´yu kwî´sîts (short quiver). 

(And so the story ends).

There are two things that jump out at me with this version: one is the mention of the ‘short quiver’ people, the chextiiyu kwisits, and a mention of the giant people, shiiƚwaya. Also, Jim also mentions a canoe being turned over on a mountain top. Though he does not name the mountain, this sounds much like the detail in Lottie’s story, where a canoe was overturned on top of Blue Ridge mountain, called in Hanis jogiiyat.

So who were the chextiiyuu kwisits, ‘short quiver’, and shiiƚwaya, giant people? Well, there are a few stories of the giants. They were quite tall – 7 to 9 feet. They had long hair at least on some parts of their bodies. They usually did not interact much with humans and most people said they weren’t malicious, though one time they say they stole some fish from a camp on Coos River. Of the “quiver people” though, sadly very little is mentioned. 

Annie Miner Peterson mentioned them briefly, though she gives there name slightly different, Hanis ngwosdze’me, Miluk nogwosde-k’a, meaning ‘with a quiver’. She said, “These beings are seen in the woods, and if you meet him you ought to leave him alone. If he challenges you to wrestle you ought to refuse, because he is so strong. He is the only Dangerous Being who tries to fight. He gets rough, though. He talks perfect Coos. If one wrestles with one of these, he’ll defeat you and you’ll be badly bruised from the tustle. But left alone they do no harm. They are just like people, travel with bow and arrow.”

Tom Hollis, one of Lottie’s cousins, described the “short quiver” people quite differently – as tall white, heavily tattooed men. He said of them that “You could not see him. He went around in the night or in the day time. They say he made a kind of gun. He made it out of a forearm or leg bone. They called the gun kyuukyuu. He would take this gun, which he always carried sidewise; he packed it on his side. He would point it at something and it would kill it without any noise or shooting. There are all kinds of stories about that kind of man. He had a way of making a kind of dog out of himself and he would get into this dog and go around at night and see a girl. She got pregnant and one of her brothers shot at this dog but he ran away. This woman knew that it was her husband. She had 5 or 6 children and one of the children had sort of dog hair on one shoulder.”

And this sadly is about all I have been able to find out for sure about the “with a quiver”/”Short quiver” people. 

It is very curious to me that Jim Buchanan explicitly mentions “short quiver” people and the giants in one version of the story, but doesn’t hint at them at all in the other version. Perhaps he was making the Hanis version a little shorter. Apparently the way the stories were captured in the language was laborious and time consuming work. Jim would have to tell the story slowly, while Frachtenberg jotted it down, and then with the help of Frank Drew acting as a translator they all went over the lines again to write down meanings for the different words. A process that surely took a lot of time and perhaps Jim tended to simplify some aspects of some stories just for that reason when told in that format.

About shichils

Just sharing some fun on language
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