Confederated Tribes of the Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw Indians

Confederated Tribes of the Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw Indians

1245 Fulton Ave , coos bay, OR
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The Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw Indians are made up of 3 tribes (4 Bands): 2 bands of Coos Tribes: Hanis Coos (Coos Proper), Miluk Coos; Lower Umpqua Tribe; and Siuslaw Tribe. Although both Coos bands lived in close proximity to one another on the Coos River tributaries, they spoke different dialects of the Coos language and had their own unique history and cultural differences. A days walk north from the Coos River, you found yourself in the Lower Umpqua territory with a much different spoken language that both the Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw bands shared; the Siuslaw language. The diversity of languages and cultures you can find along the West Coast attests to the longevity these bands sustained for hundreds of generations in the lands they call home.

The tribes trace their ancestry back to the aboriginal inhabitants of the South-Central coast of Oregon. Their historic homelands extended from the richly forested slopes of the Coastal Range in the East to the rocky shoreline of the Pacific Ocean in the West, a vast region of some 1.6 million acres. They lived peacefully in an area characterized by moderate temperatures and abundant natural resources, including fish, shellfish, wildlife, and a rich variety of edible plants. This was their land; the Coos cosmology states that:

Two young men from the Sky World looked down below, and saw only water. Blue clay they laid down for land, and tule mats and baskets they laid down to stop the waves from running over the land. Eagle feathers they planted, and they became trees. As they were thinking, it was happening. All kinds of vegetation grew; animals came. The world became beautiful. The world became as it is now.

The people lived in villages of cedar plank houses on the margins of the extensive estuaries of the Siuslaw, Umpqua, and Coos rivers. This is an area of rugged cliffs and open beaches, bordered by shifting sand dunes and steep, heavily vegetated mountainsides. Their villages tended to be autonomous to each other. Most people within a village were related to each other by blood or marriage. People often visited other villages for social occasions, and to trade. During the summers, they would move to hunting camps in the surrounding mountains. They also navigated the rivers, and mountain ridge trails, to trade with other villages or journey to the Willamette and Camas Valleys for certain prized foods.

The Tribes had a distinct social stratification based on wealth measured in quantities of dentalium shells, woodpecker scalps, abalone shells, grey pine seeds, and clam shell disk money. The chief of the village was the wealthiest man. He was obligated to his people to use his wealth to benefit the people, and people in turn brought him food and gifts. The men of the village hunted and fished, made projectile points, canoes, traps and house planks. The women picked berries, dug for roots and clams, helped fish, wove baskets, processed hides, dried meat, sewed clothing and cooked the food. Those who were too elderly or ill to help in gathering or processing of food, were given food by everyone else in the village. Food was always shared, and no one went hungry.

The Coos tribe lived on the southwest Oregon Pacific Coast. The Hanis speaking Coos lived in Now day North Bend, while the Miluk speaking Coos lived on the South Slough. Several Oregon landmarks are named after the tribe, the Coos Bay, the city of Coos Bay, and Coos County. Most of them were hunters, fishermen, and gatherers. For entertainment, they held foot races, canoe races, dice (bone or stick) games, target practice, and also nauhina’nowas (shinny). The Lower Umpqua people lived within the lower reaches of the Umpqua River watershed. They spoke the Kuitsch dialect of the Siuslawan language. The Siuslaw people lived within the Siuslaw River watershed which is named after them. They spoke the Siuslawan language. All three tribes lived in cedar longhouses. Men hunted and fished; while Women collected berries, roots and nuts. In addition, their rich diet consisted of seafood, game, sea bird eggs and other delicacies. Deer and elk skins were fashioned into garments and blankets. Baskets were woven using a variety of materials, from conifers to grasses. Nearly everything was treated as having a spirit, and spirits could exert a positive influence on people's lives. Young people set out on vision quests, a rite of passage, to locate their spirit power. To become a shaman, one had to possess five powers.