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Book No. 49

To first story in the book press: 2249

To last story in the book press: 2280

Coos Texts

Frachtenberg Leo J.

Coos Texts, Leo J. Frachtenberg, 1913

Coos Texts


Leo J. Frachtenberg

Columbia University Contributions to Anthropology Volume I

Columbia University Press, New York



This is a short collection of texts from the Coos people of Oregon, collected by anthropologists a century ago. This includes origin myths and lore about what lies beyond the sky and death, tales of people who marry anthropomorphic animals, and legends about natural disasters such as floods and fires. Like other unedited, unfiltered native American texts, they possess earthy humor and a dreamlike, cyclic narrative stucture.

For more information on the culture and history of the Coos, refer to Confederated Tribes of The Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw Indians (


1. Creation Myths

2. Miscellaneous Tales

3. Tales Collected by Harry Hull St. Clair, 2d



The texts contained in the present volume represent two different collections. The first nineteen myths were collected by me in the summer of 1909, under the auspices of the Bureau of American Ethnology. My sole informant was Jim Buchanan, a Coos Indian, living in Acme, Lane County, Oregon. He is at the present time the only member of the Coos tribe who still remembers and can relate coherently some of the: myths and traditions of the by-gone generations. The texts numbered 20-32 were collected by Mr. Harry Hull St. Clair, 2d, in the summer of 1903. His informants, I understand, were Jim Buchanan and Tom Hollis, the latter of whom lives at present on the Siletz Reservation, in the State of Oregon.

Owing to the fact that a few texts obtained from Jim Buchanan were not as vivid in his memory as some of the other traditions, they will be found lacking in continuity of narration and in clearness of description. Some of these texts are abundant in obscure passages. We are in certain cases especially in doubt as to the performer of an action or to the identity of the speaker. While it might have been comparatively easy to restore to these passages their original definiteness, I thought it advisable (mainly from linguistic considerations) to let them stand as they were narrated, leaving the interpretation of the intended meaning to the good judgment of the reader.

As might have been expected, Mr. St. Clair's system of writing down the Indian texts is quite different from the one adopted by me. I did not, however, on the whole, encounter any difficulties in transcribing his phonetic system in accordance with my own. Only in a few cases were the discrepancies so great as to necessitate a distinct treatment. These cases either cover words and phrases not familiar to me through my own texts, or they represent expressions which, in my judgment, may have been misheard, and consequently mis-spelled, by Mr. St. Clair. All such passages are printed in this work in Italics, and are accompanied in most cases by footnotes, in which I endeavor to show the original expression that may have been intended by the narrator. Section numbers referred to in the footnotes are those in my grammar of the Coos language, in "Handbook of American Indian Languages" (Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin 40, Part 2).



June, 1910.


a Like a in German Mann.

e Like e in helmet.

i Like i in it.

o Like o in German Mord.

u Like u in German Furcht.

â Like a in car.

ê Like ea in great.

î Like ee in teem.

ô Like o in rose.

û Like oo in loo.

êi Long e with an i-tinge.

ôu Long o with a u-tinge.

í, ú Vowels of very short quantities.

ä As in German wählen.

a, e, i, E Superior vowels indicated only by the position of the mouth.

E Obscure vowel.

ai Like i in island.

au Like ou in mouth.

eu Diphthong e + u.

q Velar k.

q! Same as preceding, with very great stress of explosion.

ɣ Velar spirant produced way back in the palate, which often sounds like weak r.

x Like ch in German Bach.

g, k As in English, sonants and surds difficult to distinguish.

k! Like k, with very great stress of explosion.

g. Palatized g.

k. Palatized k.

k.! Palatized explosive k.

x. Palatized ch.

d, t As in English, surds and sonants difficult to distinguish.

t! Like t, with very great stress of explosion.

t` Aspirated t.

s As in English.

c Like sh in English she.

dj Like j in English judge.

ts As in English sits.

tc Like ch in English church.

ts!, tc! Same as preceding, but with very great stress of explosion.

b, p As in English, surds and sonants difficult to distinguish.

p! Like p, with very great stress of explosion.

l, m, n As in English.

n Vocalized n.

l, m, n Very long.

ɫ Spirant lateral.

L Sonant lateral pronounced very much like dl.

L Surd lateral pronounced very much like tl.

L! Same as preceding, with very great stress of explosion.

? Glottal catch.

x Velar aspiration.

x. Palatal aspiration.

h, y, w As in English.

' Stress accent.

~ Accent with an interrogative intonation.

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