McArthur’s “Oregon Geographic Names” (part 8 of 8)

The long-delayed grand finale of our mini-series on Oregon place names that have to do with Chinuk Wawa…


‘Tomorrow’ or suspiciously poetic Indian word of yesteryear? (Image credit: AllBendOregon)

PART 8 OF 8:

Page 733, Toketee Falls & Lake (Douglas County) — “…the Chinook Jargon word for pretty, or graceful. The word is pronounced Tuck-et-tee, with the accent on the first syllable”. (t’úkti)

Tolo (Jackson Co.) is apparently from a misreading of “Yolo”, as in the California county, and not from Chinuk Wawa túlu ‘to win, to beat at a game, to earn’.

On page 742, we have Tumalo & Tumalo Creek (Deschutes Co.), a name that traces to 1904 with a post office connected with a major irrigation construction project, a circumstance that inclines me to suspect it may have been a boosteristic expression of optimism, ‘Tomorrow’. (Much like Seattle’s original name, New York Alki ‘it’ll be New York eventually’.) But notes are included that point out possible Maklaks (Klamath language) etymologies, such as  < temolo > ‘wild plum’ (dmolo in modern orthography), < temola > ‘ground fog’, and < Tumallowa > ‘icy water’. In Albert Gatschet’s Klamath dictionary of 1890, I don’t find any such place name, but M.A.R. Barker’s 1963 dictionary carefully labels a large number of place names, although I don’t see any similar-looking word in that list, nor a name for a place that I can identify as Tumalo. Plus, most traditional Klamath place names are composed of morphemes meaning essentially ‘place of ___’, and none of the 3 proposed Klamath etymologies above matches that template. I conclude that Tumalo, Oregon is most likely a modern, Chinuk Wawa-derived, place name, in a spelling that’s not common in print, and therefore perhaps of local inspiration. The first occurrence I’ve found of it in writing is from 1905. (This analysis agrees with local residents who have previously commented at my website, saying Klamath people did not historically live in the Tumalo area.)

Tumtum River (Benton & Lincoln Cos.) is a more straight-ahead proposition, clearly reflecting CW tə́mtəm in another modern-day appellation as “the heart of the valley through which it flowed.”

Page 746’s Tyee Mountain (Douglas Co.) and the former post office (i.e. settlement) of Tyee are CW táyí ‘chief’, said to be “because of its important position in its surroundings.”

Wapato Lake (Washington & Yamhill Cos., page 769) is a marshy area in old-school Jargon country long known as a prime habitat for the CW wáptʰu ‘wild potato’. It’s had this name since way back in frontier days, with a post office established there in 1853.

On page 777, Wawa Creek (Clatsop Co.) is said to be the Jargon word for ‘talk’, “and may have been applied to the stream because the water makes a noise flowing over the ground.”

Page 778’s Wecoma (Lincoln Co.) is a bookish — therefore probably recent and government-imposetd — old Jargon word for ‘sea’, and the place is “overlooking the ocean”.

The Winchuck River (Curry Co., page 802), formerly spelled Windchuck or Winchook, is sometimes thought to be Chinuk Wawa wín-chə́qw ‘windy river’. But it’s also been said that the word is from a local Native language (should be Chetco Athabaskan/Dene I reckon) and means ‘woman’, although I’m healthily skeptical of that being the sort of thing Indigenous people name a landform in the PNW. The historical evolution of the spelling suggests to me that it was indeed originally a local Jargon place name, but perhaps, to be precise, it could be yet another local Dene name (of whatever meaning) that got folk-reinterpreted by Settlers as being Chinuk Wawa. (As happened with Sixes, Euchre, and Coquille.)

On page 804 is Winopee Lake (Deschutes Co.), another bookish CW name (winapi ‘by-and-by’ or ‘wait’, according to McArthur). I presume it’s from relatively recent times, likely bestowed by the US Forest Service.

Yakso Falls (page 811, Douglas Co.) is CW for “hair of the head”, as McArthur accurately says, and he informs us that it’s another USFS name, from 1966.

On pages 815-816, Yoncalla (Douglas Co.), a K’alapuya name, also receives mention of Hubert Howe Bancroft having boldly and wrongly etymologized it as “yonc, eagle, and calla or calla-calla meaning bird or fowl in the Indian dialect.” Nobody seems to have figured out where HHB got that yonc, but it already makes extremely little sense to think that it was compounded with a hitherto unknown shortening of Chinuk Wawa’s kə́ləkələ ‘bird’!

Our last entry in this mini-series is on page 816, Youtlkut Butte (Lake [not Lane] Co.) — “It was named by the USFS with the Chinook jargon word for long.”

What do you think? qʰáta mayka tə́mtəm?