The West End
Place names rooted in the Quileute language By Christi Baron Long before the first white settlers arrived on the West End and began naming rivers, lakes, creeks and other notable locations, the Quileute people already had a name for just about everything. They not only named the rivers but would name notable locations along the waterways, such as words for places like “sticking up at the river mouth place” or “bushes hanging down” or “maple tree log jam.” The Quileute did not usually name locations after individuals. The Quileute live on the western side of the Olympic Peninsula. Their traditional territory includes the watersheds of the Sol Duc, Calawah, Bogachiel and Dickey rivers and extends from the Olympic highlands to the Pacific Ocean. The Quileute Reservation is in La Push, a village located at the mouth of the Quillayute River. There are various anglicized spellings of Kwo ‘Iiyo,’ — the spelling (pronunciation) in the Quileute language for “Qulieute” — that have come into use over time, such as Quileute, Quillayute, Quiliute and Quillehuyt. It is thought that the word Quileute might even derive from the word meaning “name.” Quileute names once existed for thousands of places on the West End. While many places today no longer bare the name given them by the Quileute, many West End locations still have a version of the original Quileute word. The pioneers found those words/ names difficult to pronounce, so the settlers made them easier to say. Over time, the Quileute adopted the English names and the new language.
THE DICKEY RIVER
Today the signs before the bridge say Dickey River, but originally it was Dix(w)odachtada [dickwo-DAH-ch-tuh-dah]. The original meaning of this name has been lost over time, but those familiar with the Quileute language say it doesn’t mean “smoky water,” as some Washington place name books say it does. It’s a Quileute word because it ends in –tada, which means “smells or tastes like,” according to
author Dr. Jay Powell. Powell has worked in archaeology, linguistics, translation, university teaching and cultural revitalization. Over a period of 40 years, he collaborated with Vickie Jensen in the research and writing of more than 40 books on the Native languages and cultures of the American Northwest Coast. He now serves as a consultant for a number of Native groups in the state and British Columbia. Powell has done anthropological and linguistic research with the Quileute and Hoh tribes from the 1960s to the present. What the first part of the word means — what the land or water smells or tastes like — is not known. Apparently the white settlers found the name too long and at some point, it got shortened, and everyone went along with it. Many of the place names used today have a meaning and for some the meaning — if there was one — is long lost. Powell explains a name that was used thousands of years ago probably meant something in the old Chimacuan proto-language that Quileute and the now-extinct sister language Chimacum derived from.
A QUILEUTE STORY ABOUT THE DICKEY, AS TOLD TO JAY POWELL
In the old days, there was a Dix(w)odachtada (Dickey River man) who had no chiefly names or slaves or parents to create status for him by doing the right ceremonies and generously giving things away. He wanted to be somebody. He wanted to marry a high-status woman so his children would be noble people, but he couldn’t even give a girl’s parents a small gift, which is the way Quileute chiefly families decided who their daughters would marry back then. So the young man went up to the little lake — really a big pond that didn’t even have a name — off the upper Dickey River. There, he tried to get a powerful taxi.lit (tuh-HAY-lit, “guardian spirit”). After many days, he caught a frog and, on a whim, skinned it. And when it was dry, he discovered that he could stretch the frog skin big enough so that he could actually put it on like a costume. He discovered that when he did put it on, he had all the frog’s powers.
Winter 2017 LOP 21