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Possible Origins of the Name Yachats and Alsea

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Each band of Indians rarely named themselves. The bands usually called themselves “The People.” The tribal names we use today are often names given to them by other bands or tribes.30

For example, the Alsea’s own name for the Alsea Bay and (Alsee) River was Wu si
( pronounced Hoo-she). The Alsea people called themselves Wusit-slam, pronounced
( Hoo sit slum), meaning people of Wusi, The Alsea, Alsee, Alsi, and Alsi-ya names
appear to originate from other bands.31 For consistency in this article, the Alsea
spelling will be used. (See Appendix 1 for other names given to the Alsea people.)

There is a trail of linguistic clues that indicates a possible origin of the word Yachats:

Leona Ludson, an Alsea, mentioned a village south along the coast of Yahaitc.32 In Harrington’s Field Notes, both Evenoff and Scott called this area Yalxikc.33 (This is linguistic spelling.) Don Whereat, a linguist and historian, pronounces Ludson’s and the linguistic spelling as Ya’hike, Whereat says this is an Alsea pronunciation.34

Annie Minor Peterson, Frank Drew and Lottie Evenoff spoke the Hanis and/or
Miluk dialects of the Coos language. They called this area Ya’hatc or Ya’xTçç
(linguistic language) pronounced Ya ‘häch.35

In 1805-06, Lewis and Clark asked the indigenous people of the Columbia River region the names of the bands along the coast. The Yachats area was known as Youitts by the lower Chinook Indians.36

Much of the confusion about the origin of the Yachats name can be attributed to the European and Euro-Americans who were the keepers of the written language. Coastal native people, like many others, did not have a written language. It is the written language of the Europeans and Euro-American conquerors that have constituted much of the post-colonial official history of Native people and their languages.37 For example, the researcher-linguists who studied the Alsea and other coastal bands were German and Euro-Americans. In addition, the present-day Yachats name is influenced by a number of agents and superintendents of farms for the Alsea Sub-Agency. When agents and superintendents of farms changed, the spelling and pronunciation of the area changed also. For example, in 1863 it was the Yawhuch prairie. In 1864, it was the Yawhick prairie. By 1872, Sam Case called it, “The Yachants)?38 All of these pronunciations appear to be poor phonetic attempts to pronounce the Alsea and Coos names for the present-day Yachats area. This may be why so many possible spellings have been uncovered as reviewed both in Hay’s book and by Alma Wardell Mosher from an article she wrote for the Waldport. Reporter in 1948.

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Last Modified:12/28/04
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