MINUTES OF COQUILLE VALLEY HISTORICAL SOCIETY
May 15, 2008
Present: Penny Lavey, Bob Taylor, Art Hooton, Mary Barton, Leland Simpson, Susan
Wolgamott, Don Wolgamott, Nonie Chappelle, Dave Chappelle, and Patti Strain
Regular meeting was delayed while President Taylor called on Susan Wolgamott to enlighten us
about the people native to Coquille Valley
Susan presented an Indian Chief Head Dress that is about 100 years old, and belonging to
her father. He noted the cap full of eagle feathers was from some of the plains tribes. Her father
lived in Montana, where he earned eagle feathers for his head dress. Feathers were earned – by
killing first deer or elk or buffalo. They were also earned by going into a camp and stealing a
knife, which was considered skillful. Or they could be earned in battle by slapping an opponent,
the feat was not to kill, but to earn honor by striking the blow.
Susan held up an ornamental head dress worn by coastal Indians from her family. It
consisted of various feathers with special ones being red woodpecker feathers. Those were
earned on the coast for the same types of actions as noted above. She said a person would be an
old man before he had a headdress full of feathers, as each one had to be earned.
Susan held up a breech clout that men wore. It was made for the Oregon Centennial, and
worn at an event at Salem. Women wore dresses, but earlier wore grass skirts made of wild flax
that grew down by Whiskey Run. They also wore dresses made of animal skins, but only for
dress-up, otherwise they didn’t wear too many clothes.
A medicine man’s short skirt was made of thread, buttons, pine nuts, and many thimbles
that had been traded to Indians for animal skins. The nuts and thimbles made a musical sound
when they danced. The pine nuts were about ½ inch long and obtained by trading with central
Oregon natives; they also made a nice sound when shook. Before the white men came they used
shells for decoration. Hudson’s Bay Company traded beads for fur, from deer, beaver, etc.
Beads were used as money. Indian women wove the beads into belts. The entire tribe knew who
the woven belt belonged to. The moccasins she talked about were covered with white beads with
color beads placed to tell the story of the hunt, what hills were crossed, how many days, etc
where woven into a story by Indian women. Her father got the moccasins from Blackfeet when
in Montana he heard about the wicked old Indian Agent withholding meat and the tribe was
starving. He and two other chiefs took a train to Washington D. C. to speak before congress of
conditions and also talked to the President. . The tribe honored him with the moccasins with the
whole story told in the beading. They did get rid of the Indian Agent, this was about 1916-1917.
Susan had a woven head band that belonged to her sister who lives at Warm Springs.
Also she showed a saddle bag woven from corn husks from Eastern Oregon or Idaho that
belonged to her father. It was said to have belonged to Chief Joseph, however her father didn’t
know that for sure, but said it was very old and valuable. It had an attractive design all done with
natural dyes of tan, brown and black, and was in good condition.
Susan had a rifle scabbard that was beaded and various bead, belts etc.
Susan said Salmon were the most revered. The natives never broke the bones of fish, but
placed them back in the water whole, so they could come back next year. Bob passed the fishing
spear that Jean Strain found at Floras Lake.
Smoking was not done in a recreational manner, but during ceremonies and for certain
reasons. Bob passed the pipe his father had picked up in eastern Oregon and thought belonged to
a Chief, mentioned in earlier minutes.
Susan noted that the Tribal Council ruled the tribe. There were many Chiefs. For a hunt, the
best hunter was the Chief hunter and ruled the hunt. In a fight the best Chief in a fight took
charge. One man could not make a treaty; it took the whole council, a lot of Chiefs. The white
men had a hard time understanding that.
Women did the cooking, made clothing and baskets. The baskets were so tight they
would hold water. She said a special clay found only at Langlois was used to smear around the
outside of the basket to protect from the head. They then dropped hot rocks in the basket of
water until it boiled the food.
Susan said she is descended from Coquel and Miluk Tribes, her great grandmother was
Giscuae, an upper Coquille woman and her great grandfather was Coos Chief Kitsunginum. Her
aunt, Daisy Wasson Codding, probably the first trained nurse in the Coos Bay area. Daisy and
Kitsunginum were brother and sister.
In response to a question, Susan said the Coquille area went to Port Orford, and
Lookingglass, where they picked camas bulbs, somewhat like an onion. Indians dried them and
ground them up for flour. She said they camped above LaVerne Park where they smoked eels.
George Wasson, about 72, is Susan’s brother. He is at the University of Oregon, has
been teaching in Bend. After he graduated he went back and got a degree in anthropology.
Ken Hooton recalled having George in his Boy Scout Troop and that he outwalked
everybody so Ken had to put him in the back of the troop to slow him down. Ken said “he was
one of the best scouts I ever had.” Susan said George had taken a group down the Rogue River
Trail including a blind boy, and that they never had to wait on him he was always ready to go.
He was shown to the bathroom through her mother’s house, and walked back out by himself,
memorizing the steps.
Susan told a stories of sea otters and warning of a tsunami and telling people to leave the
area at Sunset Bay. They did and no one was hurt.
She told of a huge redwood tree washing up on the beach, the usual place of worship was
around the largest tree. One man decided to make a canoe out of the tree; the tribe was appalled
and his wife left him for destroying their place of worship. The man proceeded to burn out the
canoe and put a big brass ring in the front of it. He went to sea, there was a storm and the man
and the canoe washed up on the beach. The tribe put his body in the canoe and sent it to sea.
Years later a canoe with the same ring came onto the beach and the Curry Museum has it.
Susan and Don completed their program with the donation of a card table that Coquille
Rebecca Lodge had made about fifty years ago. All the businesses paid a fee to have their name
on the table and it is a priceless artifact for the museum. We thank them for the program and the
Call To Order: By president Taylor at 8:00 p.m.
Minutes: Approved as submitted to member list by email with corrections which are:. It is not George
Clawson but Phil Clawsen that is working on a donation plaque..
Treasurer’s Report: Mary Barton passed out the May 15, 2008 report showing $7,718.74 unreserved
cash on hand. The amount received for book publication is $550.00 with $100.00 more just received
from Laura Wade. Thank you letters have been sent by Patti.
Donations: Card table from the Wolgamottes; $100 from Laura Wade to publish book; Caroline Prola
donated a picture to the museum; it is the house of one of her relatives. The information is written on the
back of the picture, which I don’t have at home where I am doing the minutes.
Electrical Project: Ken Hooton reviewed the electric project and said he could start in about a month,
health permitting. He will be hired by Pacific Quality Electric the first of July as supervisor, and will he
can do the receptacles and low work and one journeyman from the company working on a ladder will do
the ceiling lights. Ken will order materials, but we will review the track lighting again after the new
center lights are installed. In answer to time-line, Ken said can’t tell, depends on his commitments and
energy. He will proceed.
Dave Chappelle suggested moving the computer system out of the main room and putting it in the
back as new electrical may interfere with the system. The suggestion will be taken up with Tom who is
the expert on the computer system.
MUSEUM HOURS: Discussion was again held on hours of operation and the lack of volunteer. Patti
felt the only solution was to hire someone and suggested Coquille and Myrtle Point worked together to
hire a Curator and share the hours and contract expenses, discussion, no action.
It was decided to open Tuesday June 3rd for the summer season, Tuesday through Saturdays. It
was moved and seconded to open at noon and close at 4:00 p.m. Everyone wants to be open longer but
without more volunteers or some hired help for two or three hours a day it is impossible. All voted in
Volunteers for Saturdays: There are three Saturdays left in May; Mary Loss, not able to attend the
meeting, had told Bob she would be greeter Saturday May 17th; Leland Simpson volunteered to be greeter
Saturday May 24th and Bob will be greeter the last Saturday in May, the 31st.
Grant Discussion: Oregon Community Foundation, $2,000.00 grant can be used for anything according
to Bob. We talked of a large format printer but maybe the Sentinel can make copies of all our pictures for
note books cheaper than we can. However that doesn’t allow us to sell 11x18 pictures that the printer
would allow. Bob will talk with the Sentinel about the project to find out costs. And when Tom comes
back we will discuss the project with him.
Adjournment: Bob adjourned the meeting at 8:55 p.m.
Copy of minutes emailed May 16th to board members and others on the museum list. Email any
corrections to email@example.com
Patti Strain, Volunteer