The Infamous Black Bird Southern Oregon History, Revised

The Takelma Indians of Southwestern Oregon

First Page through Section II
Sections III through IV
This Page, Sections V through VI
Sections VII through X
Takelma Vocabulary

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    There are as many abrading implements as there are materials for making them. They were used for shaping numerous implements, utensils, and ornaments of stone, wood, bone, shell, and later of metals obtained from white men.
    Abrading implements were of sizes from large boulders to small tools to be held in the hand. Grooves and pits show their usage.
    Arrow-shaft rubbers were made of small gritty rock, unshaped except for the grooves, gradually worn deeper by rubbing arrow shafts back and forth through them, smoothing the surface of the shaft and making it uniform.
    A very popular abrading implement was made in combination with another tool or a general-purpose tool. The abrading portion of the tool consisted of a small semi-circle chipped out from one side of the knife or scraper. This chipping was done in such a way as to make the edge of the semi-circle quite uniform and sharp. This was serviceable in shearing
[Page 54] down and rounding off material to be used as arrow shafts, and for scraping, smoothing, and rounding of leather strips for thongs, these held securely in the teeth and one hand while being abraded.
    Anchor stones were used with canoes and log rafts. While any irregular stone might be used if a line could be attached, these were sometimes improved upon by chipping grooves around them or making a hole through the rock, for securing the line.
    Arrows for taking of game were made in two sections, of reed, with one section pushed some inches into the other. While points were easily made from an abundance of good material, feathers for the tip were valuable and much harder to obtain. In use, the arrow point would attach to the game, and if it ran, or escaped, the feather-tipped half of the shaft would more easily work loose and fall where it could be used again.
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    A limited amount of special glue was used to keep the two pieces of shaft secure until the point struck a more solid object when the glued pieces were jarred loose, releasing the feathered end to fall.
    Baskets of all kinds were much in use by the Takelma, there being a size and shape and material for every purpose from the plate to the great storage basket. There was the large, loosely woven burden-basket with tongs attached to be worn across the brow as the basket was carried on the back, and there was the basket-cradle for the baby.
    The basket was made up on a bottom (delgan) of four short hazel twigs perpendicular to four cross pieces, and twining was done with a root or with grass-twine on a warp generally of hazel or willow. Strands were kept soaked in black clay, or in a juice of boiled alder bark which gave off a reddish dye. These were the only colors used in basketry, and along with natural color, made up the design. Sometimes the scalp of the redheaded woodpecker was worked
[Page 56] into the twining in such a way as to leave the plumage hanging in places upon the basket, but such items were very "expensive" and very special.
    Spoons were made of wood, deer or elk horn, and the mentioned squirrel-tail piece.
    The Takelma made a limited number of boxes and chests, a few large enough for storage purposes, but most were small and used for the safe keeping of little valuables. Some of these were wooden cylinders made into two parts and secured on one side with leather hinges. Other boxes were fashioned similar to the canoe, with a plank lid made to fit, and the whole secured with a leather thong tied around.
The child's cradle-basket was made in many forms. For the tiny infant there was a rather deep long basket with straps by which the child could be secured to the bottom, and carrying straps for the mother's head, freeing her arms for other duty. For the older child, grown
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to a stage where it wished to sit, there was a chair-like basket made something like a seat, and for the toddler, another basket was made from which the legs could dangle. Cradles were adorned most colorfully, and arrangements were made to have strings of beads and shells and wooden toys suspended in easy reach of the infant.
    Arrowheads and spearheads were of a variety of shapes and sizes. Some were works of art while others were simple chips used as found, or used with a minimum of flaking. The Takelma found suitable stone in abundance, among which was jasper, petrified wood, opalized wood, agate, and suitably hard conglomerates. Obsidian, not native in the Takelma lands, was bartered for, in chunks, from eastern tribes of Modocs and Klamaths, and it was worked here.
    There was a variety of materials available to the Takelma for making arrow shafts, and while birds
[Page 58] were never killed, they were snared and kept in wicker cages, their suitable feathers harvested from time to time for making arrow tips.
    Flaking of arrow points was done with a stick to which was attached a piece of bone. The same implement was used also as a twirler in the fire drill, being set into a hole in a board which had added some finely shredded cedar bast for tinder. This twirler and "hearth board" along with a little tinder was carried in the quiver along with arrows, available for use at any time or place.
    Awls were made of stone found naturally chipped into the desired shape or easily made to serve the purpose with a little work. These had to "fit" the hand and be complete with a long projecting point which could be used for punching purposes. Awls were sometimes made of bone and shell, and these graduated into the needle.
    No axes, hatchets, or tomahawk was used as such by the Takelma. There is evidence of the use of wooden handles on a few pestles which had to be long enough so that they
[Page 59] would be heavy and clumsy if made completely in stone. A few rocks have been found which seem to have been at one time lashed to a wooden handle but the only purpose they could have served was that of a hammer or maul.
Wedges were in general use for the planking out of lumber, and there was a variety of handsaws with teeth chipped in one side and then the other, giving a "set" to the implement. These were more rounded on the face, similar to the scraper, and in sizes ranging from 2 inches up to 9 or 10 inches across, but distinguished from scrapers by the carefully set teeth.
    Baking stones were used, and may be found with the darkened side showing where they were set directly upon the fire. They were round or oblong, from one to three feet in diameter, and some have a hole near one edge to facilitate carrying.
Anything that would float and support weight was utilized for river traffic. The Upland Takelma were said to have
[Page 60] used simple log rafts, but there were a variety of canoes in use along the rivers, from the crude one-piece affair hollowed out from a single piece of wood, to giant cedars hollowed out, finely made and delicately finished and decorated. Some of these were reported to carry many men. In the legend of Beaver and the Deer People, the canoe seems to have been made of planking, held together by glue or lashing or both, caulked with cedar bast and mosses and water-proofed with pine-gum pitch.
    The hooves of animals were boiled into a thick mass which was mixed with pitch to make a very good glue. Other glue was bartered for from other tribes as they made it from the lower jaw of certain ocean-going fish. To store, glue was built up on short sticks by repeated dippings, and when the lumps were dried, the sticks were kept in a warm dry place in the house or the ends were broken off and sealed inside a horn, for carrying about.
    Many problematical tools are found where the Takelma left them. Some appear to be ceremonial due to their
(125721.jpg) [Page 61] unusual shape, fine workmanship, and obviously too delicate for any work. A great many very tiny arrowheads are found barely more than 1/2 inch long, of finest workmanship, but much too small and light to have been used on any but a hand-long shaft. Among the Klamath, a shaman's helper frequently shot such an arrow from a tiny bow into the basket of "medicines" to discourage bad spirits from infesting the curatives, and something like this may have been practised among the Takelma.
    An abundance of unusually shaped stones are found at village sites which are a half-moon sliver with one end-point hooked to the inside.
    Another oddity is the so-called "roulette stone," a circular stone, flat, about 1/2 inch thick, which has the edge worked into blunt teeth similar to a cog-wheel. A hole at the center probably permitted a stick to be passed through. It is thought that these were rolled across in damp soil for "mud-paintings"
[Page 63] (no page 62 in manuscript)
or dipped into colored clay and rolled across objects to form a regular clay-paint pattern [Hodge "Handbook of American Indians" et al.]. Some state that these were strictly ceremonial objects, and call them "rain makers." [See display at Crater Rock Museum, Central Point, Oregon]
[Page 64] few batons have been retrieved in southern Oregon and are believed to have been made and used by the Takelma. These are longish, baton-like in shape, made of stone, and show fine workmanship. The baton section was four-sided, and the handle was somewhat rounded, or oblong. One such baton flares into a diamond shape at the top through which a hole has been drilled for attaching decorative materials or carrying things.
    Mortars seem to fit many patterns, and any suitable stone was pressed into the service as a mortar where usage served to make it constantly better. A fine mortar, the largest found in Takelma lands, is on exhibit at the Crater Rock Museum, and it is unusual in the design worked on the bottom. Some are found as cubes of about 14 inches, with all six sides cupped from much usage. These tools range from the tiny paint cup, which is a fist-sized rock with a finger-size hole in it, to the tall deep and round-bottomed mortars to
[Page 65] a graduation into mealing stones, flouring stones, and "table stones," which are quite flat with only minor cupping.
    Pestles used with these range from fine examples of animal shapes into quite symmetrical and smooth pestles to the crude stone which served well as it was found. These are often found with some chipping at an edge indicating their use, at times, for cracking or pounding.
    Pestles, worn thin at an end from the pecking and grinding operations, were sometimes sharpened at that point and used as a pick, for digging out pitchy wood for fires, and hollowing log canoes, and for picking out pockets of brightly colored earth for paint making. The flouring pestles, worn thin along an entire edge, were sometimes then put into use as wedges, for planking out wood and for making roof shakes, being hammered with a hardboard limb or another stone which has been wrapped and padded to make a maul.
    Any broken tool or stone naturally
[Page 66] fractured in usable shape and size, was a scraper. Other scrapers had a minimum of work done on them, and a few are well-worked objects that grade away into bunts, arrowheads, spearheads, and the like. Most questionable scrapers may be identified by the hand-hold they show when turned about in the hand and are found to "fit" quite comfortably in a certain position.
    Games were enjoyed by the Takelma and a great variety of objects were made for this purpose. In Chunky, a stone ring was used in a tossing game with poles. Golf-balls were of small round stoned rolled out of the ground and into holes regularly placed. Arrowshafts or pieces of wood were marked and shuffled about, the object to guess in which bundle the oddly marked piece would be found.
Shinny was played as one of the most popular games, and the shinny stick (t!ela) and ball (t'beK') would be considered implements. An object consisted of two pieces of wood about four inches long, tied together with
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This was tossed about with poles or bats, and goals were simple bunches of twigs stuck into the ground at either end of the playing field. Serious quarrels sometimes arose over this game which was taken as seriously as any other aspect of Takelma activity, hunting and fishing not excluded. A variation of the shinny game evolved into lacrosse, the popular game of Canada.
    There were many games of chance, and gambling was not uncommon. A stick-game of this type was played with the use of arrow shafts or paint-marked sticks which were shuffled and divided, the purpose - to guess in which bundle was the odd or particularly marked stick. Other sticks were marked with dots and tossed much as are dice.
    There were many ball games, from the golf-like game where small round stones were rolled toward holes regularly spaced
[Page 68] in the ground, to an early version of "keep-away" played with balls made of soft skins stuffed with moss or grass.
    Other games were shows of strength, endurance and fitness although combative games were not reported (as wrestling, etc.). Foot races were popular and one would commence at the slightest opportunity. Other games were tree-climbing contests, log-tossing, arrow shooting, bow-pulling and any common "activity" where two or more persons could pit their endurance and skill against that of others. Some games as these were simply for fun, and they were not held so significant as a contest of shinny-ball.
[Page 69]    What are referred to today as "tepee holes" are all that remains of the Takelma houses, and these are found at all undisturbed sites which were once locations of villages. The habit of sifting ashes from these holds has turned up many artifacts which, at first, would seem to show that these Indians habitually threw everything into the fire. Such was not the case, however, but these fire holes, being a greater portion of the area inside the house, served as table, storage area, and kitchen cupboard for utensils. The pit was made to leave a shelf around the side along the walls, and on this shelf the people slept, and sat as with a couch.
Edward Sapir gave a good accounting of their houses in his "Notes on the Takelma Indians" [American Anthropologist, Vol 9, No. 2, Apr-June 1907] which is included here.
[Page 70] "The typical Takelma house of split sugar-pine boards was not square, but was longer than wide, the floor, which was nothing more than the earth stomped smooth, being from a foot and a half to two feet below the surface of the ground. At the four corners of the rectangle depression were set upright posts to which, on top, were lashed with hazel fiber some connecting cross beams. The house wall (wili s'idibi) was a neatly fitting series of boards, placed vertically, reaching from the top cross-beams to the floor. Above the top framework was raised a ridge-pole, supported on two uprights forked at the upper extremity. The wili helam, or 'house boards' [or "shakes," hand-hewn] were then filled in from the top beam to the sides of the house. The door was not round as was often the case farther to the north, but rectangular, and composed of two or three pieces of lumber put together."
[Page 71]    As the doorway was raised about three feet from the earth's surface, it was necessary to build up against the "house wall" an approach of earth to admit of entrance. Having crawled into the doorway, into which the door fitted by some sort of sliding device, one reached the floor of the house by descending the ladder (ga'K!an), consisting of a pole provided with notches for steps and extending from the doorway to the fireplace. [Other notes reverse this and other writers place the notched pole outside the door with the ramp inside.] This was in the center of the room, and the smoke-hole, which was here not identical--as in certain California underground sweat-houses--with the door, was provided for by an opening in the roof at a distance of from six to seven feet from the floor. The beds consisted simply of mats of cattail rushes spread out on the ground about the fireplace, though it would seem that unmarried girls slept on raised wooden boards or platforms. Such was the winter house. In summer the Indians dwelt in a brush shelter (gwas wili)
[Page 72] built around a central fire. The poorer people, it should be noted, had to content themselves with a house constructed of pine bark instead of lumber. [Sapir's footnote: "In one of the myths Coyote and Panther lived as neighbors, the house of the latter being of lumber while that of Coyote is made of bark. Coyote desires to deceive two girls who have come to marry Panther into the belief that he is himself the one sought, and accordingly 'wishes' the bark to become lumber.] "
The sweat-house of the Takelma was also a quadrangular only partly underground structure and covered over with earth. In one side was the door, while in another was an aperture to allow of the admittance of hot stones that had been heated on a brush fire outside the sweat-house. This fire-hole and the door were often kept closed so as to hold in the steam produced by pouring water on the hot stones. There was generally room enough in one of these sweat-houses for six men who often spent the whole night therein and then [Page 73]" plunged into the cold river water in the morning. Since women were not permitted to enter the sweat-house, they were wont to sweat themselves in a small temporary stick structure covered over with blankets, the hot stones being steamed inside. It was not high enough to allow one to stand in it and afforded room only for two or three women. After it had served its purpose it was taken to pieces and the blankets carried into the house. There was generally but one sweat house to a village and this was owned by one of the wealthier men or so-called chiefs who could not easily refuse admittance to any adult. The fire was built by his servants, not at all necessarily slaves, but poor people who worked for him, dug camas for him in season, and so on, and who were supported by him.
    Mrs. Frances Johnson, informant to Sapir at the time he made extensive studies among the Takelma at Siletz Reservation, gave this accounting
[Page 74] of the raising of a house in her own words:
    The people are making a house. A post they set in the ground, and here again they set one in the ground, yonder again they set one in the ground, in four places they set them in the ground. Then also they place beams across on top in four places and above these they put one across just once. And just then they make the house wall; and then on top they place the house boards, those they make out of sugar-pine lumber [or "shakes"]. Then they finish it on top, or either side they finish it. [Filling in between board with moss, grass, mud caulking.] Then they make the door, and on top they make a hole for the going out of smoke. And then they made a ladder, they notch out a pole for going down to the floor they make it; and the house wall they make."
    Then they finish it, all cleaned inside. Now rush mats they spread out inside, on such the people sit. [Page 75] "The fireplace is in the center so that they are seated on either side of the fire. In that way, indeed, was the house of the people long ago, in winter their house was such. But in summer they were sitting out in the open like now, not in the house. Just a brush shelter they placed around so that the fireplace they made in the middle. Thus they dwelt in summer, not as in winter in a house."
    Along the backs of the bench-arrangement and lining the walls were the storage baskets, boxes and a sundry of items. Other caches of foods and supplies were suspended from the ceiling and walls by thongs, keeping them out of reach of rodents and assuring they would stay dry.
    The Takelma lived one family to a house, and larger houses were made only for gatherings or other group purposes.
    In the summer house, the framework was erected and the usual roof was made, but for sidewalls, mats of rushes were affixed at the top cross-pieces, and these could be rolled up or let down as needed.
    There are no reports of the Takelma having lived in caves, but the finding of ashes and artifacts in caves in their territory seems to point to temporary use of such caves while on hunts and other food-gathering ventures, or upon displacement during times of natural disasters, and in the more recent wars between encroaching Athapascans and Takelma, or with the white men.