The Infamous Black Bird Southern Oregon History, Revised

The Takelma Indians of Southwestern Oregon

Virginia Card's cultural and linguistic study of the Rogue Valley's original inhabitants.

Linguistic notation used in the text is not easily reproducible; please click on highlighted links to view the original manuscript.

The manuscript is preserved in the archives of the Southern Oregon Historical Society, MS133.

Transcribed by Pat Harper.

The Takelma Indians
of Southwestern Oregon

(now extinct)
Compiled by Mrs. Virginia D. Card

Report of a private study over a number of years to determine who lived here, how they lived, their ways of life, etc. Begun 1950, completed 1966.

Prologue A.
Preface page 1
I. Habitat 5
II. Neighboring Tribes 15
III. Language 33
IV. Food, Fishing, Hunting 38
V. Implements, Utensils, Games 53
VI. Habitations 69
VII. Clothing, Personal  Adornment, Shells 77
VIII. Numeral System, Social Organization 86
IX. War and War Implements 94
X. Religious Ideas, Superstitions, "Beings" 103
XI. Legends (As Told) 137
XII. Vocabulary 178

    Early in the 19th Century, James Smithson, a British mineralogist, completed his will, leaving the bulk of his estate to America for the purpose of gathering and dissemination of knowledge. At odds with his own country, for reasons of birth, Smithson expressed great interest in the United States, a country he was never able to visit, and upon his death, $515,169.00 he had left was passed to America. On Aug. 10, 1846, an Act of Congress created the Smithsonian Institution, using the relatively large sum (at that time) and since aided by many other such bequests.
    Within a very short time and under direction of J. W. Powell, the first of many exploring parties was sent out to the southwestern states, to study and to record native races in that area. Administration of such studies is under a Bureau of American Ethnology, the word "ethnology" taken from the two Greek words, ethnos, meaning "nation" and logos, meaning "word-wisdom." Many such Indian [page B.] study subjects described these historians simply as "mind-diggers who make much paper-talk."
    Indian languages are unwritten: if a speaker should cough, the entire story line of an ancient legend might easily have been altered. The letters d and t are spoken so nearly alike, but words beginning with such letters often have entirely different meanings. Among the Navajo, in naming the months, much confusion has arisen because of the difficulty experienced by early historians in differentiating between datso, meaning "tall corn," and t'atso, meaning "large feathers of eagles."
    In order to avoid such errors, it was requested that tales be told over and over, and by different informants, until a definite understanding was reached. Bot how to write and therefore to record such subtle pronunciations to assure authenticity in such records proved difficult, and the Bureau men in the field arose to the problem with a burst of seemingly wild solutions. [page C.]
    Frank Russell, an early historian, introduced an upside-down L which is used when that sound is softer than the harsher English L. J. P. Harrington first wrote smaller letters a little above the line of print to clarify certain pronunciations. Combinations of the tk and ts are quite common among many Indian languages, yet not all all common in English. Being difficult to handle in the American mouth, such combinations were helpful with the addition of many vowels. We find TKlma and Dglma written, in English, as Takelma (the name of the Indians who inhabited southwestern Oregon). Ideally, the T of Takelma is pronounced halfway between T and D. Similar to this, the Navajo nt'oc, meaning "water-source" is pronounced simply toc by Americans who seem unable to form the word as do the Navajo, even to this time.
    So it is that as time has passed and more and different pre-historic races are studied and permanently recorded by the B.A.E., more and different symbols are invented .

Last revised June 4, 2022