Living the Culture
Devastating events in the 19th and 20th centuries separated the Coquille people from much of our heritage. Our people were uprooted, their numbers were diminished, and their culture was suppressed.
Today, much is unknown about our ancestors’ customs and traditions. Yet even as we live our 21st-century lifestyles, we cherish the ancestral traditions and values we have retained, and we work diligently to revive lapsed cultural practices. By restoring and preserving these traditions, we are healing our Tribe’s nearly extinguished culture.
Time and circumstances have altered our lifestyles, but we revere the values handed down from our ancestors. Restoring and preserving our ancestral traditions is an important part of healing our Tribe’s nearly extinguished culture. We pursue this goal avidly:
The spirit of potlatch infuses nearly every Tribal activity. The ancient practice of greeting, feeding and bestowing gifts on our guests is found in our daily work, in our classes, in our events, and in our participation in the broader comm
unity. Learn more
The Coquille people are talented and industrious, with many members’ artwork and craftsmanship showcased in museums, galleries and exhibits around the world. Our members’ artistry includes woodworking, painting, drawing, glass blowing, regalia building, weaving, and beading. The Tribe supports and encourages Tribal member artisans who harvest traditional materials on Tribal land to create baskets, regalia and potlatch gifts.
Our ancestors’ skills and passion for harvesting traditional foods remain strong among Coquille people. We still gather camas, acorns and berries as we always have, as well as clams, mussels, barnacles and other traditional foods. A “Traditional Foods Day” during our annual Restoration Celebration allows our families and special guests to experience the foods that our people have been gathering on our lands for centuries.
Our cultural traditions don’t stop at the water’s edge. The Coquille people always have traveled by water, and today our “Canoe Family” is an active element of community life. Our Tribal canoes, Ponto and Omashi Dugwn, may be seen on Coos Bay or the South slough, or perhaps passing a boat dock in Riverton, headed for Bandon. In more than one sense, these canoes are vessels of tradition.
Celebration and Ceremony
The return of traditional dances and ceremonies is a heartfelt goal of many Coquille people.
Tribal members gather weekly to dance, drum and sing. In movement and song, we share what it means to be Native, to have overcome the tragedies of our past, and simply to be together.
The solstice ceremonies known as Nee Dash are highlights of the Coquille calendar. Each year, on the solstice eves, Tribal members gather to celebrate the coming of new seasons through dance and potlatch with our Tribal family and guests. Our annual Mid-Winter Gathering (January) and Restoration Celebration (June) are additional occasions for feasting and fellowship.
Language is a way to identify with others while setting yourselves apart. It makes individuals part of a group, and it gives the group individuality. As the Coquille Tribe works to restore bygone traditions, language is at the forefront.
Creating programs to revive traditional languages among modern-day people is a challenge for any Indian Tribe. The Coquille Tribe has begun the project, and traditional words are slowly infusing Tribal programs and events. If you attend a Coquille event, don’t be surprised to be welcomed with the Miluk “Dai s’la!” or the Upper Coquille “Jala!” Learn more
The library at the Kilkich Reservation contains extensive information on the Coquille Indian Tribe and other southwest Oregon tribes. Oregon. Many of its materials are available for public use. Learn more