Guide to using the Siletz Dictionary by Amy Smolekback to dictionary
table of contents
- What is a Talking Dictionary?
- How do I use it?
- Who are the Siletz?
- What is the Siletz language?
- Where do the materials come from?
- Who has worked on the dictionary?
- Some Cultural Background
- Semantic Domains
- Astronomy and the sky
- babies and childbirth
- Body parts and the body
- Ceremonies and dances
- Crime and punishment
- Death and dying
- Employment and education
- Fish and sea life
- Health and sickness
- Insects and bugs
- Interaction with nature
- Modern things
- Numbers and counting
- Ocean, seas, and bodies of water
- Place names
- Plants and trees
- Religion and beliefs
- Times and seasons
- Tools and implements
- Other Interesting Things to Note
Some Cultural Background
The Siletz, like most Pacific Northwest Native American tribes, were a primarily hunter-gatherer society; as such, they have very thorough taxonomies for plants and animals, as well as many terms for the hunting and gathering of food and supplies and for the means and manners of living in close interaction with nature. The semantic categories in the dictionary, explained more thoroughly below, strive to offer an insightful look into the important factors in Siletz culture and give you, the user, some ideas of the many and varied and fascinating contents of this dictionary.
We have tried to include all of the terms that are tangentially related to the domain in question; this has led to things like leather being grouped under animal and handicrafts, since it is made from an animal and is used in the sewing of clothing and material constructions. If there are any groupings that you find confusing or inaccurate, please feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Since terms can be related to more than one category (as leather is above), there are many that are doubly or triply tagged. There is no hierarchal organization among the semantic domains, though we may be able to add that function in a future version. Some terms are obviously more closely related to one category than another, but we have tried to include any salient connections, not just those that are most present.
For an extended discussion of the various domains and what they include and indicate, see below.
A note about notation: terms that have an entry in the dictionary are marked by italics, while terms referring to the semantic domains are in bold. Therefore, bird indicates the Siletz entry ch’ee-yash or ch’ash, whereas bird indicates the semantic domain.
Included in this category are:
- mammals (mouse, sheep, deer, fox, horse, sea otter, sea lion)
- birds (eagle, owl, gull, hummingbird)
- - these entries are all tagged with bird as well
- reptiles (crocodile, turtle, swift lizard, snake)
- amphibians (salamander, frog, toad)
- animal parts (snout, horn, antler, feather)
- animal products (pelt, deer oil, deer hoof rattle, mink hair wrap, deer horn hat)
Not included are fish and other sea life, with the exception of sea-dwelling (but land mobile) mammals like sea otter and sea lion (which are also tagged as fish and sea life), and bugs and insects. Some other domains that animal terms may be tagged with include clothing, food, and tools and implements.
Astronomy and the sky
A relatively small domain, astronomy includes terms for the celestial bodies (sun, moon, star) as well as the lights they emit (sunlight, moonlight).
Babies and childbirth
Children enable a culture to continue flourishing, and as such play a very important role in the lives and language of a people. Siletz is no exception; the following types of words are included in this category:
- kinds of babies (baby, stillborn, triplet)
- before and during birth (birth, giving; pregnant)
- taking care of babies (suckling, rocked a baby, swaddled a baby, carried a baby in the arms)
While these entries could be cross-tagged with handicrafts, we decided it was a large enough category to have it stand on its own, and given the importance of basketry and baskets in the Siletz culture, it is a salient category to have. Included are:
- kinds of baskets (cooking basket, work basket, sieve basket)
- parts of baskets (basket bottoms, basket designs)
- basket making (woven baskets, basket making)
- materials for baskets (redwood roots for basketry)
All of the entries tagged with bird are also tagged with animal, so that they are included in a search for animals but also comprise their own group; as there are currently 86 terms in the bird category, it is a not insignificant portion of the animal group and a salient enough part of the folk taxonomy to warrant its own tag.
Since the Siletz historically lived along the coast, in an area with many rivers and lakes, they have a wide array of terms related to water transportation. Many of these terms are cross-tagged as fishing, though not all. Included here are:
- kinds of boats (canoe, boat, dugout canoe)
- parts of boats (oar, towline, paddle, stern of a boat)
- things that happen in or to boats (capsize, bailing out water, paddling, landed a boat, returning to shore)
Body parts and the body
This domain refers to humans only, including words for:
- body parts (arm, leg, stomach, brain, ear, chin, nose, sinus)
- bodily functions (orgasm, sneezing, winking, vomited, urinated, spitting, pregnant, sunburn)
- body products (hair, eyelash, tears)
The sheer variety and volume of terms relating to the body makes it clear that the Siletz had, and continue to have, a thorough understanding of human anatomy.
Ceremonies and dances
This category, along with religion and beliefs, offers insight into the spiritual lives and practices of the Siletz people. Ceremonies and dances includes rituals and practices with more than one participant, as well as those that seem to have a particular way of being done. Whereas religion and beliefs is more about what people think, ceremonies and dances focuses on what they do. There are many terms that are tagged with both. Some example tokens are:
- specific dances and ceremonies (Salmon Ceremony, ghost dance, happy dance)
- particular practices (danced, dancing out front, bad power making, prayed dance prayers)
This tag covers:
- articles of clothing (skirt, shirt, raincoat, pants, breech cloth, apron)
- parts of clothing (sleeve, pocket, tassel)
- accessories (cap, hat, shoe, glove, purse, tobacco pouch, uncomfortable shoe)
- jewelry (necklace, septum piercing)
- verbs involving clothing (put on clothes, put on shoes, wearing clothing, wearing beads)
This is a very straight-forward category. There are 11 terms relating to color descriptions in Siletz; from the morphology, it would seem as though only red, black, yellow, and white have distinct, independent roots, whereas orange, blue, green, gold, brown, yellowish, and gray are all derived from other words or descriptions. This makes Siletz a 4 color system, though it’s possible that blue is also a distinctive color (the fact that it is 2 syllables while the others are 1 is suggestive, but not definitive).
Crime and punishment
This is also pretty self-explanatory; included here are:
- crimes (strangling, war, stealing, stole)
- punishment (arrested, paying a fine (for an insult))
- people and places associated with the former (sheriff, jail)
Death and dying
The ways that cultures deal with death varies greatly, and the Siletz terms related to death reflect their unique view on the subject. The terms can roughly be grouped into:
- actual death and the process of dying (dying, died, last breath)
- repercussions of death on survivors (grief, grieving, mourning)
- products of death (grave, graveyard, tombstone)
- people somehow related to death (widower, widow, stillborn, undertaker)
Employment and education
The course of employment is often intimately linked to education, hence the presence of this category. Among the terms are words for:
- employment (unemployed, worked, working, hard work, blew off)
- learning (school, uneducated, student, teacher)
- jobs or the lack thereof (teacher, bum, soldier, headman, sheriff)
One particularly notable term is tokenism, defined as “the practice of making only a perfunctory or symbolic effort to do a particular thing, esp. by recruiting a small number of people from underrepresented groups in order to give the appearance of sexual or racial equality within a workforce” (from Google’s definition of the term). The Siletz people, as a Native American tribe, have been subject to tokenistic efforts on the part of the dominant white society to (at least seem to) redress the historical inequalities brought about from pioneer times on, but the decline of their language(s) and culture should prove that tokenism in no way makes up for past wrongs.
Fish and sea life
- kinds of fish (abalone, trout, sturgeon, flounder, eel, shark)
- other sea life (whale, crab, dolphin, starfish, quahog, barnacle)
- sea life that spend significant periods on ground (seal, otter, sea lion)
these are all also tagged with animal
- oceanic vegetation (kelp, seaweed)
- parts of fish and sea life (flipper, salmon tail, salmon heart, roe)
- products of fish and sea life (whale oil, eel heads, blubber, abalone meat, mussel shell spoon)
One thing worth noting is the abundance of terms relating to salmon: 17 in all. Salmon were (and are) an important food source and cultural symbol, which one can tell just from the presence of such a wide array of terms.
Fishing was one of the primary ways of getting food for the Siletz, and as such there are a wide variety of terms related to the practice, including words for:
- fishing supplies (hook, spear, harpoon, gill net, fish hook, eel net, fish bait)
- fishing methods (hooked eels, musseling, casted a line, dipped for fish, whaled, speared)
- fish patterns of behavior (smelt ran, eel(s) are running, teeming with fish, smelt(s) are going to run)
This is an understandably large category; it encompasses pretty much anything that can be ingested. We have excluded animals for which English has a separate word for the meat versus the living animal (pork and pig, cow and beef). Besides that, the category contains, among others:
- land animal sources of food (beef, jerky, gristle, steak, venison, bony meat, pork)
- plant sources of food (rice, acorn, nut, pea, pepper, celery, onion, pear, rind, huckleberry)
- ocean and sea sources of food (seafood, crab, mussel, sea trout, salmon flank, creek salmon)
- liquids (milk, tea, coffee, liquor, juice, coffee bean)
- other foods (salt, flour, stew, gravy, butter, tortilla, apple sauce)
- descriptive terms for food (ripe, sour, rancid, aged, fresh)
- making food (canned, smoke house, shaking food, dipped food into, mixing bread dough, skewering the meat, barbecue salmon halves between two stakes)
One term here of interest is the verb paradigm for apologizing for food wasting. The fact that this can be conveyed by a single word (and a rather short word, at that) speaks to the concern of the Siletz toward having enough to eat. Even living in an area rich with varied and abundant food sources, the issue of there being enough food for everyone is clearly still present.
The Siletz, like most every culture, have many ways of blowing off steam and having some fun. Some of the terms relating to this are words for:
- sports (boxing, soccer, wrestled, stick game)
- sport supplies and ways to play (goal marker, goal in stick game, dug up the ball during stick game)
- games (playing cards, dealt out cards, gambled, betting)
- miscellaneous fun (skipped a rock)
The exact rules of the stick game aren’t clear, but the entry for lacrosse was tagged with “see stick game”, which suggests that they must have something in common.
This includes all manner of crafty and artsy things, with the exception of everything related to basketry. Some examples are:
- supplies (yarn, twine, thread, thimble, tule fiber strings, knitting needle, leather, workshop)
- products (mat, rug, wampum, quilt, wearing beads)
- manner/type of craft (knitted, painted, dyeing, sewing, weaving, scrimshawed, unraveling)
Just from these terms, we can see that beads were an important part of Siletz handiwork, as were things related to the creation of materials used in clothing, blankets, and home décor.
Health and sickness
Besides specific illnesses, included here are both modern and traditional approaches towards health and sickness. This category encompasses:
- illnesses and pains (scab, disease, plague, ulcer, toothache, sore, sick, wheezed, numb, tumor)
- medicines, treatments, and cures (laxative, sedative, surgery, tourniquet, Indian doctoring root, physical therapy)
- doctors and healers (doctor, healer, surgeon, herbal doctor, doctoring, removed pain(s))
- causes of sickness (toxic, poison, pains which are thrown that cause illness)
Here are houses and parts of houses; while not a very big category, it seems nonetheless to be relevant given the importance of shelter for the survival of a people.
- kinds of houses and shelters (house, wood shed, Indian dugout)
- parts of houses (wall, housetop, leaking roof, yard, shingle(s) of a roof, partition in a room)
Besides fishing, hunting was the primary way of getting meat for the Siletz. It should come as no surprise that they have a very extensive vocabulary for related things, such as:
- hunting implements (bow, trap, arrow, rifle, bullet, pistol, gun, arrow quiver, arrow straightener)
- hunting methods (stalked, traced, shooting, missed the shot, hunted, shot on the lake, hunted through the woods, speared, whaling)
- post-kill activities and products (hide, tanned hide, tanned buckskin, hair removing from a hide, skinning (a) deer or animal(s))
Insects and bugs
This category is self-explanatory; it contains all those creatures we call bugs/insects, as well as the products of bees (hive, honey). insects and bugs may also be tagged with food or health and sickness.
Interaction with nature
While many of the other categories could also be considered forms of interaction with nature (such as hunting, fishing, and food), this category deals mainly with the ways the Siletz harness and control nature, including terms relating to:
- fire and the use of fire (fire, fire is burning, fire starting root, controlled burn, burning an area off)
- harvesting non-edibles (logged, peeling a tree, splitting lumber or wood, splitting roots or fibers)
- harvesting or preparing to harvest food (plowed, plowing, uprooting, transplanted, picked up acorns, picked berries, picking fruit)
This tag marks all family-related terms, both blood and marriage, as well as the processes that lead to family terms, including:
- kinship terms (son, niece, child, mother, father, uncle, brother, in-law, ancestor, sibling, grandfather)
- relational processes (marriage, half marriage, polygamous, orphan, widower)
These terms include words for:
- land formations (mesa, cave, dune, hill, bluff, field, ridge, summit, horizon, lowland, volcano)
- land materials and features (mud, soil, turf, rock, sand, boulder, woods, thicket, forest)
- man-made features (lawn, quarry, road, path, terrace, fork of a road)
- water formations (bay, rapids, lake, river, pond, inlet, ocean, stream, peninsula, waterfall)
Included here are only very modern inventions, so things like rifle and bullet are excluded. Some examples are dryer, movie, car, technology, telephone, supermarket, vacuum cleaner, submarine, and outboard motor. The existence of such words should speak to the vast adaptive and creative powers of language, even when they are dying.
Numbers and counting
This category contains number words (like ten, two, three) and quantitative descriptions of nouns (like twenty times, six individuals, last one, pair of two individuals, three of them, two people).
These entries may also belong to the domain of people.
Ocean, seas, and bodies of water
This category includes the many terms cross-tagged with landscape, such as lake, shore, lagoon, shoreline, coast, as well as a number of other terms that:
- describe water and its behavior (trickle, wave, eddy, surf, low tide, breaker, undertow, tide flowing in, roar of the ocean, rough ocean or water)
- refer to things done in or by water, excluding those that are covered by boats or fishing (wading, surfing, came around the bend of the river)
While most of the terms in kinship could be included here as well, we chose to leave those in their own category, devoting this one to terms involving:
- categories and descriptions of people (man, woman, Indian, oldtimer, black people)
- tribal associations (tribe, Tututini, Hupa, Chetco people, Siletz people, Takelma people)
- qualities of people (good person, well mannered, rich person, bad people, liar)
- as well as all the terms in employment and education referring to people with specific jobs or roles (student, teacher, soldier, etc.).
Much like with insects and bugs, there’s not a whole lot to explain about this domain. The list of places that have Siletz names does reflect their traditional living space, including places in Oregon (Oregon, Chetco Village, Mount Emily, Pistol River) and California (Nelechundun/Henry Ranch, Wilson Creek, Achulet Village).
Plants and trees
- trees (cedar, dogwood, spruce, juniper, maple)
- plants (azalea, bush, flower, grass, lily, skunk cabbage, fern)
- parts of plants and trees (leaves, pod, seed, stem, bough, thorn, bark of a tree)
- products of plants and trees (sap, lumber, log, nectar, timber, stump)
- adjectives relating to plants and trees (weedy, herbal, bloomed out, blooming, fell off)
Religion and beliefs
This is the more mental counterpart to the ritualistic ceremonies and dances, though there are many cases that fall into both categories. Included are terms for:
- supernatural and otherworldly people and things (God, Christ, devil, ghost, spirit, angel, unicorn, demon)
- powerful speech (omen, myth, prophesy, legend, sorcery)
- elements for church service (altar, garment for church, pastor, minister)
- spiritual practices (prayed, profaning, prayed dance prayers, sin, bad power making)
We can see an interesting combination of traditional beliefs (ghost, myth time people) and Christian beliefs (Christ, Holy Spirit, pastor), reflecting the cultural interaction between the traditional religion of the Siletz and the Christianity brought by white people.
Times and seasons
This domain encompasses all manner of terms relating to times and seasons, including:
- time of day (a.m., p.m., night, midday, morning, moonrise, midnight, sunset, afternoon)
- month (July, August)
- season (spring, midsummer, summertime, winter, fall, sport season)
- traditional ways of telling time of year (eel run, the last one of the season; seaweed, last picking)
- frequency (daily, all day, every day)
- units of time (century, year, hour)
- relative times (soon, today, tonight, long ago, now, yesterday, day after tomorrow)
Tools and implements
- food preparation and consumption (pan, pot, fork, ladle, spoon, pestle, trivet, acorn paddle, clam shell oil dish)
- handicrafts (shears, scissors, hammer, needle, sewing needle, knitting needle, drill, paint brush)
- tidiness and organizing (pail, rack, rake, broom, spade)
- taming nature (flint, awl, ax, saw, kerosene, match, machete, lantern, torch, fire carrier, fire starting root)
- personal care (comb, toothpick, razor)
- smoking accoutrements (pipe for smoking, tobacco pouch, pipe with a stone bowl)
This is a somewhat controversial category; we would like to make clear that we are not trying to condemn or condone the activities herein, merely that we think it is a new and interesting way of looking at the data. The materials included here are terms related to:
- smoking (tobacco, smoked tobacco, puffing on a pipe or cigarette, smoking, pipe with a stone bowl)
- drinking (tavern, drunk, sober, whiskey flask, tipsy)
- lying (lying, withheld the truth, liar)
- gambling (gambled, betting, called the bet, shell dice gambling game)
Tobacco and its use has long had a spiritual and ritual role in Native American cultures, and the Siletz seem to be no exception, given the abundance of terms related to the practice. The CTSI also run a casino, as allowed for displaced Native American tribes by Oregon law, which helps explain the number of terms related to gambling.
While also pretty self-explanatory, this domain does have a truly remarkable range of terms related to rain (including, but not limited to, sleet, fine rain, heavy rain, fog raining, fell like rain, torrential rains, it is sprinkling, it is raining hard). As anyone who has spent a winter in Oregon knows, rain is a very constant presence, so the wide variety of Siletz terms should come as no surprise. Besides the rain words, weather also includes terms for:
- other precipitation (ice, smog, snow, hail)
- storms and hazardous weather (storm, thunder, lightning, cyclone, tornado, whirlwind)
- adjectives for the weather (sunny, cloudy, sunlit, sunless, foggy, overcast, icy)
Other Interesting Things to Note
Object incorporation means there are many different ways of saying verbs for which we have only one word, depending on what is being talked about; fundamental contrast is based on animacyPresent in:
- a lot is there
- both of them
- bottom of
- bring in
- brought in
- brought came, it
- covering with
- had, possessed
- has, have
- lend me, you
- pass me
- taking out
|both of them (individuals, people)||nanlh-dee-yu|
|both of them (objects)||naa-xee-t’i|
|liquid (including milk, water, juice, whiskey, etc.)||tuu-’i’|
|a lot is there||lhan slhek|
|lend me, you||sh-ghaa~-ch’ii~-lhe|
|material (fabric, paper, clothes, leather, coat, check, material objects, cloth, garment)||trvlh-xvs or chvtlh-xvs|
|lend me, you||sh-ghaa~-ch’ii~-lhchvm’s|
Others: food, crunchy/crisp, single long or large object, object/money/long object, multiple long objects, multiple objects, multiples in bundles, net/beads/rope, blankets, lighted objects, like objects
Distinctions for down, outward (or into), through for creek(s), road(s), trail, water, floated
Make a distinction between singular, plural, and dual (we two, you two, those two):
- came home, to town, etc.
- going home
- going steady
- living together
Sometimes distinction is only made for some of the “person”s, as for paddling(1st and 2nd only), ate (1st and 3rd only), came back (2nd only)
We hope this guide helps you get to know the dictionary a little better, and that you have fun exploring the many fascinating things it holds!
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