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How Do You Pronounce That?

How Do You Pronounce That?

People encountering the Coquille Indian Tribe are often puzzled about the pronunciation of our name. The southwestern Oregon town of Coquille and the nearby Coquille River are both pronounced “ko-keel.”  So why does the Tribe pronounce its name “ko-kwel”?

The history behind that question is complex, but here’s a shorthand version:

  • Our ancestors traditionally trapped and ate lamprey, an eel-like fish. One name for the lamprey was “scoquel.”
  • As fur traders and settlers moved into Western Oregon, the river and the people living near it became known as “Coquell” or “Coquelle.”
  • Early treaties identified the tribe as “Coquille” – spelled like the French word for “shell.”
  • Sometime after a city of that name was established, the pronunciation shifted from “ko-kwel” to “ko-keel.” (Local merchants reportedly wanted to sound fancier.)
  • Today, the town and river are “ko-keel,” but the Tribe is “ko-kwel.”