A brief history
The original Coquille Indians were called Mishikhwutmetunne, which is to say, "people living on the stream called Mishi." They were an Athabascan band, dating to 6,000 years ago, who lived in southwest Oregon on the east fork of the Coquille River. They also lived along bays and estuaries of the same area. Their languages were Clatskanie, Umpqua and Coquille-Tolowa.
The Coquille people resided in lean-to dwellings made of cedar planks. They subsisted on deer, fish (especially salmon) and acorns.
In the early 19th century the tribe, which numbered about 8,000 members, contracted such diseases as smallpox and malaria from incoming white trappers. With no immunity to those exotic scourges, their population plummeted to several hundred.
The trappers were followed shortly by land-hungry settlers and gold-hungry miners backed by U.S. soldiers who marginalized the Coquille and neighboring tribes with bloody aggression. The Coquille signed two peace treaties with the government, but the Congress failed to ratify them. Ultimately, the Coquille were forcibly removed from their lands and marched north to the Siletz Reservation in 1857.
The Coquille commenced a long effort to seek redress from the government for the loss of their lands, and by the 1940s managed to gain a measure of recompense in the U.S. Court of Claims in Washington, D.C. However, in 1954, House Concurrent Resolution 108 terminated the tribe's legal status with the federal government and they had to start all over again. In 1989, the government finally reversed course and restored its recognition of the Coquille.
The Coquille today
For the benefit of its members, the tribe maintains a number of programs and enterprises.
The Tribal Library contains information about the Coquille as well as other regional tribes. In 1995, the tribe founded the Southwest Oregon Research Project (SWORP) and, with the help of non-members, recovered a trove of significant historical documents that they share with other tribes and the general public. The information is available at several tribal libraries as well as an archive at the University of Oregon.
The Human Resources Department provides an avenue for employment with such entities as the administration, gaming commission and tribal police.
Education is important to the Coquille Tribe. Accordingly,
"The Education Department is dedicated to meeting the educational needs of the Coquille Indian Tribe. Our programs include assistance for tribal members seeking vocational/technical training, attending college/universities, adult education support, and a variety of youth activities."
The Community Health Center exists to enhance the overall health of tribal members through disease prevention, health education, outpatient and eyeglass services, and diabetes management.
The tribe's Community Center programs include:
Head Start early childhood education;
Little Feathers developmental program for ages 3 to 5;
youth after-school program;
gym activities; and
The Tribal Police department consists of three officers and a chief of police. They enforce state as well as tribal laws and maintain a 10-mile-long patrol area as well as the 5,900-acre Coquille Forest.
The Coquille Economic Development Corporation (CEDCO) maintains businesses and forms alliances with non-tribal firms for the tribe's economic enhancement. Their businesses include The Mill Casino/Hotel in Coos Bay, Coquille Cranberries in North Bend and Heritage Place, an assisted-living community in Bandon.
The annual Cultural Preservation Conference, which lasts over several days, serves to preserve and promote such traditional arts as basketry.
Restoration Day is observed every June 28 to commemorate the federal government's renewal of the Coquille Indians' legal status as a tribe.
Such social events as a men's retreat, elders' lunch, salmon bake and family camp are held regularly.
The General Council Meeting invites the participation of all voting tribal members.