[SIT’-kum] — noun, adjective.
Meaning: Half; half of something; part of something; the middle.
Origin: From Chinookan; both inflected (noun) and uninflected (particle) n-shitkum ‘I am half’; a-shitkum ‘she is half’; shítkum ‘(at the upper) half’; Clatsop asitko,
The word sitkum is used to describe either of two equal or corresponding parts into which something is or can be divided. This is best seen in the term for a “sitkum dolla” (half dollar; fifty cents), though it is also be applied to varying degrees of, or corresponding parts into which something is or can be divided, as seen in “elip sitkum” (more than half) and “tenas sitkum” (less than half; quarter; a small part of something)
Perhaps the largest use of the word sitkum was related to seasons, such as “sitkum kopa waum illahee” (midsummer), and times of the say, as seen in “elip sitkum sun” (forenoon), “sitkum sun” (noon; midday), “kimtah sitkum sun” (afternoon) and “sitkum polaklie” (midnight; half a night). It even appears in the locational descriptor “kah sun mitlite kopa sitkum sun” (south).
The word sitkum also lends it name to Sitkum Glacier, located on the west slopes of Glacier Peak, immediately south of Scimitar Glacier in Washington. Sitkum is also the name of an unincorporated community in Coos County, about 43.5 km (27 miles) north of the hamlet of Remote in the Southern Oregon Coast Range near the East Fork Coquille River.
In 1872, John Alva Harry and his wife Chloe (Cook) Harry set up a roadhouse that they called ‘Sitkum’—later known as the Halfway House— as a stagecoach stop near a point halfway between Roseburg and Coos City on the Coos Bay Wagon Road. The establishment was a combination restaurant, tavern, rooming house, and telegraph station where travelers could stop to eat while horses were changed or spend the night.
In the following years the small citizenry of Sitkum would also build a post office and grade school.
In 1915, the mail stages switched to a less steep road along the Middle Fork of the Coquille River. This route was favored by more and more traffic, and eventually there was little need for travelers’ accommodations in Sitkum. Even so, the Halfway House at Sitkum would stay in operation until 1964.
Today there is little left of the community, and the Sitkum School was converted into a residence, though the former teacher’s house and the gym still exist on the grounds.