Kalapuya History

At every full collective gathering we acknowledge that we live in a society founded on stolen land and stolen lives. Someone researches and presents a relevant topic and then we take a moment of silence to reflect. We share the research here for others as well:

Before white settlers, the original peoples residing in what is now the Willamette Valley were the Kalapuya. The Kalapuya were not a single tribal entity, but rather thirteen autonomous groups loosely related by dialects, and these dialects made three distinct language groups. The thirteen groups, identified by their dialects, are as follows (from north to south): Tualatin, Yamhill, Ahantchuyuk, Luckiamute, Santiam, Chepenefa, Chemapho, Tsankupi, Mohawk (of no relation to the Mohawk Nation of New York and Canada), Chafan, Chelamela, Winefelly, and Yoncalla. Each of these groups resided along different areas of the Willamette, Umpqua, and McKenzie rivers. The Kalapuya were hunter-gatherers, gaining food by fishing and hunting, and gathering nuts, fruits, and roots. Their villages were occupied year-round, with smaller groups departing only to gather seasonal food and raw materials, and they used obsidian from the Cascade ranges to make projectile points for their weapons. Before contact with white settlers, it is believed the Kalapuya numbered as much as 15,000 people.

Much of the information of the tribes of greater Oregon was gathered by the Southwest Oregon Research Project started in 1995 at the University of Oregon. Initiated by the Coquille Nation, Native student researchers started a collection of photocopies of original documents that had been scattered and generally overlooked in the National Archives and National Anthropological Archives. These documents pertained to the history of Native peoples of greater Oregon and were established as a collection at the U of O within the Special Collections program of the library. This collection was intended by the project to allow Native and university scholars to continue to research and rewrite the histories of colonization that have been imposed on Native people, and has helped the tribes of Oregon and Northern California recover missing and lost histories and cultural information.

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