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For other uses, see Kalapuya (disambiguation).
An image of a Kalapuya man created in the 1840s

The Kalapuya are a Native American ethnic group. They are members of the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community of Oregon. The Kalapuya tribes' traditional homelands were the Willamette Valley of present-day western Oregon in the United States, an area bounded by the Cascade Range to the east, the Oregon Coast Range at the west, the Columbia River at the north, to the Calapooya Mountains of the Umpqua River at the south.



The Kalapuya[1] people are said to have originally entered their tribal homeland, in the Willamette Valley located in the American state of Oregon, by migrating from the south of the valley northwards, forcing out earlier inhabitants.[2] The Kalapuyan people spoke sundry dialects of a Kalapuyan language. It was categorized by John Wesley Powell as part of the Takelman language group; in the early 21st century these are known as the Oregon Penutian languages.[2]

The Kalapuyan people were not a single homogeneous tribal entity but rather were made up of multiple autonomous subdivisions, loosely related to one another by language dialects, which were mutually unintelligible.[3] The eight related groups comprising the Kalapuya people spoke three distinct dialects of the Oregon Penutian language family: Northern Kalapuyan, Central Kalapuyan, and Yoncalla (also called Southern Kalapuya).[4] These languages were mutually unintelligible.[4] Catholic missionary François Blanchet said that "fourteen or fifteen different dialects were spoken by these tribes; they are not so essentially different but that they can understand each other. Moreover, the Chinook jargon is spoken among the Kalapooias [sic]."[5]

Each of these bands occupied specific areas along the Willamette, Umpqua, and McKenzie rivers.[2] The various Kalapuyan bands were hunter-gatherers, gaining food by fishing and hunting by the men, and gathering of nuts, berries and other fruits and roots by the women.[2] The tribe made use of obsidian obtained from the volcanic ranges to the east to fashion sharp and effective projectile points, including arrowheads and spear tips.[6]


Prior to contact with white explorers, traders, and missionaries, the Kalapuya population is believed to have numbered as many as 15,000 people.[3] Robert Boyd estimates the total Kalapuyan population between 8,780 and 9,200 for the period between 1805 and the end of the decade of the 1820s.[7]

Catastrophic epidemics of malaria, smallpox, and other diseases accompanied the white explorers, traders, and missionaries which entered the region.[8] Some accounts recount tales of villages devoid of inhabitants, standing in grim testament to the devastating effect of epidemic disease. Blanchet reported in 1839 that diseases "reduced [them] to a very small population threatening to decline more and more.[5] By 1849 Oregon territorial governor Joseph Lane reckoned the remaining Kalapuyan population at just 60 souls — with those survivors managing to exist in the most dire of conditions.[2] Contemporary scholarship puts the actual count of the various Kalapuya peoples in this interval at closer to 600.[3]

Social structure[edit]

Kalapuya bands typically consisted of extended families of related males, their wives, and offspring.[9] These bands would occupy a year-round village throughout the winter, with some members splitting off into smaller groups and departing to gather seasonal food and raw materials for basketry during the spring and summer.[9] Bands would frequently have a single leader — generally the most wealthy male — who would resolve arguments, settle collective debts of the community such as those incurred gambling, and would provide food for feasts.[9]

As was the case for many tribes of the Pacific Northwest, the Kalapuya practiced slavery, with slaves generally obtained through trade or as gifts.[10] Northern Kalapuya groups, such as the Tualatin and Yamhill would obtain slaves through conquest, raiding bands located on the coast or further south in the Willamette valley.[10] Slaves were considered a form of wealth and were used for the purchase of desired commodities, including beads, blankets, and canoes.[10] Women and children seem to have been preferred as slaves owing to their comparative ease of control.[10]

Slaves lived with the families who owned them, working side-by-side in gender-specific daily tasks and performing mundane chores such as the collection of firewood and water.[11] Slaves were often free to marry and their freedom could be purchased through their own accumulation of property or through sufficient payment to the owner by a prospective spouse.[11]

In addition to the patriarchal and wealth-driven differentiation of Kalapuyan society there were also special religious leaders called shamans. These were believed to possess supernatural predictive or healing powers and might be either male or female, free individual or slave.[11]

Labor was differentiated within Kalapuyan society according to gender. Males engaging in fishing, hunting, and war as well as tool manufacture and the construction of canoes.[11] Women worked gathering and preparing the staple plant foods that were the basis of the Kalapuyan diet, set up temporary camps, and constructed baskets and other craft products.[11] During the summer months the women of the band would prepare food products for winter storage, generally staying in the main village to complete the task while others gathered the foods from afar.[11]


In Oregon there were two main treaty cycles which concerned the Kalapuya, those in 1851 and those in 1854–1855. The 1851 treaties were negotiated by Oregon's Superintendent of Indian Affairs Anson Dart, and those in 1855 by Dart's successor Joel Palmer. The 1851 treaties were never ratified, but those in 1854–1855 were ratified.[12]

On April 12, 1851, at the Santiam Treaty Council in Champoeg, Oregon Territory, the leaders of the Santiam Kalapuya tribe expressed strong opinions over where they were to live. The Santiam leaders Alquema and Tiacan maintained their desires to remain on their traditional territory, between the forks of the Santiam River.

In the Treaty of Calapooia Creek, Oregon, (November 29, 1854), the Umpqua and Kalapuyan tribes of Umpqua Valley ceded their lands to the United States.

In the Treaty with the Kalapuya, etc., at Dayton, Oregon, (January 22, 1855), the Kalapuya and other tribes of the Willamette valley ceded the entire drainage area of the Willamette River.


Most Kalapuya Indians were removed to the Grand Ronde Agency and reservation, although some ended up at Siletz Reservation, Warm Springs Reservation or Yakama Reservation. Grand Ronde Reservation was settled in 1855 as a temporary reserve and was then called the Yamhill River Reserve or Yamhill Valley reserve. It was officially renamed and set aside as a reservation as the Grand Ronde Reservation in 1857 by Executive Order.

Life at Grand Ronde was difficult for the tribes, with at least 27 tribes removed to Grand Ronde. Some tribes had been historical enemies. The reservation was managed by the Department of War, and Fort Yamhill was established to oversee the Indians. Later management was taken over by the Commissioner of Indian Affairs and still later by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

There was a day school established at Grand Ronde which was managed and taught by the Catholic Church under United States approval. The day school was an on-reservation boarding school where children were at times forcibly removed to and made to stay at school throughout the school year. Many children were later sent to off-reservation Indian boarding schools, like Chemawa in Salem. Most children were taught only service work like blacksmithing, farming, sewing, etc. at the boarding schools.

The First Catholic missionary to establish a church, St. Michaels, was Rev. Adrien Croquet (Crocket), of Belgium.

Sanitation and health care at the reservation was poor and mortality was high. By 1900 only about 300 remained of the original 1,000 people that had been removed to the reserve.

Termination and restoration[edit]

All of the bands and tribes of the Kalapuya descendants were terminated in 1954 along with all other western Oregon tribes, in the Western Oregon Indian Termination Act of 1954. Final termination occurred with most lands of the reservation sold, all services removed, and final rolls published in the Congressional record in 1956.

The Kalapuya descendants were restored through the restoration of the Confederated Tribes of the Siletz (1977) and Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community of Oregon (1983).

The descendants of the Kalapuya tribes and bands married extensively into other tribes throughout the northwest and within the reservation, and most now have multiple native ancestries. Most Kalapuya descendants are enrolled at The Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community of Oregon. There are an estimated 4,000 Kalapuya descendants.

Historic Kalapuyan groups[edit]

The Kalapuyan groups (identified by language) were:

In his description of the Indians of the Willamette Valley in 1849, Governor Joseph Lane gave the following estimates for the tribes' populations: "Calipoa": 60; "Tualatine": 60; "Yam Hill": 90; "Lucka-mues": 15.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The tribal name has also been rendered into English variously as "Calapooia," "Calapuya," "Calapooya," "Kalapooia," and "'Kalapooya."
  2. ^ a b c d e Robert H. Ruby and John A. Brown, A Guide to the Indian Tribes of the Pacific Northwest. Revised Edition. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1992; pg. 10.
  3. ^ a b c Judy Rycraft Juntunen, May D. Dasch, and Ann Bennett Rogers, The World of the Kalapuya: A Native People of Western Oregon. Philomath, OR: Benton County Historical Society and Museum, 2005; pg. 13.
  4. ^ a b Barbara A. Leitch, A Concise Dictionary of Indian Tribes of North America. Algonac, MI: Reference Publications, Inc., 1979; pp. 204–205.
  5. ^ a b Blanchet, François N. Historical Sketches of the Catholic Church in Oregon Portland: 1878. pp. 59-60.
  6. ^ Stephen Dow Beckham, The Indians of Western Oregon: This Land was Theirs. Coos Bay, OR: Arago Books, 1977; pg. 68.
  7. ^ Robert T. Boyd, The Coming of the Spirit of Pestilence: Introduced Infectious Diseases and Population Decline among Northwest Coast Indians. Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press, 1999; pp. 324–325, table 16. Cited in Melinda Marie Jetté, "'Beaver are Numerous but the Natives ... Will Not Hunt Them': Native-Fur Trader Relations in the Willamette Valley, 1812–1814," Pacific Northwest Quarterly, Winter 2006/07, pg. 3.
  8. ^ Robert T. Boyd, The Coming of the Spirit of Pestilence: Introduced Infectious Diseases and Population Decline among Northwest Coast Indians. Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press, 1999.
  9. ^ a b c Juntunen, Dasch, and Rogers, The World of the Kalapuya, pg. 17.
  10. ^ a b c d Juntunen, Dasch, and Rogers, The World of the Kalapuya, pg. 18.
  11. ^ a b c d e f Juntunen, Dasch, and Rogers, The World of the Kalapuya, pg. 19.
  12. ^ "Kalapuyan" (7 February 1997). University of Oregon.

Further reading[edit]

  • Robert T. Boyd, "Another Look at the 'Fever and Ague' of Western Oregon," Ethnohistory, vol. 22, no. 2 (Spring 1975), pp. 135–154. In JSTOR.
  • Robert T. Boyd, The Coming of the Spirit of Pestilence: Introduced Infectious Diseases and Population Decline among Northwest Coast Indians. Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press, 1999.
  • C.F. Coan, "The Adoption of the Reservation Policy in Pacific Northwest, 1853–1855," Quarterly of the Oregon Historical Society, vol. 23, no. 1 (March 1922), pp. 1–38. In JSTOR.
  • Leo J. Frachtenberg, "Myths of the Alsea Indians of Northwestern Oregon," International Journal of American Linguistics, vol. 1, no. 1 (July 1917), pp. 64–75. In JSTOR.
  • Melinda Marie Jetté, "'Beaver Are Numerous, but the Natives ... Will Not Hunt Them': Native-Fur Trader Relations in the Willamette Valley, 1812–1814," Pacific Northwest Quarterly, vol. 98, no. 1 (Winter 2006/2007), pp. 3–17. In JSTOR.
  • Tracy Neal Leavelle, "'We Will Make It Our Own Place': Agriculture and Adaptation at the Grand Ronde Reservation, 1856–1887," American Indian Quarterly, vol. 22, no. 4 (Autumn 1998), pp. 433–456. In JSTOR.
  • David Gene Lewis, Termination of the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community of Oregon: Politics, Community, Identity. PhD dissertation. University of Oregon, 2009.
  • Harold Mackey, The Kalapuyans: A Sourcebook on the Indians of the Willamette Valley. Salem, OR: Mission Mill Museum Association, 1974.
  • Ronald Spores, "Too Small a Place: The Removal of the Willamette Valley Indians, 1850–1856," American Indian Quarterly, vol. 17, no. 2 (Spring 1993), pp. 171–191. In JSTOR.

External links[edit]