Mounds of the Tualatin-Yamhill Kalapuyan Area

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Documents have been uncovered that address the Kalapuya mounds in the Tualatin and Yamhill valleys. The most famous Kalapuya mounds are those that were along the Calapooia river and tributaries from Corvallis to Sweet Home. In this area over 100 mounds existed. Most of these mounds have been plowed under, so that there may be less than ten mounds remaining. There is one other area that had mounds, the Longtom River had recorded mounds, but research records have yet to be discovered.

The mounds, which Albert Gatschet called Atudship mounds, were burial mounds of Kalapuyans. The area mounds appear to have been quite large and were created alongside the rivers where river soils were likely used to cover the burial mound. Many of the mounds were heavily looted in the early 20th century, by early archaeologists like James Horner of OSU. Gatschet does not appear to have assisted with looting and simply notes that the mounds were still being practiced at the Grand Ronde reservation in the 1870s.

American Naturalist August 1978

In 1878, Gatschet states “some mounds…are still seen on a high hill north of the agency buildings. On this mountain top they awaited the rise of the sun after having exerted themselves during the night in carrying up-hill heavy rocks…other hillocks are thrown up on the hush of night by the female portion  of this Indian community, who seem more interested than the males in keeping up this antique custom… on a flat-topped eminence about one mile east from the seat of the Grand Ronde Agency.”

The mountain, likely Spirit Mountain, is the subject of this story, while the flat topped eminence has yet to be found. The continuation of this culture into the reservation is news to many at the reservation. The culture was likely suppressed by the Indian Agents and  the tribes took up burial in cemeteries thereafter. The Grand Ronde Cemetery was begun about 1900 as a community project (see the cemetery journal at OHS).

Of the Tualatin, Gatschet states  “six miles west of Forest Grove on the eastern slope of a wooded hill which slants towards McCloud’s farm...”

This description join that of McMinnville (Linfield) College professor Brumbach who at the turn of the 20th century was excavating mounds in the Tualatin area. Brumbach initiated excavations on at least one mounds uncovering numerous artifacts and skeletons of Kalapuyans. It appears much of the artifacts were sent to the Smithsonian Institution but they are as yet undiscovered in the collections.


Linfield has been asked if they have such collections, but they appear to not have kept the collections. The collections many have gone with Brumbach when he left for a Chemistry appointments at Dennison University or University of California, or they are at the Museum of Oregon Anthropology in Eugene.

Apparently the tribes tried to protect their burials but in time gave in to continuous pressures. The tribes likely stopped practicing the traditions and the new generations stopped protecting the mounds. Found in the mounds are many items from the colonization period  (copper, coins, buttons) indicating that mound building was practiced up to the 1850s. Some scholars have suggested it was a previous culture, but it appears to be the work of the present living culture of the 19th century.


Ideally it would be best to find the artifacts and human remains mentioned by Brumbach to determine what they are by the archaeologists at the Grand Ronde tribe. Thus far, there has been no Brumbach archive discovered.



Oregonian articles (ask if needed) accessed on Oregon Historic Newspaper website

American Naturalist (accessed on Hathitrust website)



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