columbia river coos bay General History Kalapuya Oral History Oregon Coast Oregon indians trade Umpqua Valley Uncategorized Willamette Valley

Trade Between the Interior and the Coast; Kalapuyans, Klikitats, Coosans

Previous to the Americans and the British In Oregon, the tribes had numerous interrelationships with one another. Trade was a major part of the lives of all tribes. Some tribes had vast resources, but only in a few items were they specialized. The Chinookans, had vast amounts of dried salmon because of owning the best salmon fishing sites on the Columbia and Willamette rivers, as well as access to all of the trade items in the Columbia River Trading region, a vast trade zone which stretched from the mid-west American plains to the Pacific Coast. While the Kalapuyans had lots of camas and wapato from the fertile inland valleys, they also could access the Columbia river trade when they visited the Clackamas villages at Willamette Falls. The Klickitat were elk hunters and they specialized in elk hide products. The Coastal tribes had vast amounts of ocean products, especially shells, which could be turned into sharp tools, or jewelry. For many years there has not been a lot of information about the trade of the inland Kalapuyan tribes with their coastal neighbors, while, we have lots of information about Kalapuyan trade at Willamette Falls, and intermarriage into the Chinook an tribes by the Tualatin and Santiam Kalapuyans. Considering the fact that trade was the major cultural practice of the tribes of the region, this fact more than their resource gathering activities, (or complex Hunter-gatherer activities) needs to become the definition of who these people were, as being parts of a complex trade and interaction sphere. Kalapuyans appear to have been the middlemen, between the Columbia River and the southern Oregon and coastal communities like the Coos Bay region.

In 1812, a group of Kalapuyans, who are assumed to have been Tualatins, visited Fort Astoria to establish relations with the American fur traders there. There, the Kalapuyans took advantage of the absence of the Americans to raid and take the food stores of the Astorians. When the Americans returned, with Chief Kiesno, and found their stores gone, Kiesno confronted the Kalapuyans and directed them to return the food, as the tribes in the region were cultivating a trade relationship with the Americans based on trust. That meeting was interesting as it presented an image of who was powerful in the region. Kiesno, the more astute trader, perhaps because of the well-developed and  extensive trade culture of the Columbia River, held quite a bit of sway with the Kalapuyans.

Original- Kalapuyan Man, South of Eugene area, Wilkes expedition, 1841

The Southern Kalapuyans likely had many trade relationships with the Coastal tribes. One record of a possible relationship was captured in 1841 when the Wilkes Party encountered a group of Kalapuyans about a days travel south of the Longtom River. This encounter is written into at least eight journals from the expedition, and one artist, Alfred T. Agate, drew the Kalapuya Man. Much of the clothing of Kalapuya men and women was made from deer hides with skin head coverings. In the drawing, the man wears what appears to be European-styled footwear, indicating American and European goods had been traded in the region. George W. Colvocoresses, the expedition midshipman, suggested that the Kalapuya men were wearing “cast off clothing of whites,” and Lt. Henry Eld wrote that they were wearing the “remnants of company clothing,” a reference to the Hudson’s Bay Company. Kalapuya man’s other articles are of native origin, including his sealskin quiver, which is likely the result of trade with coastal or Columbia River tribes. The sealskin could have easily come from a coastal tribe, while the rest of the attire could have been gotten at Fort Umpqua, a Hudson’s Bay trading post.

The Luckamiute Kalapuyans likely had very little trade with the coastal tribes. The Luckamiutes were a tribe of Kalapuya Indians living west of Salem, their homelands centered around the Luckamiute river. One of the early settlers to the region, Jesse Applegate, was a young man in about 1844 when he lived among the Luckamiute. He copied down his adventures later in a book he called “Recollections of a Boyhood”. His family had settled for a time at Salt Creek west of the town of Dallas and he had many adventures with the local tribal peoples.  He recorded a part of a legend of the tribe which he heard from his native friends. He found they were afraid of a goblin in the Coast range, Chuchounyhoof. His entry about this goblin continues,

There was a very dangerous goblin in the Coast Mountains, whose awful name was Chuchounyhoof. When we expressed no fear saying we would shoot him if we found him, just as we would shoot a deer or a bear, they said, “Wake klietan kokshot. Skin hyas kull kahwa chickamin,” that is, “His hide is bulletproof; it is hard as iron.” (note- Chickamin is a Chinook wawa term for money, so this likely suggests his hide was hard as (metal) money) Our parents did not seem to regard this story as of any consequence; they said it was only an Indian superstition. But my training in the school in the Old Mission had developed the bump of curiosity in my head and I absorbed this story eagerly. I had seen that there was an evil spirit roaming about this earth, and I thought this goblin the Indians told us of might be it. I interviewed many Indians on the subject, but gained little information. I discovered that the low caste natives truly believed in the existence of the goblin and were frightened by it. Their priest, Dickadowdow, said that to fall into the hands of Chuchounyhoof would be a fearful thing.

Although slow in making the discovery, I eventually learned that there existed among the natives a professional class possessed of all the learning not considered necessary in the day to day affairs of life. These professors were known in the Chinook language as “Lamachin,” that is, medicine men or doctors. … They were supposed to be learned in the law and in every branch of a religious or superstitious character. I became acquainted with two or three professionals. But when I introduced Chuchounyhoof as a text to be expounded, I found them averse to discussing the subject without assurance that I was not prompted by idle curiosity.[1]

That is the extent of what we know of this goblin. Because of this goblin, the Luckamiute would not travel into the Coast Range. When two of the Applegate brothers  did so and stayed overnight in the range, and returned safely, the Native people were much impressed. The lack of travel into the coast range, because of the need to avoid the goblin, suggests that the tribe had little or no trade with the coast, unless another tribe came to them.

A similar attitude towards the inland areas is exhibited by the Coos Indians. The Coos Indians, in 1931 during their lawsuit affidavits in their suit against the United States, gave information about their boundaries and what they though about the lands over the Coast Range.

The Coast Range, to the Coos Bay Indians, represented the eastern boundary of their country, and that territory beyond, a place of mystery. From the many statements by the tribal members from  Coos Bay, there was never any need to leave the bay, everything was provided for them in that unique ecosystem.

Daisy Codding (Coos) stated, I can’t remember the Indian name (of the eastern boundary) but it meant toward the rising sun, or toward the Great Forest…I knew that they said (the eastern boundary was) in the Great Forest. (85)

Andrew Charles stated his understandings of the trade relations between the coast and the Interior. His experiences mainly are from living on the Siuslaw after 1875, and what he heard from elders.

They got the game with bows and arrows and pitfalls and other traps, that is how they got the game, and when they think they have enough for their winter’s supply they come back t their home on the coast and they do their trading. The people who did not go out to hunt they catch the mussels, seal, salmon and trout from the streams and traded with the Indians that came from the mountains. (107)

I don’t remember that I said that the Valley Indians came over to trade, but Mr. Johnson went over to trade with the Valley Indians.[ 1931 hearings, Andrew S. Charles, informant]

Then, J. N. Hedden (non-native settler) had late 19th century experiences with the coastal people and stated, It was the coast range (as the eastern boundary). It ran straight along behind the whole thing. The Klickitats were the only Indians they had a pow-wow with. They used to come down here. The Klickitats belonged in the Willamette Valley. They was a big tribe but they was a peaceable tribe. (136)

Even George Wasson (Sr.) gave statements about the trade relationship between the coastal and interior native peoples.

[by George B. Wasson] …. The annual extreme minus tide would appear in the spring and summer, and that is when they ventured out on the rocks and gathered their mussels and dried them and stored them for subsistence and for trade with neighboring tribes. The Indians from the Calapooya tribe and the member of the Klikitat tribe would come into the Coos River and carry large loads of dry berries, hazel nuts from the interior of the state. It was a custom of the Coos tribe that no stranger should enter a strange camp uninvited. These Indians when they came in with their packs on their backs, would seat themselves in a conspicuous place near the village. The chief and head men would invite them in. The women would gather up in their packs. The visitors would remain and feast on what the Indians would call Hedjana (used for Coos Plants) until they were rested, and when they started on their return trip the women would bring out their packs loaded to capacity as they were as they brought them in. These women when they took out their hazel nuts, would determine the equivalent amount of dried eels or dried clams that they would place in the packs of the visiting Indians. They carried on their commerce in that way. It would have been an insult if one of these visiting members would open their pack sacks to see how much clams or dried eels was put in the place of the nuts or dried berries that he had brought for trade. [31 hgs 191-192].

Jim Buchanan (Coos) also knew the Kalapuyans had trade with the Coos Bay people.

101 RDQ. [Jim Buchanan] Ask him whether or not there was any trade between the Coos Indians and the Indians on the east side of the Coast Range known as Kalapooias. A. The coast tribes never went among the Kalapooias, but the Kalapooias did come west to buy furs [31 hgs 52]  

The 1931 Coos Bay hearings happened in November, and the transcripts that I have end on page 141. George Wasson Sr. is not in the many depositions. Therefore, there is likely a second set of transcripts, that includes Wasson on  pages 191-192 (as referenced by Harrington), which I have yet to find, that includes further statements by Coos Bay and other Native people.

J. P. Harrington’s field notes suggest further information about the trade economy in a field encounter with the Coos people later in the 1930s. Lottie Evanoff  and Frank Drew provide the lion’s share of the information in his many field notebooks. The depth of their knowledge shows as they suggest that the Kalapuyans brought bison furs to trade for shells. Because there was no wild bison in Oregon, the hides had to come from trade with the Chinookans. Within the Columbia River Trade network were tribes, like the Cayuse, Nez Perce and Palouse, who traveled annually into the American plains to hunt bison. They would have brought bison/buffalo products into the trading region.

Frank: the Calapuyas came w. to buy furs, but the Coos did not go among the Calapuyas. [Roll 24 section 94]

Lot, The common blankets of olden times were elk hides, made soft. The Calapuya or some kind of  Inds. wd come & trade buffalo hides into here. Wd have no term for elk blanket, wd call it merely dzinnr, blanket. (roll 22, section 84)

Lot, Wd call the Calapuya the way-back Injuns… Them country Injuns did not eat clams or mussels they liked to take home dried fish of all kinds & they used to bring jerked horsemeat, which looked white & was finegrained. But they liked the shells of clams. The Cal. (Calapuya) brought buffalo hide blankets & took back from there elkhide blankets. The Calipuya were crazy for buckskin & elkhide to make moccasins of bringing buffalo hides they were just tickled to death if they cd get buckskin & elkhides and they gambled “card” games before going back. [roll 22 section 97]

Card games could have been actual card games picked up from fur traders, or those games generally called cardroom games which include dice games, and other Indian betting games, like stick game. The tribes had a traditional dice game, with dice of beaver teeth excised differently on each side.

It was common in trade meetings to tell stories, to arrange marriages, to meet with extended family, to form alliances, and to have gambling through the evenings. Some native “trade fairs” are said to have gone on for weeks, where gambling games could continue the whole time. During these events, people would put up all their worldly possessions as their stake. The various “sides” would sing gambling songs, very spiritual songs meant to harness their power. Reports from white in this time period suggest that the gambling nights were loud, and full of drinking, and fighting.

Trading protocols for most tribes consisted of a tribes working to gain something over the other side. White traders to the coast experienced the shrewd nature of native trading, and grew to respect their knowledge of what things were worth. Tribal peoples were not averse to stealing something if they thought there was something unfair in the trade, and the resource was unguarded, or they otherwise had the advantage. Tribal traders knew that it was not a good idea to travel alone, and also not a good idea to show all of your store of trade goods. There have been many caches of obsidian trade blanks found buried together underground. It is theorized that obsidian traders would manytimes bury a good portion of their trade stores alongside a trail, besides a stream, and under a old tree, as a safety “bank” while they entered a village to trade a portion of their obsidian wealth. This was shrewd, because, if they were to be overcome, or otherwise stolen from, all of their wealth would not be sacrificed.

There is more research needed on this topic, but for now this is all.





  1. There are stories of Coos Bay and Lower Coquille people going to Camas Valley -for camas and certainly trade. There was also a trail from there south to the Rogue River. That valley was important enough where it appears in the Joshua/Chemetune creation story told by Depoe Charlie that was reprinted in “Coyote Was Going There” by Jarold Ramsey (tho’ it is misspelled as Salomä in that book). Coquelle Thompson also said there was a trail called the money road from Umpqua Valley up to the Columbia. An inland trading route for the southwest interior. There is also the coast route. Lottie said her paternal grandfather went up to Columbia, bought a fancy canoe with agates for decoration in the gunwale, they rowed it all the way back down the coast to Coos Bay. She said when he died he was buried with it.


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