La’tiwi, Northern Molalla, Placenames and Housing notes

Phillip Drucker’s field notes from the 1920s and 30s had him questioning many Native people from the region, from Grand Ronde and Siletz. Many of these people were not living on reservations. His Molalla notes are brief compared to his work on the Tolowa and Clackamas. They are embedded in with Coos and Tolowa and Rogue River notebooks. Drucker’s Molalla (La’tiwi) informant was Kate Chantel, a well known Molalla woman, and sister to Henry Yelkas, a well known Molalla chief. They lived for a time at Dickie Prairie, apparently the village name is Mokanti, south and east of the present town of Molalla. Drucker noted the name of many placenames for towns and peoples. The Molalla had a large affinity for a good portion of the Willamette Valley, from their villages in the foothills to Lake Labish. The name for Lake Labish (Tcinti galug) for the Molalla is also a name found. The pattern of of some of the Molalla placenames see to follow that of the Kalapuya placenames with Tci- or Tca- as a  prefix, while Kalapuyans have Tsi-, or Cha-, Che-, which are really the same sound. These Molalla placenames in Drucker may be actually Kalapuyan language placenames, in part.


Map by David Lewis, blue 2 is Mt Angel a winter camp site, and blue 3 and red 17 are likely the same location from different notes.The red numbers are from Drucker.

Drucker furthermore notes good details of kinship, dances, dress styles, plankhouses, and ceremonies, plants used, hunting and fishing, trade,  and much more. I was excited to be able to put together a map of placenames from his information. Unfortunately the exact location of many villages is still not known. The villages in the Willamette Valley were likely only seasonal village sites, or encampments, habituated for a few weeks of the year through the summer. They also have winter villages in the valley, at Mt. Angel and perhaps along the Molalla River. A couple notes by Drucker stated that the Molalla did not have true villages of large clusters of houses, but instead had smaller towns of 2-3 houses. Its likely that the named villages had chiefs and thus were more important and named.

Other documents online from the Dibble house- and written by historians- seems to mischaracterize the Molalla houses as having the plankhouse roofs thatched. I tracked the information back to Drucker (4516-78 vol 1) and saw that the notes may be somewhat confusing, but that they do state that the houses were make of split cedar, and their roofs of bark.

“houses scattered about 2s & 3s, atc– not concentrated in towns…

Hil’em- house of cedar bark, houses 1/2 excavated, rectang. walls & roof of cedar bark-posts. Firepit in center, smokehole overhead, doorway wide side, floor covered w. tule mats, hung from wall over bed. Door-made of suspended rush mat.

Summerhouse- bark etc. walls roof, thatched with bunches of tules.”

Drucker here did not state that the roof was only thatched, but it was a bark roof, thatched. The one photo we have shows a cedar plank house with a plank roof. There is no indictation of using teepees in the Drucker notes.

Only known photo of a Molalla Plankhouse, from the Molalla area heritage society

Phillip Drucker fieldnotes from the NAA, Smithsonian Institution, but not collected in the SWORP collection at UO. This fieldnote book is Drucker 4615-78 vol.1. The scanned file I have shows that the UO file may be out of order, there is one page of Molalla placenames, then the Molalla notes do not continue until page 43, and thereafter. The rest of the file is Coos, Tututni, Tolowa, and Rogue River.

2 thoughts on “La’tiwi, Northern Molalla, Placenames and Housing notes

Leave a Reply

The Quartux Journal