Draining Wapato Lake

In Oregon, we have the well-known Wapato Lake, near Gaston. The lake originally was the center of seasonal activities of the Tualatin Kalapuyans (Atfalati) who lived near and harvested the nutritious wapato bulbs from the shallow waters of the lake and its surrounding marshy wetlands. Each Fall the Atfalati women would take their small dugout canoes into the water of the lake and lever wapato bulbs from the bottom of the lake by the thousands. The bulbs would be dried and stored for winter eating by the tribes. As Henry Zenk writes: “A wapato harvest place on the north end … Continue reading Draining Wapato Lake

Draining Lake Labish

In 1981, I took a job weeding onion fields out Hazelgreen Road on the outskirts of Salem, Oregon, as one of my first jobs. In the summer after high school got out, I began cycling out Cordon Road, on my Raleigh Reliant, from my house near Sunnyview Drive, at 7 in the morning. From my doorstep, I would arrive at the onion fields in about 45 minutes of hard riding through the cool morning fog. The onions, likely Wallawallas, were large and grew in long rows in near-black soils. The weeds too grew large as the soils were rich in … Continue reading Draining Lake Labish

Nestucca Accounts of the Great Fire of 1845 and First Encounters with White Men

There are numerous oral histories from tribal people in Oregon about catastrophic events, fires, volcanic eruptions, floods, tsunamis. Many of these stories are fantastically imagined and are likely stories of long ago historic events. These stories feature giant animals and figures like Coyote who is consistently tricking humans in some manner, and the action of tricking helps humans learn the lessons of Coyote. Stories in Oregon of creation and earth changes many-times feature Beaver who is pursuing his role of creating ecosystems on river systems. Coyote and Beaver fighting together, in Wasco and Wishram oral histories, created the Columbia Gorge, … Continue reading Nestucca Accounts of the Great Fire of 1845 and First Encounters with White Men

Census lists of Kalapuyans from the Southern Willamette Valley

Information about the Southern Kalapuyans, those south of Brownsville have been scarce to come by. The Kalapuyans in the north were settled earlier and seemed to have more people and organization that approximated the neighboring Chinookan tribes. The southern valley tribes were known early but they seemed to be more obscure in records about the tribes. It is not fully understood why, but it may be the nature of the settlers who came later and perhaps kept the tribes at arms-length, not working with them or employing them as much as the earlier settlers. Then there may have been additional … Continue reading Census lists of Kalapuyans from the Southern Willamette Valley

Native Salem Exhibit

This summer (2021) I was approached by the Bush Art Museum to do something for Native American month. Over the period of several months of discussion, we centered the exhibit themes on a few Native stories directly related to Salem. I wrote out those themes over the course of a few days and then we began picking images for the exhibit. What emerged was a mostly narrative-driven exhibit with some images to support the narrative. This was decided even though the majority of exhibitions are light on words and image-heavy. But the nature of the early history of Salem, Oregon … Continue reading Native Salem Exhibit