Kalapuyan Tribal History

From the forthcoming book Tribal Stories of the Willamette Valley

The Kalapuyans originally occupied over a million acres in the Willamette Valley. They have lived here for over 14,000 years and have endured enormous changes to their traditional life-ways during the past 200 years. The Kalapuyan peoples created the amazing fecundity of the Willamette Valley by practicing a form of horticulture where they annually set fire to the valley, and in so doing deposited nutrients in the soil. They were a stable society who harvested the fruits and vegetables of the valley to provide their primary food sources.

The Kalapuyan tribes were about nineteen tribes and bands in three distinct areas, organized linguistically north, central, and south. They occupied the majority of the Willamette Valley with villages scattered along the rivers and streams of the valley. They had a seasonal lifeway, where the tribes would harvest vegetables, hunt and fish at specific times of the year throughout a wide expanse of the valley and into the foothills and mountains bordering the valley. The northern Kalapuya are the Tualatin, also known as the Atfalati, who live along the Tualatin River, and the Yamhill or Yamel, who live along the Yamhill River. The central tribes were the Pudding River or Ahantchuyuk, who lived along the Pudding River; the Luckiamute, who lived along the Luckiamute River, the Santiam, who lived along and between the north and south forks of the Santiam River; the Mary’s River or Chepenefa; who live along the Mary’s River, the Muddy Creek or Chemapho, who live along Muddy Creek. Other Central Kalapuya tribes in the Eugene area were the Tsankupi, who lived along the Calapooia River and Mohawk who lived along the Mohawk River; the Chafan, at where Eugene City is; and the Long Tom or Chelamela, who lived along the Long Tom River; the Winefelly, who lived along the Mohawk, McKenzie and Coast Forks of the Willamette River. The southern Kalapuyans were the Yoncalla or Kommema, who lived along the Upper Umpqua River.

Beginning in about 1790 they began suffering from the plagues of the newcomer explorers and fur traders to the region and their populations declined sharply from an estimate of over 20,000 people. Due to the pressures of American settlement they signed treaties with the United States Government, ceding away over one million acres, and were removed to the Grand Ronde Indian Reservation and continued to decline in population. The Kalapuyans signed treaties with the United States on at least four occasions. In 1851, the tribes of the Willamette Valley signed treaties which allowed for the creation of permanent reservations within their homelands. These treaties were not ratified by Congress.

In 1854 the Yoncalla and the upper Umpqua signed a treaty which removed them to the Umpqua Reservation, and in 1855 the tribes of the Willamette Valley, signed the Treaty with the Kalapuya Etc. which removed them to temporary reservations. By March 1856 all of the Kalapuya had been removed to the Grand Ronde Indian Reservation. The Kalapuya then integrated with the other tribes and became an important part of the genealogical heritage of the Grand Ronde Tribe.

Today the majority of Kalapuyan people are members of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde. During the reservation period, the Kalapuyan peoples integrated with at least 29-35 other tribes at the reservation, and by 1900 there were about 300 of the Kalapuyans remaining. Kalapuyan descendants continued to be important leaders at the reservation, and integrated with the surrounding Oregon rural population. Many were loggers in the logging boom of the 1920s, and generationally into the 1980s.

In the 1950s, the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Indian Reservation were termination by the United States. During the termination period, the Kalapuya people continued to follow their traditions, and elders in the 1970s began working for restoration of the Grand Ronde Tribe. Today, the Kalapuyan descendants are important historical figures in the restoration of the tribe and leaders and contributors in the success of the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community of Oregon.
Copyright, David G. Lewis

For more Kalapuyan history please search my blog, and please donate to help me buy coffee and continue my work. Some essays,

Kalapuyan Lifeways

Kalapuyan TEK

Kalapuyan Mounds

Kalapuyan stories of the Megafloods

A stable Kalapuyan environment? 

Tualatin Kalapuyans and Seasonal Rounds

Articles about Tualatins

Kalapuyan Villages and Tribes

Chemeketa area camas

Chemeketa Creek

First Mills at Chemeketa



Chief Halotish Village on Row River

Pee-you Kalapuyans

Brownsville area Brush Creek Valley

Kalapuyan Temporary Reservations

Kalapuyan Temporary reservations

Molalla Reservation

Calapooia Reservation

Luckimauke Reservation

Tekopa Reservation

Chafin Reservation

Chemapho Reservation

Louis Band of Santiam Reservation

Chief Jo Band Santiam Reservation

Mohawk Reservation

Yamhill Kalapuyan Reservation


Willamette Valley Treaty 1855

Umpqua and Kalapuya Treaty 1854

1851 Santiam Treaty Journal

1851 Treaty Map, Gibbs Starling map

1855 Treaty map, Origins



Kalapuyans and David Douglass

Horatio Hale of the Wilkes Expedition



Kalapuyan Chief Halo

Chiefs of the tribes


Eliza, Quinaby and Halo


Stingy Americans