Duck Duck Book


31 – world of the kalapuya
04.12.2006, 12:43 pm
Filed under: history & geography

The world of the Kalapuya : a native people of western Oregon / Judy Rycraft Juntunen, May D. Dasch, Ann Bennett Rogers ; illustrations by Lenore Ooyevaar, Don Boucher. 
Philomath, Or. : Benton County Historical Society and Museum, c2005.
[MCL call number: 979.5004 J95w 2005; 23 copies, no holds; two copies reference only at Central Library]

Recently I got a question at the reference desk: who were the people who lived in Portland’s West Hills before white people settled this part of Oregon?  The question was passed to me by the librarian I was relieving in the Literature & History room.  She is fairly new, and although she had assembled an excellent array of sources within a few minutes, the answers she found were somewhat contradictory and she was wondering if we had a standard source we refer to for this no doubt frequent question.

Hmm.   I would think this would be a frequent question too, but in fact, it is not.  And I knew of no standard source.  Neither did the other librarian (a twenty year veteran) who arrived on shift with me.  We spent a good hour checking and double-checking to make sure we gave our patron an accurate and reasonably complete answer — that the Tualatin group of Kalapuya Indians lived in the  southern end of the West Hills, near the Tualatin River, but that Chinook Indians of various bands also lived near Portland and possibly in the northern part of the West Hills.

There are many books about the history of native peoples of the Pacific Northwest.  There are encyclopedias, histories, anthropological analyses, oral histories, collections of photographs, linguistic tomes, and accounts of wars.  But almost all are thin on the history of the indigenous people of the Willamette Valley before white settlers took over, because the Kalapuya people who lived here did not have a writing system and the overwhelming majority of them were dead before they acquired literacy through assimilation and modernization, or before anyone else cared to write their stories.  I mean really the overwhelming majority — estimates are that there were just shy of 15,000 Kalapuya in 1750, but only 600 or so by 1840. 

However, a labor of love that has been many years in production has finally been published: The World of the Kalapuya collects the fragments that are known of the pre-settlement culture and history of the Kalapuya.  The book is arranged in short chapters by topic (language, basketry, travel, etc.), nicely illustrated with line drawings, maps, photographs, and charts, and appended with a bibliography and a very serviceable index.  The text is thorough, but simply and clearly written — I would recommend it to interested readers and researchers above the age of 9 or so, though the book is not written explicitly for young people.   Anyone with a moderate interest in the history of the Willamette Valley or the history of the native peoples of the Pacific Northwest should find The World of the Kalapuya useful and interesting.

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