This IS Kalapuyan Land: Seasonal Life Style & Beliefs

A Seasonal Lifestyle Transcript

Title: A Seasonal Lifestyle

The Atfalati-Kalapuya had a lifestyle that took them to various locations in the Tualatin Valley where seasonal foods such as wapato, camas, tarweed seeds, hazelnuts, acorns and berries were gathered. Controlled burning was practiced in the valley to promote plant growth and to encourage the elk and  deer populations. This seasonal lifestyle formed a network that extended across much of present day Washington County. Housing and clothing varied with the seasons and locations.


In summer, people lived in temporary windbreak shelters set under large oak trees as they moved from one resource to another in camps. In pleasant weather they would live in the open air, and during bad weather sought shelter under the trees, often making temporary huts of saplings. Heavy stone mortars for grinding, caches of projectile points for hunting, even house planks were often buried or submerged underwater to be reused when their owners returned to the area.

During the rainy winters the Atfalati-Kalapuya lived in many semi-permanent villages near Wapato Lake, Forest Grove, Hillsboro and Beaverton. Houses were made from planks, cedar bark or other readily available materials.


Caption on center right image: Western Oregon Winter Dwellings, Zucker 1983. Plank House, Lower Columbia (25′ x 40′ to 40′ x 120′). Bark & Plank House, Inland Vallets (dimensions unknown).

Lifestyles and Beliefs Transcript

Title: Lifestyles and beliefs

The Kalapuya were organized into family groups and villages of gatherers and hunters. Most tools, baskets, clothing, and other good needed by the household were manufactured at home using resource available to them. Trade was an important way to obtain other materials and products they needed. For example, salmon from the North and East were exchanged for camas.


Local chiefs were elected by the people to settle community issues on the strength of their honesty, acquaintance, and wealth. Usually the son of the chief was elected to take his place as new headman. Women could also be elected chief.


Marriage took place outside of the kin group [band] and men often had more than one wife. Residence was primarily patrilocal, meaning that a bride would life with the family of her husband’s father. (edited by SLF)

An Atfalati-Kalapuya headman named djaqi’lxida arranged a marriage for his son ka’matc who also became a great Atfalati-Kalapuya leader, to the daughter of a headman near The Dalles. He paid twenty slaves and ten rifles to the girl’s father. This was not a purchase of the bride, but a custom of compensation for the loss of a valued worker to the girl’s household. “The (Chinook) salmon were piled high” as the celebration for this high status marriage which included the nearby Clackamas Indians. Jacobs, 1945.


Spiritual events were essential for rites of passage including birth, puberty, marriage, and death. Each band of Kalapuya had its own supreme being [helper spirits, monsters,] and their own shamans or religious leaders. (edited by SLF)


The Kalapuya enjoyed playing games and often gambled wagering slaves, money, belongings. and many other items. Women as well as men participated in these games.

A guessing game was played with four sticks made of bone – two black and two white. The player had to guess in which hand the white bones were.

Another game was played with four carved flat sticks of beaver teeth. These were shaken in the hand and then thrown to the ground. Points were awarded based on where the male of female sides landed face up. All dice landing face up were worth four points, while an uneven number resulted in a lost turn.


Caption on top right image: Columbia Gorge rock art

Caption on center right image: Grand Ronde Stick Game, OHS CN 022573

Caption on bottom image: Spirit Mountain