ETHNONYM: Calapooya

The Kalapuya are an American Indian group who in the late eighteenth century numbered about three thousand and occupied the Willamette Valley of western Oregon. The Kalapuya language belonged to the Penutian language phylum. A smallpox epidemic in 1782-1783 wiped out an estimated two thousand Kalapuya, and between 1850 and 1853 large numbers were again taken by the disease. After being removed to reservation lands in 1854 and 1855, the Kalapuya dwindled to near extinction by the early twentieth century and today number no more than about a hundred.

The Kalapuya subsisted mainly as hunters of deer, elk, bear, and beaver and gatherers of nuts and berries, although they also fished with spears and traps. The group consisted of nine tribes or subdivisions, each of which was further subDivided into small villages led by chiefs.

Religious life centered around personal quests for guardian spirits. According to traditional customs, the dead were buried with their personal possessions, mourners cut their hair, and widows painted their faces red for a month.


Mackey, Harold (1974). The Kalapuyans: A Sourcebook on the Indians of the Willamette Valley. Salem, Oreg.: Mission Hill Museum Association.

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