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Indigenous History of Oregon

A guide for learning about the histories of the Native peoples of Oregon, especially the Tualatin Kalapuya (Atfalati) tribe on whose land the Forest Grove & Hillsboro campuses of Pacific University stand.

The Tualatin Kalapuyas (Atfalati)

Pacific University's campuses at Forest Grove and Hillsboro are on the land of the Tualatin Kalapuyas. 

The Tualatins, or Atfalati, once lived throughout the Tualatin River watershed to the west of Portland, Oregon. Their territory included the modern towns of Forest Grove, Gaston, Hillsboro, North Plains, Beaverton, Cedar Hills, Tigard, Tualatin and Sherwood, covering most of modern Washington County and some of northern Yamhill County.

Map of Tualatin Treaty Lands and neighboring tribes. Adapted from Zenk, "Contributions to Tualatin ethnography: subsistence and ethnobiology."

The Tualatins spoke the northernmost dialect of the Kalapuyan languages. Other Kalapuyan-speakers lived throughout the Willamette Valley. This is why they are often called Tualatin Kalapuyas: because they were one branch of the Kalapuyan tribes. In their own language, they called themselves Atfalati. The stress falls on the second syllable: ah-TFAL-uh-tee. (See a video on how to pronounce Atfalati.) The name Tualatin may have come into English secondhand via Natives from another tribe. In its earliest versions, it was often spelled Twality or Twallatty, revealing its closer link to the original pronunciation. The last known fluent speaker of Tualatin, Louis Kenoyer, died in 1937. (For more on the tribe's name and language, see Zenk, "Contributions to Tualatin ethnography: subsistence and ethnobiology."

It is not known how many Tualatins there were at the peak of their population. The first documented epidemics swept through Oregon in the late 1700s, long before any records of the population numbers were written down. After suffering through repeated waves of severe epidemics, only about 60-70 Tualatins survived in the 1850s. Evidence of their winter villages, estimations of how many people the land could support, and of how many people died in the epidemics of the 1830s suggest that there were at least 1,000 Tualatins living around the year 1800. There might have been many more than that a century earlier. To learn more about the Tualatin villages and what daily life was like for the Tualatins before Europeans arrived, see the readings below. 

1851 Tualatin Reservation Map
Proposed Tualatin Reservation, 1851. Detail from: George Gibbs and Edmund A. Starling, "Sketch of the Wallamette Valley," 1851. Original located in the National Archives.

The last chief of the Tualatins, Kayacach (also known as Kiacut), tried to save a portion of their homeland for the tribe. In 1851, he and other leaders signed a treaty with the U.S. government that would have created a reservation centered on Wapato Lake, which used to lie just east of Gaston. If this had been honored, there would have been a Tualatin reservation a few miles south of Forest Grove. (On the map here, the location of Pacific University is marked with the label "Pres. Accademy.") Sadly, Congress did not ratify this treaty. The Tualatins were forced to sign another treaty in 1855 which required them to give up all of their ancestral land. They were removed to the Grand Ronde reservation about 45 miles to the southwest the next year. 

Descendants of the Tualatin Kalapuyas intermarried with other tribes who had been removed to Grand Ronde and other reservations. Kalapuyans are still a part of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde today. Grand Ronde's Chachalu Museum & Cultural Center is open to visitors who would like to learn more about their tribes' past and present.

History Sites, Books & Articles

The sources below are among the best published works about the Tualatin Kalapuyas. For even more sources, see: More Scholarly Articles about the Kalapuya.