Long before disease had decreased their numbers, the Tualatin or
A-tfa'-lati Indians hunted game and harvested wild plants in Cedar
Mill near their Beaverton village, Cha-kepi, meaning "Place of Beaver."
The Indians spoke Tualatin, one of three languages of the Willamette
Valley Kalapuyan group.
|Papoose board given
by Indian woman to pioneer Mary Hall Reeves. (Drawing courtesy
of great-granddaughter Jennifer Jordan)
Decimated by disease, the Tualatin survivors had consolidated by
the time of the first white settlements at Lake Wapato, about 20
miles west of Beaverton near Gaston. Early settlers in Cedar Mill
recalled Indians passing through the area, and some of these may
have been Tualatins visiting their old hunting grounds.
The Indians of the area originally roamed from the Willamette River
to the slopes of the Coast Range and from present day Wilsonville
to the Columbia River. They were known among themselves as the A-tfa'-lati,
although the settlers eventually pronounced their name "Tualatin."
Other names given to them by early explorers were "Fallateen," "Faulity"
"Tuhwalati," "Fallatry," "Fallatine" and "Quality." Some referred
to them as the "Wapato Lake Indians."White men entering the region
found most upper class Tualatins had flattened foreheads. Infants
were bound on papoose boards for nearly a year, until the desired
alteration was accomplished. The adults used red feathers to decorate
their hair, while shells and beads were hung from pierced noses
and ears. Women braided their hair and wore simple blouses or aprons
made of hide or grass. In winter, leather leggings and fur cloaks
were added for warmth. The men frequently went unclothed during
summer; in cooler months they wore leggings, moccasins and furs.
In the Tualatin way of life, varied living quarters were maintained according
to the season. Permanent winter villages existed around Wapato Lake, Beaverton,
Forest Grove and Hillsboro. Here, two to five families shared 40- to 50-foot-long
buildings constructed with earthen sides and bark roofs. The interior was
often uncomfortably smoky from the fires kept for cooking and warmth. Families
of wealth or influence, including the chiefs, lived in cedar plank houses.
In addition, many camps included a special council house constructed for
important meetings and ceremonies.
The Tualatins subsisted in winter on food harvested during the summer months.
When the dried food ran low, game was taken to supplement the diet. Winter
villages were located on prairies or near marshes where game was available
when needed. Whitetail and blacktail deer, elk, brown and black bear, beaver
and otter provided sustenance during lean times. Occasionally pelts from
beaver, otter, wolves and coyotes were exchanged for seal and salmon taken
by other tribes.
When spring came, the Indians moved to open camps where the women and children
could harvest food. A primary food source was the camas lily, a bulb of the
onion family. After the starchy bulbs were dug, they were roasted, compressed
into small cakes and stored for winter. Another important staple was the
ma'mptu, or wapato, a potato-like root, dug from swamp beds. Sunflower seeds
were dried and pounded in a mortar. Acorns, hazelnuts and assorted berries
were also available.
A plentiful supply of wild berries grew on the William Walker donation
land claim near Cedar Mill, and for many years following Walker's settlement
he allowed Indians to harvest the wild fruit on his acreage. Farmers in Cedar
Mill have recovered a number of Indian artifacts, including arrowheads and
at least one small mortar, probably used during the summer harvest season.
The arrival of fur traders and explorers around 1790 signaled a decline
for the Tualatins. Unlike other Indians in the Northwest who had developed
salmon fishing and fur trading economies, the Tualatins lived off the land
as hunters and gatherers. With settlers arriving in increasing numbers, only
a meager existence could be maintained by the Indians who were forced to
share their land, and they eventually were moved to a reservation.
Although no accurate figures are available, the Tualatin population may
have been several thousand prior to 1782. At that time, it is thought coastal
explorers introduced smallpox and other diseases, which drastically reduced
the Indian population in the Northwest. The most serious disaster was another
white man's disease, probably malaria, which raged from 1830 to 1833. Whole
bands perished so that Charles Wilkes, by 1842, estimated the entire Kalapuyan
population including the Tualatins, to number 600 persons. In 1848, a tribal
census listed the Tualatin group as "60 souls, 30 warriors."
The dwindling Tualatins remained on their land until the surge of settlement
brought about the Champoeg Treaty in 1851. Indian warfare in Eastern Oregon
and the Whitman Massacre made a treaty necessary for the Willamette Valley
settlers' sense of well being. Sixty-five Tualatins who attended the meeting
along the Willamette River eventually accepted the proposals of the Indian
The treaty, although accepted by Indian Commissioners and the Tualatin
people, was rejected by the United States Congress. Anxious to consolidate
the Indians west of the Cascades, Indian Commissioners for Oregon negotiated
another, this one at Dayton. In 1855, the Tualatins and the other Kalapuyan
tribes signed the agreement, exchanging their last formal landholding in
the valley for confinement at the Grand Ride Reservation southwest of McMinnville.
Congress ratified the Dayton Treaty and by the following year most of the
Indians had been moved to the land reserved for them. A Tualatin chief, Oayaquats
or Ky-a-cuts, was elected chief of the reservation.
Grand Ronde Reservation policy allowed limited traveling privileges for
Indians helping with crop harvesting and for special tribal activities. Some
Indians left the reservation, finding themselves incapable of sedentary life.
A few avoided reservation confinement and lived quietly near their old hunting
grounds. With game scarce and most land taken up by the white settlers, it
was common to find Indians begging for food
Pioneer Naomi Walters was periodically asked to feed a few hungry natives.
Gertrude Walters Pearson Landauer related the observations of her grandmother
in her unpublished memoirs, available at the Cedar Mill Community Library.
"Occasionally they would go to the door to ask for food.
None lived in the area but many were congregated at Gales creek [20
miles west of Cedar Mill.]
The Grand Ronde Reservation census of 1890 numbered the Tualatins at 28.
Through natural causes and intermarriage, the pure stock of these Indians
eventually disappeared. The last known speaker of the Tualatin language was
Louis Kenoyer, who died during the winter of 1936. Long before this event,
however, the white pioneers had established themselves as the Tualatins'
[Much more information in
The Pioneers -- >