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Cedar Mill News

Volume 2, Issue 1


January 2004

Atfalati – the Indians of Cedar Mill

by Nancy Olson

Cradleboard given by Atfalati woman to Cedar Mill pioneer Mary Hall Reeves

Drawing courtesy of great granddaughter Jennifer Jordan

The Indians who resided in and around the Cedar Mill area called themselves the Atfalati although the settlers eventually called them Tualatin and some referred to them as “Wapato Lake Indians.” They spoke Tualatin, one of three languages of the Willamette Valley Kalapuyan group. Roaming from the Willamette River to the slopes of the Coast Range and from present day Wilsonville to the Columbia River, they hunted game and harvested wild plants in Cedar Mill near their Beaverton summer village, Chakepi, meaning “Place of Beaver.”

White men entering the region found most upper-class Tualatins had flattened foreheads. Infants were bound on cradle boards for nearly a year, to achieve the desired results.

The adults used feathers to adorn their hair, and sea shells and trade beads were hung from pierced noses and ears. Women braided their hair and wore simple blouses or aprons of hide, grass and cedar bark. The men frequently went naked during the warm months. In winter the Atfalati added rawhide leggings, moccasins and furs for warmth.

Permanent winter villages consisting of long houses built from cedar planks were built around Wapato Lake, Beaverton, Forest Grove and Hillsboro. During the winter, the Atfalati lived on foods harvested and preserved during the summer months.

Prior to 1782, the Tualatin population may have exceeded several thousand but early European coastal explorers introduced smallpox and other diseases. Malaria raged from 1830-1833 and whole bands perished. By 1842 it was estimated the entire Kalapuyan population including the Tualatins to number 600 people. After many treaties made and broken by the US government, survivors were eventually moved to the Grand Ronde Reservation where the 1890 census numbered the Tualatins at 28. The last known speaker of the Tualatin language, Louis Kenoyer, died in 1936.

More information is available in Cedar Mill History, available in the library and at cedarmill.org/cmbook.html. Another interesting book on the subject, The Indians of Western Oregon, by Stephen Dow Beckham, is available in the library. A survey of the languages of Oregon Indians is online at www.lanecc.edu/library/don/orelang.htm.



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