OSU Research Forests has been and continues to be home to a diverse group of people. Prior to European settlement, all of the land this is now part of the Research Forests supported indigenous families. These lands were used for hunting, gathering and for homesites during the warmer months.
After European settlement, the lands were used primarily for harvesting the abundant old growth forests that populated the hillsides. Many small portable log mills and the homes that accompanied them were present on the Forests.
OSU strives to protect and maintain the cultural heritage sites that are present on our Research Forests. Prior to any groundbreaking activities on all of our Research Forests, OSU contracts for a Cultural Resource survey with licensed archeologists. This ensures that any historic or pre-historic resource is located prior to any activities occurring in that location. When a resource is located, the Research Forests takes steps to ensure that the sites are not compromised as a result of our active forest management.
At historic contact, the Kalapuya people occupied the Willamette Valley from Willamette Falls at Oregon City to the Upper Umpqua River. Thirteen subgroups have been identified, each composing an autonomous village or villages with localized dialects. Settlement systems were confined within a defined territory, usually a drainage system. Most likely the Mary’s River subgroup resided in the project area at historic contact, although the Luckiamute subgroup was not far north and the Santiam subgroup resided just west of Corvallis (Beckham 1977:44; Zenk 1990:548).
Available information suggests that the basic sociopolitical unit among the Kalapuya was the small autonomous, exogamous, patrilineal band. Leaders within a band were chosen based on inheritance or wealth and had limited authority. The most influential, respected, and feared individual within a band was the shaman. Although any person could obtain a guardian spirit, few people attained the power of the shaman.
Kalapuyans followed a hunting and gathering subsistence strategy. Permanent villages with houses were occupied during the winter, typically between November and April. These were usually located along major rivers or tributaries. The style of house construction in the southern valley is unknown, but in the northern valley the houses were rectangular plank or bark structures up to 60 feet long that sheltered multiple families. Subsistence during the winter months depended largely on food gathered and preserved during the summer and fall; with occasional foraging trips provided fresh fish, game, and waterfowl.
Villages were abandoned in favor of temporary camps during the drier months. Small family groups moved to various locations to harvest seasonally available resources. Temporary shelters, if used, were constructed of fir boughs, brush, or grass. Plant foods were most important in the Kalapuyan diet. Most significant was camas, which was roasted in pit ovens, dried, and often made into cakes for storage or trade. Camas was gathered in lowland meadows in the spring and in upland meadows in the late summer. Also important were tarweed seeds, hazelnuts, and various berries, which were harvested in late summer and early fall. Acorns played a lesser role in the Kalapuyan diet. Tobacco was reportedly cultivated. Various birds and small mammals were hunted, as were deer, elk, and bear. The Willamette River and its tributaries provided abundant nonanadromous fish species as well as salmon that managed to make it over the Willamette Falls.