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Kalapuya: Native Americans of the Willamette Valley, Oregon

This guide was written by former LCC librarian Don Macnaughtan. This guide is no longer being updated.

Languages of the Kalapuyans


Approximately 15,000 people spoke Kalapuyan around 1800.  By 1930 there were perhaps 10 speakers left. The language actually consisted of three separate languages, each with many dialects.  Speakers of Tualatin would not be able to understand Yoncalla speakers, but could understand closer dialects such as Santiam.  Kalapuyan was severely affected by the fall in population after 1830.  Some texts were recorded, especially by Melville Jacobs in the 1930s. Many Kalapuya texts and recordings exist only in archives.

Narrative by John B. Hudson to Melville Jacobs, in Santiam Kalapuya language, c1935. For a discussion of this text, see Darkening and Enlightening: A Santiam Kalapuya Prophesy by David Lewis.

Kalapuyan is often grouped as part of the Penutian languages, and was formerly clustered with Takelma, the language spoken in the Rogue Valley of southern Oregon.  This relationship has since been questioned, and it is no longer clear how Kalapuyan relates to other languages.

The Kalapuyan Languages

blue pin the Northern Kalapuyan (Tualatin-Yamhill) Language consisting of:

  • the Tualatin dialect spoken along the Tualatin River, Lake Wapato, and the lower Willamette River (northern Willamette Valley)
  • the Yamhill dialect spoken along the Yamhill River (northwestern Willamette Valley)

blue pin the Central Kalapuyan Language consisting of:

  • the Ahantchuyuk dialect spoken along the Pudding and Molalla Rivers (northeastern Willamette Valley)
  • the Santiam dialect spoken along the Lower Santiam River (central Willamette Valley)
  • the Luckiamute dialect spoken along the Luckiamute River (central Willamette Valley)
  • the Chepenafa dialect spoken along Mary’s River (central Willamette Valley)
  • the Chemapho dialect spoken along Muddy Creek (central Willamette Valley)
  • the Tsankupi dialect spoken along the Calapooia River (southeastern Willamette Valley)
  • the Chelamela or Long Tom dialect spoken along the Long Tom River (southwestern Willamette Valley)
  • the Winefelly and Mohawk dialects spoken along the Lower McKenzie, Mohawk, and Coast Fork Willamette Rivers (southeastern Willamette Valley)

blue pin the Southern Kalapuyan (Yoncalla) Language consisting of:

  • two or three (?) dialects along Elk, Yoncalla and Calapooya Creeks and the middle Umpqua River (southwestern Oregon interior)


  1. Banks, Jonathan. "The Verbal Morphology of Santiam Kalapuya." Northwest Journal of Linguistics 1.2  (2007): 1–98. Print.
  2. Berman, Howard. "Jacobs' Kalapuya Material: A Progress Report." Papers from the 1988 Hokan-Penutian Languages Workshop: June 16-18, 1988, University of Oregon, Eugene. Ed. Scott DeLancey. Eugene: U of Oregon, 1989. 1-8. Print. Series: University of Oregon Papers in Linguistics no. 1.
  3. Berman, Howard. "An Outline of Kalapuya Historical Phonology." International Journal of American Linguistics 56 (1990): 27-59. Print.
  4. Frachtenberg, Leo J. "Comparative Studies in Takelman, Kalapuyan and Chinookan Lexicography: A Preliminary Paper." International Journal of American Linguistics 1 (1917): 175-182. Print.
  5. Hajda, Yvonne P. "Mary's River Kalapuyan: A Descriptive Phonology." Diss. Portland State U, 1976. Print.
  6. Jacobs, Melville. Kalapuya Texts. Seattle: U of Washington, 1945. Print.
  7. Jacobs, Melville. "Resources in Kalapuyan Languages." International Journal of American Linguistics 36 (1970): 67. Print.
  8. Kendall, Daythal L. "The Takelma Verb: Toward Proto-Takelma-Kalapuyan." International Journal Of American Linguistics 63.1 (1997): 1-17. Print.
  9. Lewis, David G. "Darkening and Enlightening: A Santiam Kalapuya Prophesy." David G. Lewis' Ethnohistory Research. Web.
  10. Lewis, J. W. "Central Kalapuya Phonology: The Segmental Inventory of John Hudson's Santiam." Thesis U of Victoria, 2003.  Print.
  11. Mithun, Marianne. "Kalapuyan Family." The Languages of Native North America. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge UP, 1999. 431-433. Print.
  12. Patton, Clyde P., and Stephen Dow Beckham. "Indian Distribution in Oregon." Atlas of Oregon. Ed. William G. Loy. Eugene: U of Oregon Books, 1976. 6-7. Print.
  13. Powell, J. W. "Indian Linguistic Families North of Mexico: Kalapooian Family." Seventh Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology, 1885-1886. Washington: GPO, 1891. 81-82. Print.
  14. Rude, Noel. "Noun Stripping in Central Kalapuya." Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Pacific Linguistics Conference, Eugene, Oregon 2 (1986): 423-434. Print.
  15. Rumberger, J. P. "Ethnolinguistic Observations Based on Kalapuya Texts." International Journal of American Linguistics 15 (1949): 158-162. Print.
  16. Shipley, William. "Proto-Kalapuyan." Languages and Cultures of Western North America: Essays in Honor of Sven S. Liljeblad. Ed. Earl H. Swanson. Pocatello: Idaho State UP, 1970. 97-106. Print.
  17. Swadesh, Morris. "Kalapuya and Takelma." International Journal of American Linguistics 31 (1965): 237-240. Print.
  18. Zenk, Henry. "Notes on Native American Place-names of the Willamette Valley Region." Oregon Historical Quarterly 109.1 (2008): 6-33. Print.