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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 This guide is no longer being updated.

The Kalapuya and Ecological Management


When early European settlers arrived in Western Oregon, they encountered a landscape quite different from what we see today. Much of the Willamette Valley was an open oak savannah, and the forests were a patchwork of new and old growth, reflecting centuries of intermittent fire. For many early visitors, this was the "natural" landscape - but in fact the native peoples of the area had been "managing" their environment for about 4,000 years, primarily through the use of fire. By using low-intensity spot firing in the Fall, the Kalapuya and other local peoples had learned how to maximize the landscape for the products they needed most - seed, textiles, wapato, and forage for game. In fact, they had maintained the Willamette, Umpqua and Rogue Valleys in a truly prehistoric state - since the last great climate change about 4000 years ago, when a wetter climate succeeded a long dry period.

This bibliography captures most of the current research in this field. Many books are available in LCC Library, and others are available through Summit, the Library's regional consortium. These can be ordered by any member of the LCC community.


  1. Abbott, Carl. "Salmon, Sedentism, and Cultivation: Toward an Environmental Prehistory of the Northwest Coast." Northwest Lands, Northwest Peoples: Readings in Environmental History. Ed. Dale Goble and Paul W. Hirt. Seattle: U of Washington Press, 1999. eBook.
  2. Benner, Patricia, and James Sedell. "Upper Willamette River Landscape: A Historic Perspective." River Quality : Dynamics and Restoration. Ed. Antonius Laenen and David A. Dunnette. Boca Raton: CRC/Lewis, 1997. 23-46. Print.
  3. Berkley, Evelyn L. "Temporal and Spatial Variability of Fire Occurrence in Western Oregon, A.D. 1200 to Present." Diss. U of Oregon, 2000. Print.
  4. Boag, Peter G. "Valley of the Long Grasses." Environment and Experience: Settlement Culture in Nineteenth-Century Oregon. Berkeley: U of California Press, 1992. 3-27. Print.
  5. Boyd, Robert T. "Strategies of Indian Burning in the Willamette Valley." Indians, Fire and the Land in the Pacific Northwest. Ed. Robert Boyd. Corvallis: Oregon State UP, 1999. 94-138. Print.
  6. Bunting, RobertThe Pacific Raincoast: Environment and Culture in an American Eden, 1778-1900. Lawrence: UP of Kansas, 1997. Print.
  7. Dicken, Samuel N. "Oregon Geography Before White Settlement, 1770-1840." The Western Shore: Oregon Country Essays Honoring the American Revolution. Ed. Thomas Vaughan. Portland: Oregon Historical Soc., 1976. 1-27. Print.
  8. Dicken, Samuel N., and Emily F. Dicken. "The Impact of the Indians of Oregon." The Making of Oregon: A Study in Historical Geography. Portland: Oregon Historical Soc., 1979. 35-47. Print.
  9. Gilsen, Leland. "Willamette Valley Pyroculture." CAHO 17.1 (1992): 9-11. Print.
  10. Lang, William L. "Willamette Eden: The Ambiguous Legacy." Northwest Lands, Northwest Peoples: Readings in Environmental History. Ed. Dale Goble and Paul W. Hirt. Seattle: U of Washington Press, 1999. eBook.
  11. Habeck, James R. "The Original Vegetation of the Mid-Willamette Valley, Oregon." Northwest Science 35.2 (1961): 66-77. Print.
  12. Johannessen, Carl L., et al. "The Vegetation of the Willamette Valley." Annals of the Association of American Geography 61 (1971): 286-302. Print.
  13. Knox, Margaret A. "Ecological Change in the Willamette Valley at the Time of Euro-American Contact ca. 1800-1850." Diss. U of Oregon, 2000. Print.
  14. Man and the Land: Environmental Perspectives of the Native Americans in Early Oregon. Monmouth: Oregon College of Education, 1973. Print.
  15. Morris, William G. "Forest Fires in Western Oregon and Western Washington." Oregon Historical Quarterly 35 (1936): 313-339. Print.
  16. Pearl, Christopher A. "Holocene Environmental History of the Willamette Valley, Oregon: Insights from an 11,000-year Record from Beaver Lake." Diss. U of Oregon, 1999. Print.
  17. Pendergrass, Kathy L. "Vegetation Composition and Response to Fire of Native Willamette Valley Wetland Prairies." Diss. Oregon State U, 1996. Web.
  18. Possiel, William J. "Oregon's Early Peoples and Their Relation to the Environment: An Interpretive Approach." Diss. Oregon State U, 1980. Print.
  19. Robbins, William G. "The Native Ecological Context." Landscapes of Promise: The Oregon Story, 1800-1940. Seattle: U of Washington Press, 1997. 23-49. eBook.
  20. Teensma, Peter D. "Fire History and Fire Regimes of the Central Western Cascades of Oregon." Diss. U of Oregon,1987.  Print.
  21. Thilenius, John F. "The Quercus Garryana Forests of the Willamette Valley, Oregon." Ecology 49 (1968): 1124-1133. Print.
  22. Towle, Jerry G. "The Changing Geography of Willamette Valley Woodlands." Oregon Historical Quarterly 83 (1982): 67-87. Print.
  23. - - -. "Woodland in the Willamette Valley: An Historical Geography." Diss. U of Oregon, 1974.  Print.
  24. Weisberg, Peter J. "Fire History, Fire Regimes, and Development of Forest Structure in the Central Western Oregon Cascades." Diss. Oregon State U, 1998.  Web.
  25. Whitlock, Cathy. "Vegetational and Climatic History of the Pacific Northwest During the Last 20,000 Years: Implications for Understanding Present-day Biodiversity." Northwest Environmental Journal 8 (1992): 5-28. Print.
  26. - - -, and L.D. Grigg. "Late-glacial Climate and Vegetation Changes in Western Oregon." Quaternary Research 49 (1998): 287-298. Print.
  27. - - -, and Margaret A. Knox. "Prehistoric Burning in the Pacific Northwest: Human Versus Climatic Influences." Fire, Native Peoples and the Natural Landscape. Ed. Thomas R. Vale. Washington, DC: Island Press, 2002. 195-231. eBook.
  28. Williams, Gerald W. "Early Fire Use in Oregon." Fire Management Today 60 (2000): 13-20. Print.