Local history: “The removal of the Kalapuyan people”

An interesting article by Kimberli Fitzgerald in the Salem (OR) Reporter several days ago examines the history of the area’s K’alapuya people.


Early Methodist missionary Rev. Lewis Hubbell Judson II, immigrant of 1840, co-founder of Salem and of the Oregon Provisional Government
(image credit: Salem Reporter)

The article is titled “Local History: The Removal of the Kalapuya people”.

It primarily consults “Lewis Judson’s recollections of the early history of Salem in the 1955 Marion County History Volume 1, published by the Marion County Historical Society in their article: “Remembrances of Lewis Judson” compiled by George G. Strozut, Jr.”


“Watercolor sketch of the ship Lausanne painted by missionary Hamilton Campbell during his journey by ship from New York to Oregon in 1839[-1840]” (image credit: Oregon Historical Society)

Judson recounts the history of his early Settler family, starting right off with this reference to what may be Chinuk Wawa, a K’alapuyan language, or both:

It is mainly from my father that I remember many things about the early history of Salem and the Indians. My grandfather was Reverend Lewis Hubbell Judson II who came to Oregon with Jason Lee on the Lausanne in 1840… My father was Robert Thomas Judson who was born April 12, 1842 in the Jason Lee house. Robert spent his youth among the Indian children, and he learned to speak the Indian language as they spoke it themselves.

An ensuing quotation of Judson makes me think we’re talking about a K’alapuyan language:

Father often served as interpreter for them, and for thirty years after they were taken to their reservations, he and Grandfather spent much time with the Indians. Father had his own Indian name – Skukahois– a local Indian name for the native cotton tail rabbit. He received the name because he was so small and very active. I was born December 12, 1878, and my father did not pass away until February 21, 1904, so I have many enjoyable memories of the Indians in the valley and especially of the stories my father told me over a half-century ago…

They were a people of few words and spoke in a low voice. An Indian would say four or five words, then wait or sit awhile in silence, after which he’d say four or five more words …

This Indian language was used to name every place where they camped, fished, hunted, made homes, or gather together. But when the white men came, the Indians were discouraged from using their own religion and language, so the original names just “faded away.” Most of the whites didn’t try to learn the natives’ language, and we now realize that most of the original, picturesque Indian names are forever lost. Those that remain are largely of English pronunciation, which the Indians certainly wouldn’t recognize now…

This Skukahois for ‘rabbit’ resembles, and may be a misreading of a handwritten version of, the Lower Chinookan and Lower Chehalis word for the animal, ~ [-]s[-]kíʔp[-]xʷaʔ . It’s not K’alapuyan, by any evidence we have. In Melville Jacobs’ publication of “Kalapuya Texts“, I find the general K’alapuyan word guš[-]am[-]bún and a Yoncalla-dialect a[-]t(‘)álla for ‘rabbit’.

The 4-volume recent “Kalapuya Dictionary” by Paul McCartney — not Sir Paul — by the way deserves your financial support to get reprinted and distributed to heritage learners. Please consider a solstice / holiday donation to them!

I want to add that Skukahois isn’t from the other unrelated tribal language spoken nearby, Molale, which has tá:(ʔ)mn for ‘rabbit, cottontail’.

Whether or not this family understood K’alapuyan, it’s virtually by definition — as very early Settlers in the Willamette Valley — that Rev. Hubbell, and his family, spoke excellent Chinook Jargon with the then-predominant Native people.

The article also describes a learning tool for Chinuk Wawa, the app produced by the Grand Ronde Tribes.

Mention is made, too, of the CW-titled video from the Siletz Tribes, “Skookum Tillicum: The Strong People of Siletz”.

This local news article is worthy of your attention. Do go read it!

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