Learn how native peoples shaped the Willamette Valley’s landscape at archaeology talk

Long before the first European and American explorers and settlers arrived in Oregon to set up forts and carve out farms, people were here, managing and shaping the landscapes of the Willamette Valley.

Those people included the Kalapuya, a tribe that called the valley home, and one of their descendants will speak Feb. 2 at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry about ancient land management techniques in a talk called “Shawash Kagwe (The Indian Way of Doing Things): Native American tools for managing the landscapes of the Willamette Valley.”

Among the practices the Kalapuya used to shape the Willamette Valley landscape was the burning of prairies and forest areas to promote the growth of preferred plant species, such as camas, which was an important food source. Systematic burning of a landscape to increase its productivity is something retired Oregon state archaeologist Leland Gilsen calls "pyroculture." Freeimages.com

Among the practices used by the Kalapuya to manage Willamette Valley landscapes was the burning of prairies and forest areas to promote the growth of preferred plant species, such as camas (Camassia sp.), which was an important food source. Systematic burning of a landscape to increase its productivity is something retired Oregon state archaeologist Leland Gilsen has called “pyroculture.” Freeimages.com

Speaker David Harrelson, a Grand Ronde tribal member of Kalapuya ancestry, will talk about how native people managed and shaped their environment, how those practices have been historically overlooked, and how concepts of “pristine wilderness” and “old growth” exclude the story of how native people systematically altered the landscape over centuries.

Harrelson is the tribal historic preservation officer and Historic Preservation Department manager for the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde. His interests include cultural plans, contact-era history of the Pacific Northwest and the role of traditional land management in maintaining ecosystems.

His talk is sponsored by the Oregon Archaeological Society and will follow an OAS general meeting that begins at 7 p.m. The talk is free and open to the public.

For more information, go to the OAS website or call 503-727-3507.

Susannah L. Bodman
Twitter: @Sciwhat
Facebook: Sciwhat.Science

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