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  • Writer's pictureRose High Bear

Learn about Native American history in the Willamette Valley

Nearly 100 guests joined us last month for the talk on the history of Indians in the Willamette Valley and the changes in the ecosystem by David G. Lewis, PhD. Dr. Lewis introduced the book and in the last half of his presentation he addressed the topic: The state of Willamette Valley ecosystems. The talk was held at Chemeketa Community College’s Agriculture Complex. Sponsors included Marion Soil and Water Conservation District, North Santiam Watershed Council, Chemeketa Community College Agriculture Complex, and Elderberry Wisdom Farm.

We are sharing a short section from his speech. Special thanks to our colleague, filmmaker Sam Forencich who recorded his presentation.

Dr. Lewis is expected to give additional presentations. A series of three or four additional lectures are planned for the Fall and will be held thanks to the generosity of our host Dean Tim Ray at the Agriculture Complex at Chemeketa Community College (at the intersection of 45th Avenue NE and Fire Protection Way). Dr. Lewis will continue to focus upon the ecological history of the mid-Willamette Valley along with potential habitat restoration of wetlands, watersheds, and other local ecosystems. Details will be outlined later this summer.

The event will be free of charge to the community for those who register to attend. Details will begin to be announced in July with event sponsors distributing announcements and with links to event registration.

David is Assistant Professor, Anthropology & Indigenous Studies at Oregon State University and author of Tribal Histories of the Willamette Valley which was released in November 2023 by Ooligan Press. If you would like to purchase a copy of the book you can email David at

Book Summary:  The Willamette Valley is rich with history—its riverbanks, forests, and mountains home to the tribes of Kalapuya, Chinook, Molalla, and more for thousands of years. This history has been largely unrecorded, incomplete, poorly researched, or partially told. In these stories, enriched by photographs and maps, Oregon Indigenous historian David G. Lewis combines years of researching historical documents and collecting oral stories, highlighting Native perspectives about the history of the Willamette Valley as they experienced it.

David’s bio:  David G. Lewis, PhD and member of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, is a recognized researcher, scholar, writer and assistant professor of anthropology and Indigenous studies at Oregon State University. For more than twenty years, Lewis has been passionate about studying the original histories of the people of Oregon and California and has an extensive record of collaborative projects with regional scholars, tribes, local governments, and communities. Lewis’s research specializes in the history of Kalapuyans and other Western Oregon tribes, which he explores through journal essays and on his blog The Quartux Journal. He currently resides in Chemeketa, now Salem, Oregon, with his wife, Donna, and two sons, Saghaley and Inatye.

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