“Gourmand’s Paradise”: The Once and Future Willamette Valley?

European explorers and fur traders nicknamed the Willamette Valley, the “gourmand’s paradise”. When they ran low on food, they traveled to this fertile and abundant valley to stock up again. Here migrating birds darkened the sky and as one Willamette Valley pioneer rather gracelessly put it, deer were so “easy to kill” a man could “make more money shooting them for skins than working at a job”. There were nuts, fruits and vegetables to be had everywhere–not to mention, fish.

There is some question just how prolific salmon runs were once migrating salmon made it past the falls at Oregon City to run up the Willamette, but pioneers watched them jump the falls in amazement.  And oral tradition about the stretching of fishnets at the present site of Black Canyon Park indicates they swam on in substantial numbers to places like Salmon Creek Falls upriver from the modern day Oakridge.

What the explorers and the pioneers (who came after the self-sufficient and capable Kalaypuya had been hit by disease and moved to reservations at Grand Ronde and Siletz) did not note was that this “gourmand’s paradise” resulted from the partnership local peoples had fostered with their land for thousands of years. As with indigenous peoples throughout the Northwest, the Kalapuya had so intimate a relationship with their land that they named themselves for it. When a pioneer asked a group near the Santiam who they were, they gave him the name of the place where they stood: Kalapuya: “the valley of the long grasses”.

In Environment and Experience, Peter Boag documents how native practices expanded the rich habitat ecologists call “edges” in the central Willamette Valley, where their controlled burning resulted in innumerable ponds, marshes and wetlands that provided habitat for migrating bird flocks. Kalapuya practices encouraged the abundance of tar weed seeds, acorn, and the flourishing of roots crops such as camas. Indeed, as did the women to the north and south of them, Kalapuya women dug root crops with a method that both preserved the prairies and spread the roots as they harvested them. By the time the pioneers came to the Willamette Valley, camas was so abundant that pioneers termed the places it grew, “camas lakes”, since its prolific blooms looked like water shimmering in the sun.

Kalapuya elder and educator Esther Stutzman noted that their burning practices also roasted the native sunflower seeds and seasoned the hazel twigs used for basketry, which were at their prime the second season after they were burned. Wapato, an important Native root crop, also grew in the wetlands along the Willamette River. Forest islands protected from burning provided habitat for seasonal elk visitation as well as for resident deer. Boag noted the cooperation and care necessary to keep such never-burned areas clear of fire for hundreds of years. All in all, as Boag concluded, “The first whites in the Willamette Valley did not tame a wilderness; they inherited a park.”

Stutzman (an enrolled member at Siletz) noted that shortly after emigrants suppressed Kalapuya burning, a series of grasshopper plagues devastated their crops. Traditionally, burning had roasted valley grasshoppers, which were consumed by the Kalapuya, besides maintaining the oak savanna, keeping down the underbrush (including poison oak), and inviting elk and deer to live in valleys near Kalapuya villages, so hunters “didn’t have to go off and look for them”.

According to Stutzman, western Oregon’s peoples had a spiritual partnership with the deer whose habitat they fostered. A hunter participated in ceremony for five days before going on a hunt. During the hunt, he would sing a song to the deer honoring it and declaring his intentions. He sang, “Run! A man is coming to get you, but if you let us get you, we will treat you right.” Another five days of ceremony followed a successful hunt. In using deer’s gifts, the people must never “waste a thing.” If they were so careless as to throw something away, elk and deer would never come again to Kalapuya territory.

There was for Esther Stutzman’s Oregon ancestors special joy in seeing the tail of a deer as it lept away–that deer would carry away all one’s negative feelings with it. In the context of their affection for the deer, Kalapuya hunters not only utilized their kill carefully—they also chose their kill in such a way as to guarantee the robust quality of future herds. Early emigrants on the Santiam witnessed a traditional hunt in which the Kalapuya encircled a herd of deer and picked out the finest animals to release before they took their own kill.

As was the case with their indigenous neighbors, Kalapuya environmental strategies were carried out under the auspices of religious leaders with an intimate knowledge of the local landscape. Such religious leaders (who were usually women), discerned the optimal time for burning by forecasting the immanent arrival of the fall rains, so that burned areas might immediately turn green with new growth.

A few years ago, Esther Stutzman sang a Kalapuya song that had not been sung in public for one hundred and fifty years at the dedication of the Whilamut Natural Area marked by “talking stones” etched with Kalapuya words and placed along a path in Alton Baker Park in Eugene, Oregon. The name Whilamut designated areas of the river “where the water turns and runs fast”.

More recently Stutzman oversaw the creation and launching of a traditional Kalapuya canoe at Island Park in Springfield, Oregon. I was fortunate to watch that canoe dart smoothly through the rapids amidst the less agile craft that shared the river that day. Before it was launched the canoe was named and blessed, and it took to the river like a thing alive, lithe and fluid. It was obvious it was made for this river.

Those of us who live in the Willamette Valley today no longer manage game as our primary meat source, nor do we harvest an abundance of wild vegetables in wetland areas. Indeed, wetlands along the Willamette River have been drastically reduced, and the oak savanna that predominated in indigenous times is an endangered habitat. We need to protect ancient habitat as a library of knowledge about the operation of healthy ecosystems that might otherwise be lost forever.

Though many changes have come to the Willamette Valley in the past one hundred and fifty years, it might still be possible to revive its legacy as the “gourmand’s paradise” by restoring and protecting local ecosystems if we act quickly and with commitment. This is the vision for instance, of the many farms and community groups listed in this spring’s edition of “Locally Grown” , which also contains Dan Armstrong’s article outlining the potential of local food resources. Measuring the caloric needs of today’s population against the productive capacity of current farmland in Lane County, he estimates that that farmland could provide for all of our vegetable, fruit, and grain needs, as well as eighty per cent of our dairy needs.

We haven’t fulfilled this potential for local production. A substantial portion of our prime agricultural land currently grows grass seed. And much of it is under development pressure. But as Armstrong notes, with world droughts, oil shortages, and rising food prices, it is a good time to look to our local resources to sustain us.

In turn, our land sustains us only when we care for it. Enacting time-honored values such as respect and reciprocity that resulted in thousands of years of sustainability is certainly a tradition worth reviving.


The Willamette Farm and Food Coalition works on increasing local food production today.

Esther Stutzman is a traditional storykeeper of the Kommema (Yoncalla) Kalapuya.

You are always welcome to link to this post. Note, however, it is copyright 2008, by Madronna Holden. Feel free to contact me if you wish to use it. Thanks.

464 Responses

  1. Madronna,
    Your article “Gormound’s Paradise” was passed on to me by Lynne Fessenden at the Willamette Farm and Food Coalition. She knew I have been researching Willamette Valley agriculture and thought I might like a view of what the valley was like before the white settlers arrived.
    You might check the long piece I did on the Willamette Valley entitled “Relocalizing Eden.” (http://www.mudcitypress.com/mudeden.html)
    At some point, I’d like to add something about life in the valley prior to 1800. Your piece is an nice insight into those times. Thank you. Dan

  2. Hi Dan,
    “Relocalizing Eden” is an interesting piece outlining some of the steps we need to get from here to there in ensuring our local food security.
    Thanks for sharing this important information with all of us,

  3. A poetic insight into the Willamette Valley’s Native Americans’ wisdom with respect to nature.

    Be it Willamette or other fertile and life-supporting valleys throughout America, one thing I understand from your writing:
    With careful planning and a deep respect for the animal and plant kingdoms, future human population growth would not be a burden. On the contrary, this land would more than provide for their sustenance as well as other living organisms we don’t feed.

    Alas, the greed and exploitative mentality of one group of humans toward another group leaves little room for dedication and respect. Hence, the over cultivation and erosion of a quarter of this nation’s topsoil.
    Your mention of the Natives’ careful crop tending, hunting and controlled burning highlights a people’s from-the-heart love and respect, not for fame or showmanship, but for future generations. That is real wisdom, earned only through genuine concern for nature’s well being.

  4. Thank you for your thoughtful comment– the poetic nature of this statement flows from the care of native people for their land here. There is certainly much that moderners have to learn.
    Of course, there is an eventual limit to the number of humans the valley can support, but I think the main issue is this: humans are necessarily a negative presence on the landscape– but can be, as Margolin says after his research on native Californians, a “blessing on the land”.
    There is a challenge, I think, for us to do the same, based on wisdom, as you state, “earned.. through genuine concern for nature’s well being”.

  5. Correction:

    I would like to reword my statement about the valley’s limitless support for human growth. Certainly it is unwise for us to congest a small area and overwhelm it with industry.

    No amount of care will stop people from their eventual destruction and exhaustion of the land. Just one example of how this would come about are the accidental runoffs or leakages of manufacturing companies liquid metals and we would have ruined it for decades to come.

  6. Dr. Madronna Holden,

    The Willamette Valley has long been known for its fertile ground and agricultural crops. To think that so many damaging effects of peoples careless attitudes toward the land and preserving the land has slowly started to holt production of crops and lessen the wildlife herds is a very sad thing. I would like to comment on an issue that struck me while I was reading this article. Where I live in the Snake River Region of the Blue Moutains in the Pacific Northwest, we are now starting to have a huge issue with blue tongue in our deer populations. This disease is killing off many of thousands of our deer and it is becoming sadly obvious to many of our farmers as they harvest grain out of their wheat fields and pull out 20 to 30 dead deer at a time that have internally blead to death. (BLUE TONGUE) As I think about the WIllamette Valley and the devastating effects of humans on the land, I can’t help but wonder if this very issue isn’t caused by similar carelessness. I do not know enough about the blue tongue issue to be sure what causes it or how it even starts, but I know that it wasn’t here a year ago and now it is everywhere. I am a firm believer in your theory of trying to restore the land to its original tense and preserve the natural resources that we harvest from the land. If we do not start taking better care of our land and natural resources, it is easy to see how they will be depleted for our future generations. We are basically borrowing from our children and grandchildren everything that we take from the land and it is time that we give something back to the land so that our children and grandchildren will have the same priviledges as we do concerning our natural resources.

    Thank You

    Philosophy 443

  7. Amber, thank you for your concern for the future generations and the earth we all share.
    I do think that we may not be able to restore the earth to some former condition– for one thing, humans have always effected their landscape.
    But it is important to care for the land so that its resilience is maintained–and that is only justice, as you say, for future generations.

  8. I have posted this comment for Karen Hiber, since she had some trouble doing it herself:
    I really appreciated the poetic descriptions of the Willamette Valley landscape. Having never been to Oregon before, I am certainly tempted to visit now. I’m sure that the landscape has lost much of its original beauty, though over the course of many settlements by non-indigenous peoples. Nevertheless, I imagine there are still places of remarkable natural beauty.

    I was particularly interested with Dan Armstrong’s assessment of the Lane County farmland. It is very encouraging to hear evidence of the possibility of a local population sustaining itself with its own agricultural resources. As Armstrong noted, much of the Lane County farmland is currently used for grass seed. I think this is a very common pratice in our current economy. Certain areas or regions tend to produce one specific type of crop, rather than diversifying. This can lead to overfarming the land, and also to the cycle of heavy energy use and pollution due to transportation of the crops to other regions.

    This always seems particularly evident and absurd to me when I am shopping in the produce aisle and see tomatoes shipped in from California ( I live in Florida). Hopefully with more consumers becoming aware of what they eat and where it is coming from (new federal law requiring food origin on labels) they will be more likely to buy locally. My hope is that more farmers will be able to set up their local produce stands and actually make a profit.

  9. Thanks for the complement and thoughtful post!
    It does seem ridiculous that oranges from Florida go to California and vice versa. Since so large a percentage of our oil and gas usage is linked to food transportation, eating local is something else you can do to fight global warming.

  10. One point I found of interest to me in this article was the mention of how the Kalapuya would first participate in a ceremony for 5 days, and then sing a song to the dear before hunting and ultimately taking a deer’s life. I also thought it significant that the Kalapuya considered releasing the most robust, finest deer so that future herds would be of quality. I thought about the reasoning behind these Native actions for a while, and have not necessarily come to any firm conclusions or beliefs about them, but rather have realized the Kalapuya intention of living in harmony with the land they occupied. It seems to me that through their actions the Kalapuya attempted to give back something to the land. Perhaps they recognized that by killing the deer they were taking something away, and thereby exploiting the land for their own ends. I am wondering their emotions, and individual rational behind their actions. Perhaps they felt guilty for stealing an innocent deer’s life? I suppose overall worldview had much to do with these customs, but a worldview is still not enough to explain individual actions and ceremonies.
    I am also beginning to recognize how difficult it is even for people with a worldview, which embraces the notion of sharing the land, to actually carry out actions which correlate with their beliefs. I say this because despite the Native customs (such as singing to deer) the fact of the matter is that the Kalapuya did take something away from the land; they took away a deer from land by killing it. Of course, many individual’s in today’s society hunt and I’m sure the Kalapuya needed to eat, but nevertheless deer are deer and deer have a right to life just as much, if more, than people do. I say “if more” because I only see people as doing harm to the environment, as animals always appear so innocent to me.
    I found a quote in Wisdom of the Elders, by Suzuki and Knudtson, which parallels my ideas concerning the Kalapuya in this article. The quote states, “Those animals have a right to those forests too. They belong there- it is as much theirs as it is ours (A personal Foreward, xxxv)”.
    I wonder if this is the mindset that drove the Kalapuya to let the finest deer live, or to hold ceremonies, or sing to an animal while about to take the animal’s life. I wonder how much the Kalapuya understood their land. I wonder where their ideas on burning came from. I almost imagine the Native people to have such a close connection with their land that the land whispers some magic formula in the ear of a Kalapuya, which then teaches the Kalapuya how to ensure that the land thrives. While nature obviously doesn’t talk, in the way that we humans do, I think it funny (and sad) that if nature did speak, much of our society would be too busy going on with our own lives that we might not even have time to listen to what nature has to say.
    I am in awe and wonder of the interconnectedness these people had with their land.

  11. Obvious personal care in this response here, Denise.
    Do you believe that humans have only a negative effect on the environment in spite of fact, as you indicate, of the fact that listening to the land allows humans to direct their actions so that it thrives?
    You certainly have a point about modern life: do you thing there is any way that we might recover the skill of listening to the land?
    Perhaps your own sensitivity and care is a start in this direction (beginning with being open and paying attention).

  12. Hi Madronna,
    The description of the Willamette valley in your post is very similar to the accounts of early settlers who described other parts of the Western United States, including Northern California.
    The way in which the environment seems to have deteriorated in such a short time suggests that the European world values brought to the region by the immigrant culture were more focused to the individual, and less conscious of the shared environmental community. Perhaps this was a consequence of the Lord & serf hierarchy of Western Europe during the period of immigration to the New World.
    If only the Kalapuya had game wardens to discourage poaching from the King’s forests, perhaps the early non-indigenous settlers would have been less disposed to eradicate the game and compromise the ecological riches of the area.
    It is unfortunate that it is often only through loss, that we become aware of the value of our natural resources. I might implement the Kalapuya deer ceremony for my family before each trip to the grocery store, if for no other reason than to reinforce the awareness of the resources required to bring food to our table.
    Thanks for the important lesson in our recent past.

  13. Thank you for so many thoughtful points here, John. Taking your last one first, it is more difficult to practice ethical eating when the only meat we see comes saran-wrapped and not at all recognizable for the animal it once was. Moreover, most of us have little sense of the conditions under which it was raised. Wendell Berry once observed that we should not wish to eat anything we wouldn’t want to pray over– which goes directly to your point.
    You are quite right about the oppression many pioneers experienced in their own history. Unfortunately, this created a tendency to ignore the painful past entirely rather than learn from it. Fortunately, this was not true of all pioneers. I interviewed members of the James family (Charles and Marion) at Grand Mound Washington in 1975– direct descendants of those who homesteaded on the land where they still lived, and they were eloquent about the need for a different environmental standard, as well as the need for justice with respect to the indigenous neighbors– the Chehalis– from whom they learned about the land. And with whom they shared profound personal experience: one James family member was asked to be a pall bearer in a native funeral, and subsequently, their native neighbors tore roof boards from their house top to provide lumber for a coffin for a young James family member who died quickly of disease.
    This family remembered in their oral history (they had arrived on the New England coast three hundred years ago) the terrible oppression on the part of the local authorities that starved them out.
    There is something to be said for remembering history: they arrived with a mind toward sharing with their indigenous neighbors, who invited them to stay on their land after they had helped doctor them through a smallpox epidemic. Later the barely five foot tall woman the Indians knew as “little mother” successfully defended a local man against a trumped up murder charge.
    Since this same Mary James was wont to push the minister out of the pulpit if he didn’t preach against slavery, and there were many slavery sympathizers among their neighbors, they weren’t always the most popular among the pioneers. But they indicate the complexity–and possibility– of our history.
    A long way of answering your comment, but I couldn’t resist sharing some stories. Thanks for motivating me to do so.

  14. Madronna,
    I really enjoyed reading your comment on my post because it made me realize something of what I truly think and believe. I guess it’s hard for me to see my views from an outsider’s perspective. I suppose I am slightly biased in my views (to say the least) because from my life experiences I have mainly viewed negative effects that humans have had on the environment, or maybe I just have high expectations (or, maybe all these class readings are making me think that we are horrible people because we are so disconnected from the environment). I do wish I saw more examples of people giving back to their environment. Though, I do think that in reality it is hard to give back to the environment because the whole lifestyle of individuals in our society is a lifestyle which rewards consumption instead of environmental conservatism. For example, people are looked highly upon for driving nice cars, which utilize great amounts of gas and pollute the atmosphere. The environment could definitely benefit from a societal lifestyle change. For example, we could start riding bikes more to decrease the amount of pollution, and save oil. Through this simple action we would benefit both ourselves, as well as the environment. I mean, who doesn’t want to get in shape?
    As far as recovering the skill of listening to the land, I think that is a much harder issue to tackle. My view of solving this crisis of disconnection between land and people would start with people spending more time alone, as well as spending more time being in nature. Simply the act of being surrounded by nature usually allows one to realize the inherent beauty in the world, which leads to a greater respect and reverence for the land. All too often it seems we are needlessly busy and over stimulated by our external environment. This is a major barrier to slowing down and listening to nature.

  15. Hi Denise,
    Thank your for your thoughtful response–and your care for our shared earth. I know that it is often difficult to maintain our values–and the vision and hope entailed in them– in the midst of a society that seems so often to be pulling in the other direction.
    But I hope you realize you are not alone: the list of links to sites to the left of this post indicates a very small expression of the many who feel as you do and work for a better future for us all.
    I think you certainly have a point that the beauty of the nature environment speaks to us– and gives us many lessons– if only we are willing to open a little space in our lives to listen. And we are certainly amply awarded with joy in the process!

  16. This article really made me think about the ignorant and corruptive mind of man. When you say that “deer were so easy to kill a man could make more money shooting them for skins than working a job” I was annoyed because that is how most people think. It is alwa ys about money. How can I profit? Well, we are really screwing ourselves over in the search for fortune. The beautiful descriptions of what California used to look like sounds like the real treasure we should have been saving not money for material items.
    I agree that we should me working towards sustainability and as corny as it may sound, world peace. But world peace in the sense of the actual environment to be at peace. We have been corrupting the world for too long.

  17. Thanks for expressing your powerful personal feelings, Johni– there is both vision and hope to come out of the ashes of the destruction you see. Note, as well, that the destructive “mind of man” is not the mind of all humans– or even all modern Westerners. There is hope in this, as well.

  18. I found the article very insightful into the life of the Kalapua. As an outsider of Oregon, learning a piece of the local history is valuable and gives me a different perspective of life in a differing region. I was particularly impressed with the Kalapua’s strategies of not only providing the necessary resources they utilized immediately, but how they were able to implement practices that provided for their future needs as well without compromising the integrity of the region.
    I was also taken a back by the complete disregard shown to the valley by pioneers who only sought to capitalize off of the abundancy of resources provided by the Kalapua. The Kalapua had shown nothing but good “Citizenship” of the land to only watch it succomb to the careless.
    I believe that we should be focusing our efforts on conservation and sustainablilty issues through reconnection to the natural world. This shift from a traditional Western world view will allow us to become “part” of the natural world once more and will introduce the concept of accountability and responsibilty. When we are responsible and accountable, we tend to take more care with our actions.

  19. Hi Kathleen, in terms of your important vision of reconnection with our particular lands where we are, I think it is hopeful to note that not ALL pioneers acted in the destructive ways you cite, just as some modern Westerners exhibit care for the earth we share in spite of the worldview we have inherited.
    Thank you for your comment.

  20. Professor Holden,

    I have become quite intrigued with the readings from our course (PHL 443) as well as the insites and experiences that you have written about here. I am ashamed to say that I am one of the people who have taken the earth for granted and does not take enough effort to make myself or others aware the moral reciprocity we should have to with the environment. It is quite an honorable thing for you to create such awareness for the interaction needed by the local population in order to succesfully achieve the potential production of agriculture. I completely agree that “sustainability is certainly a tradition worth reviving.”
    Thank you for sharing.
    Debbie Hampton PHL 443

  21. Hi Debbie,
    Thank you for your kind comments. I want to reminder you that your response to this information is the result of your own open mind. Learning means change– thank you for meeting this challenge you set for yourself: this is honorable as well.

  22. This article does an excellent job of bringing out some of the main differences between industrialized societies and indigenous societies. Industrialized societies have a disconnect with the land that they inhabit and think that it is great that they can get food from it. However, they do not stop and think about how that food came to be or that by harvesting everything they are leaving nothing to grow for the next year. This way of thinking is one of the main reasons that the Willamette Valley has had such a decline in animal life and natural foods in the past 150 years. People plant what makes money, in Oregon this means grass seed, rather than what is needed to sustain the people living here or what nourishes the soil the most. Indigenous cultures, like the Kalapuya, have known what the land has needed for thousands of years and have cultivated it in such a way that they never needed for food. They hold a high amount of respect for the land that has been carelessly used and destroyed by industrialized/”modern” society. It seems that only with the mention of global warming are people beginning to care about the land that they live on and the pollutants that they are putting into it. I think that if the white settlers had listened to people, like the Kalapuya, when they first arrived that we would not have many of the problems that we do now.

  23. Thank you for your thoughtful post, Samantha. We can only hope that such understanding as you express indicates that we are able to learn from our past– and fit our current use of the land to its needs rather than attempting to remake it to suit our needs.

  24. […] in native California. In like fashion, early explorers in the Willamette Valley termed it the “gourmand’s paradise” for the results of the specific management practices of the Kalapuya – and they would come to […]

  25. This article brings up some good points about how the Kalapuya Indians were good stewards for the land they lived on. They were very smart about ways to manage the area. From burning to reduce pests to letting the best deer go to enable the survival of the fittest. Just like so many other instances, the settlers could have learned a lot from the previous inhabitants. Afterall the food was plentiful and the environment was desirable which is why the new people wanted to live there. If only they had bothered to wonder why this area was such a great place to live and learn how to maintain the desirable qualities. It is such a shame the farmable land is getting buried under concrete instead of being used. The more farmland that doesn’t get used for farming, the more we have to waste resources to import products from other areas.

  26. It is difficult to articulate how impressive the Kalapuya were in sucessfully sculpting the land in order to sustain the plant and animal species which would then in turn sustain their existiance. In this essay the Willamette Valley is reffered to as a park, I belive it is an accurate referance. I find it interesting that certain species, like poison oak and grasshoppers, overtook the vally once the burnings conducted by the Kalapuya stopped. It makes one wonder what the Willamette Valley was like prior to the cultivation of the Kalapuya. None the less, the Kalapuya’s Willamette Valley is a remarkable example of how humans and nature can benefit from one another in a sustainable way.

    • Thanks for your comment, Kristian. Thoughtful response: of course, to go back to what the valley looked like before the Kalapuya, one would have to go back thousands of years. This history is an example of what the UN Programme on the Environment has termed “biocultural diversity”, created by the co-evolution of humans and other species in an ecosystem.

  27. Your words present a beautiful vision of a successful partnership with nature. The Boag quote, “the first whites in the Willamette Valley did not tame a wilderness; they inherited a park”, illustrates the sad circumstances when compared to what is now available. Unfortunately the “park” is an opportunity of the past. However, with the changing mindset of many of our citizens is it possible that it may reappear in the future? With advocates such as Esther Stutzman and Dan Armstrong it may yet return. I find it very interesting the “productive capacity of current farmland” could in reality provide enough sustenence to support the local population. It reminds me of Barbara Kingsolver’s experiment to “live locally” documented in her book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. It is definitely plausable but requries a trementdous change in mindset, values and beliefs. It also takes a lot of time and effort. Society has become driven by instant gratification which is certainly not possible in the realm of living off the land.

    Stutzman epitomizes showing respect for the environment. This respect seems to have generally disappeared within society with the technological changes produced through the years. Obviously the knowledge has not been totally lost as it seems to be resurfacing in tribal pockets. I agree that taking care of the land is certainly a tradition worth reviving especially as much of our food supply has lost its nutritional value because of preservatives and other chemicals used to facilitate faster growth.

    • Thank you for joining our conversation in such a thoughtful way. Though we cannot return to the past, as you point out, I have hope that changing our values will change our actions. And though, as you indicate, this will take some doing, it will perhaps even lead us to experience some positive surprises resulting from our actions as opposed to the unpleasant surprises in terms of environmental crises we are getting today. The community of Gaviotas in Colombia held to such environmental values and wound up restoring the rainforest as a result–a magnificent unintended consequence indeed!

  28. Reading about Native American culture always makes me wonder what it would be like today if Europeans never sailed to North America and the Native Americans were left alone to continue living as they were. I bet no one would worry about global warming because the environmentally pure North America would balance out any industrial pollution in Europe. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Therefore it is up to us to re-grow what the Willamette Valley has lost and if we could bring that land back to its original beauty then people all over the US will notice and say “I can do that, too”. We don’t even need to adopt Native American culture to rejuvenate the land; we don’t need to participate in a ceremony for five days before hunting deer. This way, people from all walks of life can participate. We just need to adopt the Native American hunting, fishing and farming techniques: careful selection and wasting nothing. With a little work, the former glory of “gourmand’s paradise” will return.

    • Hi Jessica, thanks for your comment. I very much like the idea of modeling you present here– and the potential vision of the future it presents. And even if we cannot replicate all the Native American techniques in this day and age, we can aim to replicate the values that went with them.

  29. Madronna,

    As a resident of the Willamette valley, I appreciate the ecologically historical perspective you offer of native peoples management techniques. I like the idea of applying indigenous natural resource management techniques to the current issues we face.

  30. The gradual departure of partnership with our lands has become the societal norm in the US. Increased globalaization and the growth of industry worldwide has made people less dependant upon the land where they live for their daily food resources and livelihoods.
    That however seems to be changing. For years and years we have neglected the natural side of our places of residence. The vast majority of communinties in the US seem to have been more interested in development of business and industry for their cities’ tax and revenue base rather than the health of their local ecosystems. Now, people are becoming both more aware that they want to have a healthy place to live with good air quality and the simple joys of seeing some wild animals in their every day lives.

    I live in a town in Texas where development has been non-stop. Subdivision after subdivision and shopping mall after shopping mall have been built up. The largest tree in our neighborhood is probably about 15 feet tall. I stopped and marvelled the other day at a squirrel. Its the first one that I’ve seen in years. This area used to be open rangeland and there were mountain lions, bobcats, coyotes, deer and lots of trees and squirrels and rabbits. None of that is here anymore. I talk with my neighbors aobut how we lack any sort of “nature” here and they all pretty much agree that it is “very nice” here but something is missing. I feel its that connection that we have with nature and that we need in order to feel like a community.

    It is a good thing to see that the world in general is noticing the damage we have been doing in the past and that we are starting to come around to the view that our natural world is important and we should do all we can to protect it.

    • Thanks for sharing your personal experience in your community–as well as your hope for the future, Joe. I certainly hope that there is more awareness–and that will signal a change that will benefit future generations.

  31. The idea that humans can harvest plants and animals from the land while at the same time not reduce the diversity and abundance of wildlife is reassuring. The practices that these people used to harvest their food and care for the land are just another example of the wealth of knowledge that is threatened as we lose more and more indigenous people.

    This reminds of a paper that I read recently about an experiment done in England. Farmers were paid to leave a small plot in the center of each field untouched for several years. Within four years the fields that had this small reserve of native vegetation were out producing fields without it and required less insecticides. It ended up that even leaving just this small area untouched was enough to give beneficial insects a home to spread out from each spring.

    The story of Willamette Valley and the experiment on the farms both show us how productive nature can be when we work with it instead of completely dominating it.

    • Thanks for this comment and sharing this experiment, Heath. Letting a bit of the land remain wild in this way is an actual traditional practice expressed in British hedgerows–and also in other traditional farming techniques from Peru to Eastern Europe. Such areas places near streams and rivers were also used to conserve water tables and to harvest wild seed varieties that farmers found useful.

  32. The more and more i read these types of articles or anything in this course i realize that i dont do enough to help save our earth. There are so many people like your self who are trying to get the message across and help people understand what we are doing each day. I want to thank you for your articles they really make me open my eyes and realize that i cant sit back and watch other try to fix what we have already distroyed. It startes to make me sick just thinking about it. The last statement that you made seemed to be the most impactfull message in this article. ” In turn, our land sustains us only when we care for it. Enacting time-honored values such as respect and reciprocity that resulted in thousands of years of sustainability is certainly a tradition worth reviving.” This is so true, i just wish more and more people could realize that. Thanks again.
    Meagan Cohen

    • Thank you, Meagan. It was a great honor to be present to such stories: they were also shared with me with a charge to share them in turn. It gives me hope for our future to have you express your own commitment to caring for the land. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to pass the words on: according to many traditions, stories are not fully told until they have an audience. So thanks for becoming one!

  33. It would be wonderful to see the Willamette Valley NOT producing grass seed anymore. I think about where that seed goes; that this fertile valley is used to grow the grass which may be sowed on suburban lawns in Phoenix, Las Vegas, and Tuscon, places where water is not a sustainable resource, but yet people see a green lawn around their house in the middle of the desert as their unalieniable right.
    I know Ten Rivers Food Web http://www.tenriversfoodweb.org has been conducting experimental trials to find a variety of wheat that will grow well in the valley. I’m very glad that there are so many people who have a clear vision and foresight to push for change in our land use. There are many parts of the country (and world) where it would not be possible to support the population of the land with such diverse food production as this valley. There is so much potential here, it’s really a very unique place. We can foster a sustainable community here so much easier than many other parts of the country, as long as we respect and take care of the land.

    • Great points about our future choices, Rachel. Those of us who live in the Willamette Valley are indeed fortunate to have so many farmers growing so much food here. In a time when
      I know there is a move to landscape with native plants in the places you mention that are now growing so much grass seed–and we are also exporting much of this seed. Golf courses are another place where water usage and pesticides need to be assessed and reduced.
      As you note, we need to care for our land: as markets fall, a well-cared for land is something that will not fail us.

  34. I have lived in this valley for over ten years and I am embarrassed to say that I learned more about the native people of this land in this essay than I have in the entire time I’ve lived here. This is indicative of the disconnect to place that most in our country are plagued with. This too is a major difference, it seems, between the native ways and our “new world” ways. As stated above, the Kalapuya were intimately connected to the place that sustained them for centuries. They knew how to care for and respect life, for their lives were dependent on this knowledge. That is not different today. Our lives are dependent on our ability to be a part of the natural flow of life. This will come as we reconnect to place, something that the movement toward local food production and ecosystem protection will certainly encourage. I agree that we need to act with swiftness in order for this change to be affected.

    • Thanks for this comment, Dazzia. You have tied together some very perceptive points: we must obviously heal our disconnect with place in order to gain the knowledge to heal our current crises. It is a sad and pointed statement that so many of us know so little about the land that sustains us (and its history).

  35. The story of the Willamette Valley seems to be a common one in my readings on indigenous peoples. I know these atrocities are not directly by my doings, but as a citizen I feel that I should accept some of the blame. The original settlers started the damage of the environment, but each generation it magnifies. I often wonder how many generations it will take to slow the destruction. I did enjoy the hope that was conveyed with the local farming plan. I believe in small local farming and trying to bring things back into the community that were taken away by large manufacturing facilities.

    • Thanks for your comment, Ann. I think it will take all of us to begin to undo the damage that is done to our shared earth. I was heartened by one of my students some time ago who stated that she may not have been part of those who caused this damage– but here generation would be the one to fix it.

  36. Reading this essay reminds me of how irisponsible were are with the environment around us. The ecological footprint that we americans take up per person is insane, to the point that we will take out forests that help is live on earth. If we could all just be like the Kalapuya and take what is needed this planet would not be going through the danger we are now. Food to them was not simply to keep them alive but a ritual. The abundance of deer was so large that they could kill deer all day long and never run out. Yet instead of doing this, they took this abundace as a gift and only took what they needed. Not only did they do this but they used every part of the animal for something, making it useful in every aspect. If this kind of behavior and ways of life still lived to this day i believe we would be better of not only because of the ongoing problem with climate change but as people.

    • Thanks for your comment, Christian. You make an important point in indicating the role that our choices play in our relationship to our environment. The next step might be to determine which cultural beliefs cause us to make one of these choices rather than the other.

  37. I think it is so interesting, and so smart that the indigenous people used superstition to foster proper treatment of the local ecosystem. A deer hunt which requires 10 days of ceremony and a song before the kill would be laughed at by the modern-day hunters of the Willamette Valley. The ceremonies mentioned may seem silly to us now, , but the notion that the deer would never come back if you didn’t follow protocol was a very smart way to not only show a great level of respect for the deer, but also for preserving the plentiful plethora of goods that the earth provided. Everything was kept in check, and it didn’t sound that hard, from the way it was told. They hunted, they farmed, they were careful, and they were very successful! I would love to have lived then, instead of now where you pay $3 a pound for cherries, IF you’re lucky, and they’re most likely from Central America somewhere. It’s surprising that the grasshopper plagues didn’t tip anyone off that something had gone awry, when we all first got here. I wonder how long it took for the deer to begin to thin out and the vegetation to grow less plentifully? Once again, the settlers only saw what they could get for free, since they were surrounded by such bounty, that they failed to see what made it that way.

    It’s sad to hear that our own Willamette Valley could possibly sustain our entire local population in terms of food, if only the proper precautions were used. It’s sad because I seriously doubt that this will ever happen. Sustainability is all anyone is talking about these days, and being “green”, but it’s used more like a trendy way to appear to others, rather than actually making serious changes and pushing for the things that need to be done.

    • Hi Josh, perceptive points about native ceremony, only I think I would rather call it reverence for the sources of life rather than superstition. And the pioneer idea that the land was so full of bounty that its use (and limits) did not have to be considered was a key one in the wiping out of so much of the biodiversity fostered by native peoples in the valley.
      And as for making the valley sustainable again, urban gardens and urban farms is an interesting phenomenon we will be looking into in an upcoming lesson.

  38. Madronna,

    After reading this essay I find my self looking at my surroundings in a new light here. I’m actually a resident of Springfield Oregon and my house sits here overlooking Island park where they launch there canoes. I knew the Valley had a rich history of native traditions, though I had no clue how much damage had occured over time. Ive seen the damage done the streams here first hand and those who actually fear the river themselvs due to the pollution coming down from up stream. One reminder that I see every day of the changes is an old garbage unit that was built into the ground next to my house to prevent the bears from getting into it. The thought that the forest was once dense enough and full of life to support bears and wildlife in this area worries me of how much damage we have done to the valley. I only hope we can do something to start fixing the damage we have done, the essay I believe was a very in sightfull look on the valley.
    ~Kevin Pack
    PHL 443

    • The image of bears previously coming down to eat near your house is a striking one. Thanks for sharing this bit of history, Kevin.
      The power of history, as you indicate, is to allow us a different vision of the present–and of the future both in what we might better care for.

  39. The more books I read on ecology and sustainabile living, the more I hear references to the way that Native Americans have for centuries been living with and close to nature in a manner that has helped to sustain the ecosystems that they live in. Nicolas Denys a French aristocrat as far back as 1672 wrote about how Native Americans in what is the Nova Scotia area of Canada operated on a economy of reciprocity. Speaking of their lack of desire to compete in the fur trade “They never made an accumulation of skins of Moose, Beaver, Otter, or others, but only so far as they need for personal use.” So Europeans more than 400 years ago noticed that the Native Americans had further respect for the natural world around them and they were able to contribute to a sustainability of the environment at the same time. but the irony is that still to this day while the dominant European based culture has recognized the benefits of the Native American view of ecology for hundreds of years, still only a small minority of people recognize how these principals established by the Native American, could be a benefit to all people and to the natural world around us.

    • Thoughtful comment, Richard. Thanks for sharing this resource. We cannot return to the past but, as you indicate, we can benefit from the knowledge and values of those who were so successful at sustainable living.

  40. I wish badly that we could care for nature the way the Kalapuya did. I certainly would love to see the park we originally inherited/ commandeered. But, though I know we can do better than we are currently, it seems impracticable to be able to apply this great of care in stewardship with such a large and established population. Not to say that the Kalapuya were not established, but they established themselves in a dynamic way, being able to flex with nature in order to best care for nature. Today our cities and towns, skyscrapers and infrastructure are not going anywhere though as long as we’re here and thus it would seem we don’t have the flexibility to “roll” with nature like indigenous societies do. If only there were some way we could redesign our civilization in order to enjoy the amenities of modernized life and yet still be able to let fires rage when they must and let rivers flood like they used to and keep our roads from blocking of age-old migration trails. Hopefully, in a few generations, our mindsets on development will have shifted so greatly that those that come after us can understand why we did things the way we did, but for now, going back seems impossible, and moving forward seems overwhelming.

    • Thanks for the comment, Mark. An important point about flexibility–and the ability to adapt to the natural world. I agree that we need to change our worldview–but I don’t think we have two generations to do it in. We certainly don’t have that long, for instance, to deal with climate change. As an example of those who are in the process of doing the seemingly impossible, check this out: https://holdenma.wordpress.com/2009/03/11/how-can-you-not-plant-a-rose-in-wartime/.
      I think that the times when change seems most difficult are the times when we need to envision it and move ahead– even if it is one person at a time one step at a time. If each of us were to begin with at least one thing that we see needs doing, that is another kind of flexibility.

  41. The emphasis on sustainability is a refreshing concept to me. I was born and raised in Texas, and while there are many things I love about the state, there is absolutely no thought given to sustainability. This is evidenced by our 16-lane freeways and “gas-guzzling” trucks and SUVs. I think if we were all willing to think about the ways in which we could change our lifestyles in order to be more sustainable it would require considerably less sacrifice than it seems. By visiting farmers markets and buying from local sellers we could drastically reduce the amount of pollution being emitted from our vehicles. It would also be a keen reminder of how the land provides for us, and the proper management of that land would enable us to thrive as we once did before the advent of our modern conveniences. Hopefully we can all adopt this attitude someday!

    • Thanks for sharing your perspective on sustainability in Texas, Allison. I think this may vary from place to place–as Austin has much going for it. And San Antonio, I understand, has a very interesting downtown development plan. And an interesting point, the George Bush ranch is totally “off the grid”, being outfitted with alternative energy sources at the same time that the Bush administration was supporting the whims of oil lobbyists. This kind of thing shows how those who have the proper information act in terms of their own lives and families. Now, to vanquish NIMBY, we need to put this into effect for others…

  42. I struggled with what I perceived as undue emphasis of some of the information contained in this article. For example, the statement “As with indigenous peoples throughout the Northwest, the Kalapuya had so intimate a relationship with their land that they named themselves for it. When a pioneer asked a group near the Santiam who they were, they gave him the name of the place where they stood: Kalapuya: “the valley of the long grasses”.” It sounds very romantic, but I am left wondering if perhaps this culture did not have a name for themselves because their outside contact was so limited. It seems perfectly natural to me to call another group of people by the place where they are found, and so if I must name myself, I will name myself by this place where I am found. This was not a unique behavior of indigenous people, in fact European settlers did the same thing. For example, consider all the places with names like Grass Valley, Springfield, Hidden Valley, Black Hills, Red River, etc. And the people that say they are Eugenians, Oregonians, Californians or even Americans or Europeans and when so doing they are referring to the place from which they come. Just like the native Americans their heritage and culture is also tied to those places.

    I applaud other elements such as the recognition that the Kalapuya released the finest animals prior to the taking of their prey. We must also consider the population being supported was a mere fraction of today’s. Oregon has recently banned field burning, a practice which has both merits and vices, whether the crops are grass seed or otherwise. We certainly could put some of our lands to better use, and generate a sustainable environment. But even the observation that the Lane County farmland could potentially provide for all the vegetable and 80 percent of the dairy needs doesn’t account for population growth. Unless the land can support exponential yield increases, we won’t be able to sustain our counties vegetable needs for long.

    • Hi David. It certainly does no justice to a people to romanticize them–and you do well to look to avoid this. But in this particular case it is a stereotype that native peoples were isolated. In fact, they had a vast trading network that went all the way into the Southwest. The contrasting naming between Indians and non-Indians is not my original idea, but that of Henry Cultee, who pointed out that his people carried the names of the land and its ancient stories (and the spirit power shared with them there) whereas whites named the land for themselves. He has specific reference to the area of his traditional culture, where “James Rock” (for a settler) replaced Sme’um– the place named for a story of its own. His personal name (inherited from his family) was taken from the character of the place on the Humptulips River where he fished. Eugene is named for Eugene Skinner, and Oregon for an ambiguous source– but certainly not for the ancient story of the land, which places humans there as one life among many in the entire ecological cycle. There is a long tradition of native complaints in terms of this re-naming/attempt to own the land on the part of pioneers. In one tale from the Yakama area (a satire), whites felt they could own the land after they stole its original names and re-named it for themselves.
      The worldview difference in naming here has reference (in Cultee’s ideas and in those of many of the elders with whom I worked) to the domination idea that indicates we can own the land by claiming it/naming it for ourselves as opposed to those who feel the land has an identify–and rights– of its own. It is the difference between the idea that people belong to their land and the land people to individual people.
      I also worked in depth with many pioneer families who lived as neighbors with native peoples and learned how to live on the land from them. (See this essay for the cooperation between pioneers and natives that allowed the original survival of non-Indians here; https://holdenma.wordpress.com/2008/11/28/native-american-heritage-day-an-essential-adjunct-to-thanksgiving-2008/). Those members of pioneer families who did have close early relationships with native peoples often themselves began their stories with, “Do you know that place…?’ And if you couldn’t say yes, you didn’t know how to listen to the story. These were peoples who had, not incidentally, stayed on their lands since their family’s first settlement here.
      This longer essay on indigenous ecology in the Northwest details some more of the ecological practices of native peoples barely touched on in this brief essay on the Willamette Valley: https://holdenma.wordpress.com/culture-and-environment/indigenous-ecological-practises-and-beliefs-in-the-pacific-northwest/.
      You make a good case for population stability–and returning to a mix of wild cropping, protecting our salmon runs and doing diverse farming with non-genetically engineered crops (which in almost one hundred studies have been found to yield lower results than traditional crops in every case–as well as to lead to increased chemical use over the long run). Urban gardening is another process which has considerable potential in helping us to feed ourselves.
      We obviously have much to think about to yield a secure future for ourselves in terms of clean water, breathable air, protecting the earth from global warming. and feeding ourselves.
      Thanks for your comment.

  43. Western Oregon’s Native peoples were certainly skilled and sympathetic to other living beings through their hunting actions. The view that these indigenous peoples were pure savage hunters is common, but completely untrue! I feel that Oregonians need to adopt the frugal attitude that that Kalapuya and Siletz had. We should be grateful for the natural foods and crops that allow us to eat everyday… and the lack of anxiety they cause us that they will not produce. In addition to this, I feel very strongly that we should treat our cattle, chickens, sheep, any farm animal with the same respect that the Kalapuya did. It is very solemning when farm animals and the conditions they are living through are pictured on the news or local newspaper. Where is the compassion?? Observing the pain and maltreatment of these animals is heartbreaking. The dualistic nature between humanity and the animalistic world is all too present.
    I do agree with Armstrong’s statement that we should rely on our local resources to sustain us. This quote that describes our plight today should be considered and perhaps implemented in our lives not only because we will perhaps have a more secure food supply, but also in that it will allow us to better take care of our local environment.

    • Thank you for this comment, Kristen. It is often true that we project the notion of “savage” onto other peoples as a way of licensing (or denying) our own behavior. The value of gratefulness your bring up might lead to a more frugal use of resources. Giving ourselves security and caring for our local landscape are certainly linked.

  44. I find it fascinating, according to Stutzman, that if there was a part of the deer or elk that was wasted (thrown away) the deer or elk would not come back in the future. I have to think of our modern culture’s wasteful nature. If we could only learn that over consumption has drastic consequences. I’m not saying I haven’t been guilty of this…but reading these great articles and essays motivates me to consume in moderation.

  45. I completely agree that we have so much to learn from indigenous peoples such as the Kalaypuya. So many times when people come to a new area they try to teach the inhabitants new ways of doing things without even taking into consideration that these Native peoples have been living and thriving there for many years. Perhaps this has something to do with the value of education. The intruders usually have received a “formal education” in the classroom and/or church and therefore feel that they are more educated. But what they don’t realize is that the Native people have been studying the land for hundreds of years and know everything about it, including how to care for it in such a way that it will continue to give back.

    I also was very interested in the way these people treated the animals they were hunting. They respected the animals and were truly grateful for the meat and other necessities they provided. This is a huge contrast to the way we raise our livestock in America today. Animals are not allowed to do what is in their nature and many times don’t even have enough room to turn around. They are pumped full of fat and foods that will make them grow quickly as well as antibiotics to produce the same result. There really is no respect for these creatures at all with regards to letting them live their natural lives. Also, while a goal of food processing is to use as many parts of an animal as possible, we are definitely not as efficient in this as are the Kalaypuya.

    • A perceptive point about what we recognize as knowledge, Lauren. This is a good argument for a critical assessment of that knowledge and how we attain it (education)– something that the perspective of other cultures can perhaps give us. “Factory” farming expresses injustice both to those animals who provide our sustenance with their lives and our health. There is also the ways in those who work in the meat packing industry are exploited, as described in Fast Food Nation, for instance. I like the fact that there is not only organic and sustainable certification as an alternative– but a certification that animals have been humanely raised. It seems that treating the creatures that give their lives for us humanely is the least we can do.

  46. When settlers first came to the Willamette Valley, they were astounded by its bounty and appearance, which as stated above, was park-like in nature. This essay brought to mind The Oregon History Project narratives as well as William G Robbins works since they both do an excellent job of describing the transition from native lands to landscape that those who have and do live there today know. One aspect of this change that I find particularly interesting is how the loss of the wetlands as well as the channelization of the Willamette, has dramatically altered this area. Both of these actions have greatly increased the occurence and severity of the floods that come in the spring. While I understand that urban areas do experience growth that puts restraints on land availability, it really just makes me wonder who thought that building infrastructure on a floodplain was a good idea.

    The other interesting point that was made was that the valley could mainly support the population that currently lives there. Being a locavore (eating only food produced locally) is growing in popularity and it is something that truly makes you appreciate the food that is on your table! It is something that we have been trying this summer and while the wait for strawberries, raspberries, asparagus, corn, etc. seemed like forever at times, it was definitely worth it. While this kind of living is not possible for all people, I believe that buying even a few things locally makes a big difference in sustaining our ecosystems not just here, but also in other countries where much of our food comes from.

    • Thanks for your comment, Bekah. Boag’s Environment and Experience is a detailed study of this same transition in the mid-Willamette Valley. As your comment indicates, there is plenty of support for the original character of the Valley as described in native oral history. I agree that we really need to re-consider our habit of building on wetlands (and modifying–or even mitigating them in so doing). Good luck on your eating local project. Have you read Kingslover’s Animal, Vegetable, Mineral about her family experiment in eating local? I also agree that small shifts–when many do them– are very important. Eating locally produced foods does not have to be an all or nothing proposition.
      Fyi, I just added a further response to your comment on Berry and Christianity.

  47. The beauty and life-sustaining capabilities of the Willamette Valley goes undisputed. I wish to have lived in the time period of the Kalapuyas so that I could see the original beauty. I share many of the same values and views that the Kalapuyas did. As you stated above, “our land sustains us only when we care for it” (Our Earth/Ourselves, Gourmand’s Paradise, Madronna Holden). I believe our existence to be a part of a large cycle of life and I believe we are witnesses. Let me define what I mean. We are witnesses because we have been graced with frontal lobe reasoning and logic capacities so that we can watch and aid the growth of all organisms. (Please remember that this is only my personal opinion.) We have been given upper cognitive abilities not to enforce our cranial supremacy but to be supreme protectors and help facilitate the peaceful growth of the Earth’s inhabitants. The Kalapuyas certainly had this figured out and they didn’t have to obtain a college degree. They lived in harmony with the Earth, and when the whites reached the plentiful land they “did not tame a wilderness; they inherited a park” (Boag). The Willamette Valley can be compared to a park because a park is a place created and strategically placed by humans for enjoyment and peace. The Kalapuyas had made the wilderness a place for enjoyment and peace.

    • Lovely personal response, Shamon. Though we cannot return to the past, we can help care for the resiliency of the beautiful valley where we are privileged to live.

  48. Reading this essay takes me back in time. Even though I have never been to Oregon, I can imagine the natural beauty of the Willamette Valley.

    The vast store of knowledge that indigenous people carry about the environment never ceases to amaze me. Even though they too as man manipulated their environment to produce what they wanted via the use of fire, they still maintained a healthy respect for the environment and what it was capable of producing for them. It is a valuable lesson that we could all learn from today.

    • I think it is a valuable lesson to learn indeed, Julie. And perhaps learning it might even allow us to pass on a decent future to our children and grandchildren.

  49. Growing up in Salem I have many times wondered what natural beauty would have surrounded the house on the hill I grew up in, had it not been developed. And I have always known that the valley has been an excellent place for farmers, but I had no idea what it was like before we came and messed it up! I wish I could have seen this paradise and the “camas lakes” that shimmered like water. I never realized that a peoples could expand the ecology of a land so greatly, especially primitive indigenous people, but I have never studied indigenous people before. It’s beautiful to realize what kind of relationship these people had with their land, the knowledge that they gained slowly over generations that lead to their ability to create marshes, ponds and wetlands by controlled burning. And it’s embarrassing what little the first white settlers knew when they came in to cultivate the land, which lead to their crops being devastated by grasshopper plagues because of the suppression of controlled burning. Thankfully the Willamette valley is starting to aim towards a sustainable future, and although we will never get “gourmand’s paradise” back to its original beauty, we may be able to make it a monument of modern sustainability, and through that we may gain a glimpse of what it was like before.

    • Thanks for sharing a striking vision here, Paul–of the ways in which what went before may allow us to create a sustainable future. If we can’t return to the past, we can learn from it–and decide to take on the values that created success in the past.

  50. This is an interesting topic to me because it deals with the population’s pressures on the environment and what can be done about it. Sure, the farmland in the Willamette Valley could sustain the food requirements of the population living in it, but what happens as the population grows (as it inevitably will)? I can imagine that the valley was such a source of great abundance not only because the previous inhabitants respected nature so much, but because a lot fewer people depended on it for sustenance. If farmlands are already under pressure from development, then that problem will most likely get worse as time goes by. Are we to implement some sort of limit on how many people can live in the valley or where it can be developed?

    • It is interesting (and not very often remarked) that most indigenous peoples carefully controlled their populations at a balanced level. Population explosions came with colonialism, poverty, and industrialization. This is a serious issue-we cannot continue to develop all the farmlands in the valley for housing and business and expect it to feed us. In this case, I like the idea developed in Natural Capitalism, which states that we should develop an economy that depends more on human labor and less on technologies that depend on the extraction of natural resources– since one supply of energy is relatively unlimited compared to the other. I like very much what Hawken says about creating a world in which each child is welcome. Doing so would cause us to rethink our social and economic choices in many ways. We must be cognizant of the fact that a child born in the US uses some 20 times the resources in his lifetime as will a child born in India–and in places in Africa, citizens use less resources per person than they did in 1960.
      We need serious planning that considers infill appropriate to local neighborhoods and public transportation to lessen our impact on natural resources. Incidentally, we can reverse the population growth that comes with poverty simply by giving women more economic resources–if they aren’t in poverty, they will automatically limit their family size, as a recent UN study found.
      Meanwhile, we must also protect and conserve what we have– and farm sustainably and with diverse cropping. We have lots to think about and much to do!

  51. When I moved to Portland from Southern California I was absolutely gobsmacked by the seemingly endless beauty and lushness of the Willamette Valley. Though the valley is no longer managed by the careful practices of the Kalapuya and others (and has not been for a long time) , one could easily surmise that even now, in her degraded state, she owes a great deal of her enduring beauty and fertility to the natives that loved and cared for her for generations as both partner and friend. It’s very interesting to read that the “courageous pioneers” we learn about in grade school, who are credited with “taming the wild, wild west”, in reality just lucked out and found themselves in an absolute Eden of beauty and abundance. I truly hope we can restore this beautiful place back to the “gourmands paradise” it was once so renowned for.

  52. Reading this and realizing how much we have lost here is a powerful example of the dominating, exploitative worldview adhered to so long by Western cultures. The mindset is like an ignorant child who comes across something great and inspiring and then proceeds to destroy it through abuse without any consideration of what it took/takes for this thing to even be, or the results of their use/abuse outside of their own fulfillment and pleasure.

    • Thanks for sharing your obvious outrage about this historical misstep, Michael. I think now it is time to learn from the past so that we can better care for the future. It is sad that such beauty and abundance might be squandered. Many did so out of greed, but others never realized such abundance might be used up (that is, of course, no excuse for destroying). Still, I interviewed those who helped take down the original old growth forests in Washington that saw this as a great tragedy in retrospect–and wanted the next generation to know it as they made their own decisions.

  53. After reading the article, I have realized how important it is to have a “spiritual partnership” with the nature. At first I couldn’t understand how significant and meaningful was for the Kalapuya to do a five days of spiritual ceremony and signing a song to the deer before hunting. However after thinking along, I come to the conclusion that it is really important to appreciate in someway or another what the nature has given us, not only demonstrate our thanks with positive actions and attitudes, but also spiritually and mentally. The spiritual connection is away of demonstrating our gratitude for the great resources that nature has given us and it also bounds us in harmony, letting us to work together as a group. The Kalapuya attempted to give something back to the land; however it was demonstrated spiritually rather than on positive actions. Perhaps the Kalapuya felt negatively about their actions, they felt like they were taking something away, but maybe they taught that through their spiritual ceremony, they could show respect and gratitude for what the nature has offer them.

    • Thanks for your comment, Ruth. I think there are also many practical ways the Kalapuya gave back to the environment–or they wouldn’t have helped create the valley ecology pioneers found. Where ritual is important, I think, is that it helps one focus one’s mind–which can have a good many practical outcomes. Mind and body are definitely connected in this practice–and reciprocity–as you indicate– was very important.

  54. I really like how this lesson and this essay, especially, describes the practices that Native Americans had that acted as away to preserve nature and to harvest their foods at the same time. I am from Oregon City, and I have been taught a lot about its history. But I definitely could never imagine salmon trying to jump up and over the falls considering what they are now and how polluted the river is. But this is just an example of how we fail to care for the land leads to failing to care for natural habitats and, in turn, our food sources.

    • Thanks for your comment. I think it can be a visionary exercise to imagine the land as it was/might be if it were properly cared for. The falls at Oregon City are still wonderful for all our industry and tinkering nearby. My hope is that we will use the wisdom learned from the past to create the future we would want to leave to our children. That of course means we have much work to do.

  55. What impresses me the most is the Kalaypuyas ability to have a relationship with the land they live on. Growing up in the Willamette Valley, I have long understood the beauty of this environment. Still, I have never considered a partnership with the environment, because as the essay points out, we do not depend on the hunting of animals as our primary protein source. We also buy our produce at stores, rather than nurturing the land and harvesting its fruits. The concept of growing our food locally and getting back to the tradition of using natural resources sounds wonderful. This would require a definite shift in attitude from one that views the land as something we own and manipulate as property, to the land as a living system that we must care for. Through the model of reciprocity, nurturing the environment will cause it to thrive and yield crops that can provide sustenance that will nurture us in return. It would be amazing if the Willamette Valley could be a leader in a process of social change in which respect for the world we live in was valued more highly than respect for wealth and ownership of land.

    • I like your vision of our potential leadership in this regard, Karen. It would be no less than we owe this gracious valley where we are blessed to make our home. Thanks for your comment.

  56. The Kalaypuyas connection with the earth and their rites and rituals to ensure its healthy growth, really give the reader perspective on how much respect must be instilled in their youth as well. Is this much different than their religion? Europeans teach to do unto others, as you wish done unto you, but that has been interpreted as strictly a homo sapien to homo sapien contract. If environmental conservation wasn’t only a grassroots initiative, but a committment to your god(s), maybe we could come even a step closer towards the outlook of the Kalaypuya, and other native peoples.

    • Thanks for your response to this essay, Jessica. There is definitely a sense of links between spirit and matter that you rightly perceive here: a kind of eco-spirituality, if you will. And you have an important idea in that if our treatment of the material world were linked to our intimate sense of spirit in this way, we might well treat it better.

  57. The emphasis on local production and maintaining a level of respect through sustainability toward nature both locally and worldwide really held my attention while reading this article. As I have come understand the values and traditions of so many native peoples and groups I have really developed a great deal of appreciation toward them and what they have done. The example of the Western Oregon’s peoples and their spiritual relationship with the deer upheld a perfect way in which we should be treating the creatures of nature. While they were obviously going to kill the deer for their own sustainability of life, there was still the acknowledgment that the deer was apart of nature and should therefore be respected and cared for rather than simply wiped out. This kind of treatment towards the creatures and every other part of nature is exactly the sort of the thing that every human should be practicing; no one has to take on a spiritual state of mind, unless of course it is a part of your own culture, but by simply taking what is needed without abusing that privilege can make a huge difference.

    Of course there is no avoiding the towering glare of industrialization which has been taking over our world. The problem is of course that because of the countless growth in worldwide population and the overuse of our resources, we have become dependent on the industrial world for the mass production of our food, shelter, transportation, etc. There is no denying the fact that it is an immensely difficult task to start from a different place other than industrialization–and with technology becoming more and more advanced there doesn’t really seem to be a stopping point. However, with technology and even some parts of industrialization it could be possible to utilize those resources in helping develop a better way of sustaining our world. By starting small and locally everywhere we can start to see a difference. I know that by having my own garden, buying locally, and riding my bike more I have made my own small difference. Starting small doesn’t have to be hard as long as we take the initiative.
    I really enjoyed reading this article as it really got me thinking about what I can keep on doing and start doing in order to make a difference.

    • Hello Erin, thanks for your comment. I am glad you liked the information in this article– and also congratulate you on doing your part to support local food production– including that in your own yard. In Wes Anderson’s Becoming Native to this Place, he talks about how much LARGER a population was supported by the indigenous subsistence strategy than the current agricultural structure supports in a particular section of Iowa. Though it is sometimes argued that industrial agriculture must be used to feed large populations– the evidence points to the contrary (see the article here on Bangladesh)– or at least to the necessity of establishing diversity based on place and using methods with long term sustainability—protecting soil fertility, biological diversity, and water tables.

  58. Gourmand’s Paradise… How beautiful it sounded! I was especially impressed by the respect and honor given to the deer that were hunted. How horrid would they be to find that many hunters these days are more interested in the chase, and give no glory to the deer, only to their prowess in hunting with the rifle… often time by inexperienced hunters who often maim the deer and leave them to die horrible and slow deaths, usually by infection! How saddened would they be to know most hunters these days do not utilize all the deer, and have no respect, honor, or feeling of commradery? How saddedned would they be to know that our hunters aim to find the best of the best, and kill those instead of let those go for future prosperity of the herd? It seems that we have forgotten this ability to respect and honor the deer… how sad!

  59. I am always a little saddened when I hear early descriptions of what many areas in North America used to be like before they were over hunted and developed. The idea that the skies were darkened by huge flocks of birds is awe inspiring. I am sorry that I did not see that world of plenty and abundance, and that many of the animals and landscapes described no longer exist.

    Indigenous people in North America are so often described as only hunters and gathers, living lightly on the land and causing very little impacts. They were really land managers and they made changes to the landscapes they lived on. Your description of the techniques the Kalapuya people used to encourage the growth of plants that provided their food, and the use of fire to maintain landscapes that attracted deer and elk for food is an amazing example of this. They didn’t take things for granted and that is very apparent in the rituals performed before and after a deer hunt. There is such a dichotomy between the Kalapuya people’s values about not wasting any part of the deer and Western societies’ wasteful lifestyle. I hope we get there.

    I have been very interested in the move toward eating local food, but I haven’t been able to participate fully because I live in Alaska. This just is not a very agricultural state because of the climate. There are areas in the state that agriculture is a part of the economy, but personal gardens and hunting and gather are an important part of Alaskan culture for both native and non-native people. Many people plant gardens in our short summers and pick a variety of berries and hunt for wild game. The problem is that there is not much fresh local produce available in the winter. I am a part of a Community Supported Agricultural Program (CSA), but it is located in the Snowqualme Valley in Washington. This is not very local, but they supply organic produce to communities all over the State of Alaska. I have heard that there are some small farms north of Anchorage that are starting to provide fruit and vegetables to people living in the area in the summer, but it is not available in my community yet. I am concerned that almost all of the food I eat has to travel at least 1400 miles and that is from Washington State! I am not sure there is much I can do about this unless I don’t eat fresh fruit and vegetables in winter, or move to place where food can grow year round.

    • Thanks for your comment, Christina. We have not seen such abundance here, but I am hoping we might do so in the future if we turn our ways around to begin to care fully for this valley once again. Excellent point about the ways in which indigenous peoples managed ecosystems–or at least managed their own actions in partnership with those systems.
      Along with you, I also hope we get to such an attitude of respect for those other lives that share our world with us.
      Good for you that you support and are supported by a CSA– amazing that a CSA in Washington is supplying Alaska. It sounds like you are doing the best you can in this–and at least you have a direct link to the land through this farm.

  60. Being a native of the Willamette Valley I have noticed the changes to the land over time. While I lived in Portland, my family lived in Springfield, so I spent a lot of time driving the area. It seems year to year that eventually development will make the valley one big corridor of homes and strip malls. Hopefully this will not be the case. I am not familiar with the mid-valley’s growth laws, but strong urban growth boundary laws should be taken on, if not already in place. It is hard to believe how much we have changed the area in only 150 years! There needs to be a large effort to reestablish an awareness of where our food and other goods come from. I think with the majority of people now living in urban areas, much of that connection has been lost. It used to be easy for most people to make that connection, as most of the population was rural in nature. Now not too much thought goes into “where did my dinner tonight really come from?”. Most people just go to the local grocery store, pick stuff up and eat it without any other thought. While many people try to be conscious of where there food comes from, and if its being raised in a sustainable way, there just needs to be more effort put towards it. If we all thought like the Kalapuya thought there would be far less waste, both of resources and of the land that produces them.

    • Hi Matt, thanks for your comment. It is indeed hard to believe how much the valley has changed in 150 years–and not for the better in earth-valuing terms. A strong urban growth boundary is one important way to make sure that the entire distance between Portland and Eugene doesn’t become a corridor of suburbs.
      A second way is to strengthen knowledge of the systems that support us– such as knowing where our food comes from.
      Thoughtful points.

  61. Hello,
    I enjoyed reading about the Kalapuyas’ burning. Its seems much different than the route we take today. The benefits they reaped far outweigh what our land managers are able to accomplish today, mostly on federal lands and only with days and days of paperwork preparation. The weather forecasts also seem to be much more accurate than our meterologists today with their years and years of formal schooling. To me, there seems to be a disconnect today. Perhaps the simplest answer is the right one.

    • Thanks for your comment, Carol. It does indeed seem that there is often a disconnect between our ways of learning and our intimacy with the natural world.
      The Kalapuya burning may have seemed simple on the surface– but it was done only under the supervision of a holy woman and carefully controlled– and as Kristen Shelton remarked with respect to the essay, “Indigenous Peoples” here, such management strategies were adaptive with respect to dynamic systems. So controlled burning to clear out the underbrush and thus take out fuel in older forests is one thing. Burning grass seed fields (putting the agricultural chemicals in them into the air) in a populated valley is something very different from burning a small patch of land to create elk habitat.
      I think one of our current problems is a one size fits all technology of any type.

  62. I knew about burning in the Willamette Valley area, but not the extend of its use; roasting the seeds, preparing the hazel wood for basketry… and I certainly did not realize the extent to which this land was *managed*.
    As a descendant of Oregon Trail pioneers and a 4th generation Oregonian, I’ve always been proud of my connection to this place. I always assumed that my ancestors came out to what they regarded as a primarily uninhabited land, and, for what they assumed to be a greater good, ‘settled’ it.
    Is there any evidence to the contrary? Is there any record that suggests that people KNEW the land was being actively managed? That, despite the lack of fences, the whole region was in fact a giant series of environment-friendly farms? If so, that makes those who displaced the indigenous people more of a hostile, occupying army than I had even imagined.
    I love the imagery of the canoe on the river, and the idea that a Kalapuya song was so recently sung and commemorated gives me hope. I’m just suffering from a huge bout of ‘White Man’s Guilt’ at the moment with this hideous thought.

    • Hi Patrick, thanks for your comment. I like Albert Camus’ statement about human actions (Camus was a French resistance fighter against the Nazis and an existential philosopher), who said that none of us is guilty but each is responsible. Jeremy FiveCrows, Nez Perce representative on the Columbia River Intertribal Fishing Commission recently gave a presentation in Eugene in which he noted that you don’t have to be Indian to listen to the land– Indians just have a several thousand year headstart on practicing that listening.
      Most of the research on pioneer materials I have done indicates that many pioneers were awestruck with the beauty and abundance of the land–but the rather backward level of the ecological science in their own culture did not allow them to recognize native management practices for what they were– just as members of non-Indian cultures did not recognize the geological information in native myths–since that information went beyond geological knowledge of Western culture in the mid-1800s and thus they did not have any context in which to perceive it.
      This served them well, since the idea of Manifest Destiny by which they licensed the takeover of Indian land would have been undercut if emigrants acknowledged that native knowledge of the land surpassed what Westerners designated as “progress”.
      However, some emigrants who first arrived in this territory took up residence next to native peoples with their permission–and had neighborly relations with them. And if they did not have the cultural context to translate native perspectives into science, they shared some human values–and sometimes– their spiritual perception of the land. But the next populous wave of pioneers, who came to the NW after the government moved indigenous people were removed to reservations to get them out of the way of white settlement, had little opportunity to experience native life in its dignity and power. Even so, some of the earliest pioneers, the “Old Settlers” on Puget Sound, for instance, helped fight legal battles on the side of the Indians rather than that on the side of the flood of newcomers in support of things like native fishing rights. And though mainstream history often portrays the settlement of the NW by whites as an us/them process, there was much conflict within non-Indian communities over the treatment of Indians. In Washington Territory, the first Governor Isaac Stevens, put some pioneers under arrest for fraternizing with the “enemy”– as he perceived it. They had shared a thanksgiving meal with their Indian neighbors. This act so angered the local volunteer militia (not under his control) that it tried to release them–and Stevens wound up declaring martial law so that he could arrest not only the members of this volunteer militia, but the members of the Territorial Court which declared the pioneers should be released, since they had not been properly charged. Must have been a pretty crowded jail!
      In the Willamette Valley and along the Southern Oregon coast, especialy up the more deserted areas up the Coos and Coquille Rivers, Indians not only escaped movement to reservations, but were sometimes hidden in non-Indian households to protect them from the violence that other settlers perpetrated on native peoples.
      Sometimes the stories of these events were a submerged part of oral history that never quite made it into the mainstream, but a few like Rogue River settler George Beeson published the stories of injustices to Indians– and was run out of local mining communities in the mid-nineteenth century– which were some of the most violent areas of the day. You might like this essay, which indicates the extent to which emigrants depended for native peoples for survival when they first arrived.
      This history is complex–and I think we need to analyze the moral questions involved as opposed to dividing up folks into good guys and bad guys. One thing is certain: takeover of the land and stifling the lifeways of others cannot be morally justified on any grounds. One way to enact our responsibility (as opposed to our guilt) is to follow the standards Thomas Berry outlines in another of our essays here for the treatment of indigenous peoples.
      I appreciate the care involved in this comment.

  63. It upsets me when I read of the reverence indigenous hunters gave to animals they hunted and the complete lack of respect of today. Indigenous peoples hunted the animals, used everything, gave thanks and respect for the life they took and helped keep the herds healthy; much like the animal predators (wolves, lions, etc). Today it’s about “trophies” and what looks good on the wall. How many trophy hunts are advertised throughout the world and which guarantees a kill? Last term I read an article about the hunting of big horn sheep. Due to the hunting of the large males, the stronger larger and better genes are not passed to future generations. The result is the big horn sheep are becoming smaller and weaker. Not sure what the plan is to “fix” the problem. This is just another example of how well our society manages the herds!

    • Thanks for your comment, Christy. The example of bighorn sheep is a pointed one. By taking the biggest and best of any species, we are reversing natural selection because of our greed for “trophies”. I think the first step in any fix is the perspective and understanding we can develop about this issue– perspective of the kind you indicate here. If we begin to think differently–and you will see examples that you are not alone in this throughout this website– we can begin (we must begin) to act differently.
      Thanks for both your thoughtfulness and compassion for our fellow creatures.

  64. I just recently watched the National Parks series on OPB, and from what I understand many places were once like the Willamette Valley. It seemed constant in every situation that the natives that lived in the area took care of the land so that it stayed in it’s prime. It’s sad to hear that places like that are no longer, just because they got “settled”. Although knowing how beautiful Oregon is now I can’t even begin to imagine how it must have looked back then.

    The quote “The first whites in the Willamette Valley did not tame a wilderness; they inherited a park.” seemed to be a theme in the National Parks series in OPB. Each place settlers came to was a glorious place. I know that a lot of damage has been done, and people are only now realizing how bad off things are – but I wonder if they can be turned around still? I absolutely agree with this article and think that we really need to start protecting the ecosystems sooner than later. If the world’s problems are going to get solved, the easiet place to start is at home (even though I think it’s perfect… but i am a little biased)

    • I hadn’t seen this series; thanks for sharing this information with us here, Becky. I find it hopeful that so much research is (finally) coming out on indigenous caretaking and management strategies with respect to the environment. Bravo to you for loving the natural perfection of our local home. I agree that there is no time better than now to begin to undo as much environmental damage as we can–and keep from adding more.
      Thanks for your comment.

  65. In reading this article I was struck with the insight shown by the Native American tribes in their land management practices. Without a formal knowledge of chemistry, soil science, or botany the tribes of the Willamette Valley learned their management practices through observation of natural events (seasonal fires caused by lightning strikes). With their cycle of burning and harvesting they continually restored the mineral rich A horizon promoting healthy growth of grasses and herbaceous plants the next season. Why then is it that several hundred years later that the educated decedents of the European settlers embrace land use practices that constantly deplete the soils of nutrients and require more and more processed additives to achieve healthy plant growth? I think we could learn a lot by following the First Nations example and return to a natural management practices and cycles as much as possible.

    • Hi Peter, you pose an important question. I think we cannot overestimate the amount of knowledge that derives from careful observation of natural cycles over thousands of years. No matter how much chemistry or soil science or botany we have, it cannot take the place of such insight. And in fact, it doesn’t need to. It is only a dualistic world that assumes we need one type of knowledge or the other. The reason why the NW tribes employ so many scientists is that they see the potential for working together here. I think following that model can only benefit us, as you indicate.
      Thanks for you comment.

  66. What a great article. I always enjoy reading about how things were when early native americans lived here and to read about the numerous flocks of birds or wild raging rivers with thousands upon thousands of salmon in them. I think it is neat how native americans used fire to control vegetation and enhance their agricultural supple. One thing that upsets me is the way people now take hunting for granted and don’t spend time cherishing the moment and are only out their for the kill and not for the memories.

    • Thanks for your comment, Mitch. I agree with you that if more people were truly present in their relationship with nature (there for the memories, as you put it), we would be making very different environmental decisions as a society.

  67. Wow, this article really opened my eyes to the positive affects of the Native populations on the earth. The concept that every part of the deer was utilized is such a foreign concept today. I enjoyed reading how they selected the deer that were the prime examples of the species and let them go so that they could continue to breed; and continue the life cycle. Every action of Native populations was for a very distinct purpose. I certainly believe we could learn a significant amount from the Native American past that could possible help us turn around the destruction that has been pervading the earth.

    • Thanks for your comment, Ashley. I certainly agree that it can’t hurt to take a look at ecological strategies whose success has been proven over time–and assess our own values and choices in the light of what that teaches us.

  68. I think the comment “The first whites in the Willamette Valley did not tame a wilderness; they inherited a park” is a very profound statement. It recognizes that the native inhabitants were not merely co-existing with nature, but that they were taking specific steps to encourage the natural diversity and health of their landscape. Their controlled burning improved the health of the timber areas while creating the necessary edges for non-timber-dwelling creatures to dwell. It is important to recognize that without the participation of the native peoples in the management of their environment, there would likely not have been the plentiful waterfowl, antelope, deer, and other creatures who do not live in the dark canopy of the tall forest. Unfortunately either the emigrants did not recognize the management efforts of the native peoples or they did not care, but they did find out the hard way after the accumulation of forest debris made some areas more prone to catastrophic fires.

    • Thanks for your comment, David. Good point about the fires: in fact, there were some devastating fires throughout the Valley and especially in the Coast Range perhaps ten years after whites places Indians on reservations–and thus stopped their management practices.
      It is a good reminder, as you put it, that the Valley would not have been what it was without the human touch– which models the ability to work with nature rather than against it– and gives the lie to the dualistic worldview that tells us we must chose either nature or humans as a priority.

  69. I read this article with particular interest having just watched a show on television that touched on the bounty of the Willamette Valley and the Pacific Northwest in general. The show was Jeff Corwin’s Extreme Cuisine:The Pacific Northwest and I was certain it was going to be nothing but fluff. Happily I was wrong. The extreme cuisine ranged from lampreys caught at Willamette Falls by members of the Grand Ronde tribe to salmon netted in the Klickitat river. Every step of the way we were reminded that the food is good here in the valley but is not as plentiful as it once was because it has been over harvested by non-tribal residents. All tribe members made sure they only took what they needed whether it was to feed their family or for a tribal gathering. They treated their catch with ceremonial deference and they made sure that we, as viewers, knew that the traditions being passed within the tribes are those of moderation and respect for the natural world. It’s refreshing to know those traditions still exist and to see them presented on mainstream television as logical, preferred methods of living.

    • Thanks for sharing these examples of the wealth of the Willamette Valley’s natural food cycles, Susan. It sounds like a great film to parallel what is in this essay. I think it is both refreshing and hopeful to see these ideas presented in mainstream tv, as you point out! Fifteen years ago I daresay one would not have seen a show like this. This is a change in the right direction.

  70. I thought that it was really interesting about how the settlers thought that they knew the land better than the native people and tried to change traditions and harvest schedules. This only turned out to be worse for both. I think that if we watch and learn what the native people do, then we can survive and keep the planet from out of danger from dying. Native people have been living off the land and surviving, but also at the same time giving back to the land so that it does not die as well. I think that if more humans had that perspective, then our planet wouldn’t be in so much danger.

    • Thank your for your comment, Patricia. I certainly concur that if more of us thought about giving back to as well as taking from earth, we would not be facing the environmental crises we currently confront. I like the recent work by Thomas Berry, Becoming Native to this Place–that indicates how we might combine modern science with a connection to place that allows us to revere it in the long run– both an ethical and a pragmatic stance, I think.

  71. Oh, what we could learn from the Kalapuya! It’s funny how the more “civilized” mankind has become, the less responsible and more greedy we have become as well. Our cruel, careless, and disgustingly avid modern ways would be what some might ironically call being qualities of an “uncivilized” society. What a funny concept, and at the same time it is not funny at all. It is very tragic, as is the ironical concept that the more intellectually advanced our species has become, the more ignorant we have become in regard to the big-picture and the consequential factors of our arrogant and selfish actions.

    Let us PLEASE learn from the Kalapuya. Evolving backwards if we must seems so much more productive and intelligent than the direction in which evolution seems to be taking our species so far. We have evolved into a heedless, arrogant, indolent, and greedy human race. I beg of us to take a few steps back and recognize the way indigenous people MUST share the land in order to survive. They take from the earth only what can be returned and replenished in a timely fashion. Let us take after their example… for we will eventually find that it will be the smartest thing we could have ever done in our current state of over-population and destruction.

    • Hi Cherisse, thanks for your comment on the Kalapuya. I think it is a hallmark of wisdom to be able to learn from the past. I don’t feel we can actually return to the past–but that we can assume the values that allowed humans to care and care well for the earth we must share.

  72. In some ways the description of the deer hunt as both sound environmental practice and religious ritual reminds me of the work of Marvin Harris in “Cows, Pigs, Wars, and Witches: The Riddles of Culture”. Much of the book focuses on the pragmatic historical reasons for various religious restrictions and rituals surrounding food. The ritualized deer hunt strikes me as being very much akin to the Jewish prohibition on pork. The prohibition on pork being backed by the scarcity and need to preserve watter in the desert, while the deer hunt kills the weak of the herd to ensure a healthy population is maintained.

    The predominate western/European view of the world has thrown quite a wrench in things on multiple levels. It’s hard to decry science too much while posting on an internet that wouldn’t exist without it, and at the end of the day I must hold reason in higher esteem than superstition. That being said the western propensity for science has vastly undercut traditional mysticism without always providing adequate understanding or institutions for doing the right thing because it’s right. For example as a matter of religious doctrine the Kalapuya had in place policies for maintaining the balance of grass lands to forest and ensuring that local deer populations remained healthy. Science has rightly dismissed the superstition of deer spirits but this has come at a high cost of setting back land use policy back hundreds of years. The trick is loosing the superstition without the wisdom.

    The discussion of the fertility of Lane county and it’s ability to provide for the population’s food needs is interesting. It’s reassuring to know that properly cultivated the land could support us in spite of the population growth and changes in plant and animal populations. But my question is, how much of these needs could be met with a properly managed native population. While it doesn’t suit European culinary traditions, just what is a sustainable yield for local deer species? In this vein the domestication of live stock is held as a corner stone of western civilization. But honestly which is more impressive managing the breeding stock and health of domesticated cattle in a closed environment, or of a group of wild deer that are able to roam freely in an uncontrolled environment.

    • You have a well-taken point about the merging of religion and pragmatics here, Peter. I think the Chehalis elders I worked with certainly understood this if we phrase this as a broader connection between ethics and pragmatics. There are all types of science. I would not use the word “superstition” to dismiss the notion of “deer spirits”, but I would hope to broaden the notion of science to include some things that lie outside modern industrial culture– which, incidentally, some modern scientists are ahead of their own mainstream culture in accepting. There is, for instance, such things as “reaction at the distance”, which physics confirms but “pragmatic” industrial “objectivity” might well disclaim.
      I think we need to rethink about implication that indigenous peoples did not have a worldview in which they understood (perhaps in some ways better than ourselves, as I point out in some of the essays here) t he difference between superstition and religion ( or reverence for more than human life). Suzuki and Knudtson do an excellent job of comparing indigenous and Western “science”– and the current UN project on indigenous knowledge certainly supports the scientific wisdom of the latter.
      I think the trick is losing our own small mindedness and superstition– info based on simple stimulus-response might be called superstition (as another anthropologist, Ruth Benedict notes) whereas true dialogue with the natural world is something else again.
      I think we should not decry science, but its uses and smallness (along with that of particular types of technology) as used in contemporary culture.
      Your last paragraph brings up the very pointed question of what kind of use of the land for production of our needs allows sustainability. A very large question indeed which entails looking into long term sustainable agriculture as opposed to short term yield that cannot go on borrowing natural resources (such as topsoil) from future crops (that is, agriculture that destroys topsoil) as analyzed in Overshoot.
      One thing we need to do in this regard is honor diversity, so that we understand production as the multiple rather than single crop yields. I don’t know about deer vs. cattle, but you may be aware that some farmers are raising buffalo and grazing cattle (there is some land more suitable to this than plowing).
      A thoughtful response!

  73. Growing up in the Willamette Valley, I have always been curious as to the Original peoples that inhabited this beautiful land. It is so inspiring to read how they managed the land with such intention and how the land gave back to them in return. It is also a good lesson to see that when the settlers came in with an attitude of take, take, take that the Earth gave them a price to pay for disturbing the rhythm that the Natives had established. A rhythm that was benefited all, but also took some discipline and wisdom.

    I definitely feel the need to sustain myself locally, from the land (or at least the state) that I live on. My family are members of a CSA out of the valley and I feel like I am doing some good by supporting a local, organic farm. I feel that many more community members are striving for this same goal of conserving the land and living off the land that we inhabit. When that is the goal, the land is tended to in a much more respectful and thoughtful manner because our direct survival is linked to it.

    • Thanks for your comment, Jessica. I think it important to eat locally if we care about habits that sustain the earth: CSAs are great! We are fortunate to be in an area where there are so many to choose from. You have indicated a link between the perceptions (leading to knowledge and care) of the local folks who have a direct connection to their land today as native people certainly did. I hope the knowledge of the latter becomes more well known!

  74. Modronna,
    In reading your descriptions of the early Willamette valley and it’s Early Peoples inhabitants I kept going back to the challenge you had set for us in this class – to critically assess our own worldview from another perspective, to step outside of our beliefs to better accept other worldview philosophies as equally valid. During this course (and beyond) I intend to take this challenge to heart. I am a product of a late 20th century highly industrialized nation. Most of my time is spent indoors. When I am hungry I go the store or to the refrigerator or to a restaurant without much though as to where my food has come from, the effort which was required to bring this food to me or the environmental consequences of said effort.

    Unlike most people living in the Willamette valley today (myself among them) the Kalapuya were very familiar with their food. Not only where the food came from but the effort which went into procuring it as well as maintaining an environment which promoted the return of such food. Whether is was deer or root crops or salmon, the Kalapuya understood that when they were able to live in harmony with their surroundings then food was a readily available resource. We can learn from their worldview philosophy. You mention research done which states that for Lane county current farmland can meet all of the vegetable, fruit and grain needs as well as 80% of dairy needs but that we have not met this potential for local food production. I am left to wonder that if the Kalapuya had a population as currently exists in the Willamette valley would they be able to meet its daily nutritional requirements using their natural partnership worldview? If there is there a population tipping point at which food harvesting practices need to change in order to meet the requirements of the population then perhaps there is also an environmental tipping point at which said practices must also change in order to meet the requirements of the environment?

    • Hi Jeff, thanks for meeting the challenging of critically assessing your own worldview.
      You raise an important point about population. Agriculture has increased the carrying capacity of the land from former mixed hunting/gathering/fishing in places like Europe. Industrialized agriculture increases it more–but only in the short term, since it also results in the degradation of soil fertility, topsoil, and water tables and climactic instability as it relies heavily on “borrowing” from future resources and/or taking resources from other regions rather than relying on one’s own. This obviously cannot continue. Here is an excellent review of OVERSHOOT on this topic. We need to find ways both to live within our natural resources budget locally if we hope for humans to do this globally. Excellent research–and use of the partnership worldview, though he does not label it such– can be found in Wes Jackson’s Becoming Native to this Place, in which he points out that the native use of his area in the Midwest not only stayed within its natural budget, but sustained a larger human population than it currently does today. The New Agricultural Movement in Bangladesh has reclaimed land formerly devastated by the “green revolution” techniques, though Bangladesh is currently subject to the new hazard of flooding in the Bay of Bengal due to rising seas from climate change.
      We certainly need to stabilize world population if we hope to live within our natural budgets– starting with populations such as our own, since a child born in the US uses fourteen times the natural resources as a child born in Africa or India– and perhaps over two dozen times the resources of one born among a people living one of the very few extant indigenous lifestyle there (as the Hadze) or in the Amazon. At the same time, we need to re-instate worldviews that led to things like the sustainable harvesting of salmon yielding seven times that of the current catch– as being done with some success by the Columbia Intertribal Fishing Commission (linked on this site)– which are also using commercially hatched (rather than wild) salmon to replenish salmon in areas where river flow was formerly dried up by industrial agriculture (as with the Umatilla) and there WAS no wild population of salmon left to return to or protect. Interestingly, such projects are combining modern science with elder knowledge, so that hatcheries designed and run by the Nez Perce, for instance, are very different from those run by the US forest service and certainly from standard commercial hatcheries– which hopefully will pick up some of these design cues, just as they are picking up cues for positive use of fire in managing forests,
      There is current research indicating both the recovered health and the increased carrying capacity of land wisely managed, with a combination of wild and humanly controlled habitat, and NOT treated to chemical pesticides, fertilizers, and genetically engineered as opposed to
      hybridized seed (Barbara Kingsolver has an apt discussion of the reason for this distinction in Small Wonder).
      What we do know is that given our current population, we cannot afford to utilize techniques which degrade the health of the land any further. We simply don’t have any to waste. What the analysis of the Willamette Valley capacity for feeding us did not take into account is the growing phenomenon of urban gardening instituted in cities everywhere. Rooftop gardens are another potential recovery of land resources in densely populated areas (though a very tiny one at this point).

      • Ah HAH.
        This is what I wanted to read, thank you Madronna.

        I feel the same way Jeff does: product of a late 20th century highly industrialized nation, time spent indoors, not thinking about where my food comes from. It all speaks to me.

        When I read your articles Madronna, I feel as if you’re asking all of us for a call to action. One that goes beyond critical thinking and understanding. Yet, I am left clueless at what to do. This response presents some current techniques that are in use right now. When I can put my critical thinking and understanding with something tangible, something I can see, I can better open my eyes to a partnership worldview.

        For example, I totally dig urban/rooftop gardens. My summer spent in Portland left me with an over-exposure to pavement and sweltering heat. Luckily for me, my reasons for being in Portland brought me to a rooftop garden for research. It’s something I’ve done assignments on in school before. I think it’s a direction that should be explored more by the city in an effort to not only add more greenery to Portland, but utilizing all of the benefits it presents.

        What are some more current projects taking place to help purify the health of the land? Are there any technological advances on a nation wide scale that are aiding in these efforts?

        • You are certainly welcome, Lincoln. You ask some great questions–there are many groups in the “links” section here who are working to do just the sorts of things you are asking about. There is not a section for new technologies per se, but peruse the categories of science, farms and gardens, and vision and action. And there is also that link for the group that assesses and critiques inappropriate technology (dangerous or toxic).
          Rooftop gardens are wonderful things for many reasons: I love what Bill McDonough says about them. They are designs on which birds can look down and recognize family.
          I heartily believe that ideas and values not only should be but are by nature linked to action–and if we truly expand how we see our world, we begin to act accordingly.

  75. This paper made me want to go outside behind my house to the open space and create my own little controlled ecosystem! I know it sounds kind of silly, but it was very interesting to read that there was (and still is, but diminished) a space in Oregon that sustained so much life when cared for properly. It makes so much sense that the controlled burn areas got rid of disease naturally and allowed for the abundance of new growth. It seems like it would be easy to designate these certain areas in each state (or within a set geological distance) and we would have SO much to benefit from!

    If we did this, would our salmon population slowly rebuild itself? Would we reduce our carbon footprint by buying local fruits and veggies that come from the local “paradise”? Would we appreciate the land and take care of it with more care than we do now? Yes!

    • Hi Katy, thanks for your comment- the questions you ask are hopeful ones in that there are organizations, indigenous and otherwise, working to effect these recoveries. Honoring the land in its potentials and spirit is something knowing such history can do for us–as you illustrate. And why not make a little permaculture garden behind your house: it doesn’t have to be done all at once; it can start small, with a native planting or two and some mulch– and of course, with avoiding pesticides and chemical fertilizers.

  76. I enjoyed this article. I remember the breathtaking beauty and extragence of the Willamette falls. The Willamette is wide and life flourishes around such massive rivers. Certainly I am a proponent of the idea that a place such as the lustrous Willamette Valley should be self-sustaining. Why should the inhabitants eat contaminated (growing, shipping, GMO) produce from other countries when they could potentially get all of their produce locally at a lower cost both financially, health-wise and environmentally? For that matter, even though most places are not as lush with life as the Willamette, we are quite able to grow various, climate-specific crops anywhere. I have an organic herb garden that takes care of itself, how many more crops will do just that? In Savannah, Ga, there is a local organic farmers market with food more fresh, wonderful and cheaper than a grocery store could ever provide plus the farmers profit more. We need to cut of the middle-man (grocery stores) and buy local produce or grow our own. Idealistically, we should take personal responsibility to take care of our yards and turn them into organic gardens…I also adored the perspective on the deer: flying away with negativity and honoring them, using every part. It is beautiful, that manner of thinking. Whenever I eat meat, I imagine the animal and give it thanks.

    • Hi Sky, I’m glad you liked this article. You ask an essential question when you ask why we would want to eat contaminated imports when we can eat healthy food grown locally. I think a good part of the answer in our structure of governmental subsidies– I have heard these called “perverse subsidies” which make it less expensive to eat some land-destroying crops grown two thousand miles away than healthy food grown locally. It is also a matter of our taste for convenience cultivated by modern advertising: we want what we want (even if it is out of season locally) and we want it now.
      It is great that you are so fortunate as to have a local organic farmers market. In the Willamette Valley we are also blessed with farmer’s markets and CSAs in great number.
      Considering (and giving thanks to) the lives that support ours is a wonderful practice. And I, too, love the image of the deer.

      • Hi Professor,

        it is interesting that you bring up how we are cultivated by modern advertising to be desirous of out-of-season crops. Brilliant point: while people are in a highly suggestible state they are prompted to want what advertisers promise and they promise the world it seems. Yet what a price we pay for it is tough to grow out-of-season crops: more money, more poison and worse-tasting food.

        We are a foolish society destroying the planet. We are reverent of nothing, contemplative of nothing, yet we do so knowingly and without innocence, without any manner of justification. We ought to hope that time is not cyclical and that our lives shall end in this life for Buddhism would well say we will come back and pay for our destruction!

        • Thoughtful points here, Sky. I like to think that our diversity gives us some hope: that is, that ALL of us are not as destructive as particular worldviews gear us up to be.

  77. What struck me most about the article was the end where Armstrong talks about the calorie intake and that the current farmland could support out needs. This struck me as I am also studing weight loss. As American’s we eat way to much, thus leading to obesity in many. Just this act of eating to much can be tied to how we farm. If we would only take in what we need for optimal health, we would not need the amount of farmland that many have. We could balance our needs better.

    This article brings that home. Many before us did not have an obesity issue, and that is because they ate what nature provide, and nature provide enough. If we can get back to the concept of enough to make us healthy and happy, rather than more than the ‘Jones’, I feel that we would be able to better protect our enviroment.

    • Thanks for your comment, Adeena. There is also the pesticide and toxics issue as related to obesity. Yes, eating (especially fast food) is certainly related to this epidemic, but we have recently discovered “obesegens” — pesticides such as endocrine disrupters that harm the body’s ability to maintain a healthy weight.
      Overconsuming food is an issue–but obesity is also linked to poverty, in that foods healthier in nutrition and lower in calories may be difficult to afford for parts of our population. That is one reason that urban gardening and organic farmer’s markets can be so important. Check out this essay on this site, if you are interested. There is also a link to a site under “consumer info” that addresses the issue of obesegens.

  78. The history of the Willamette Valley, once named “gourmand’s paradise,” was news to me. I have never heard this term before. After reading this article, it is apparent that looking back towards history would be a good lesson in developing our land in the future. I live close to the Oregon City falls, and have visited Salmon Creek Falls before. Currently you do not see much, if anything, resembling salmon runs. This article highlights the point how if we look to the indigenous people to help educate productive historical practices, our land and ourselves, would benefit greatly, with an abundant luscious land that could sustain or future agricultural needs. Managing these lands, as they did in the past, with time honored values of respect and reciprocity would allow the land in turn to care for us.

    • Thanks for your comment, Marla. As you note, the past can teach us about the potentials, constraints, and ethics in developing this land for the future. Respect and reciprocity might certainly serve us in the future as they did in the past.

  79. Madronna,

    Thank you for this encouragement to all of us to restore our consideration for the earth. I love so many things about the Willamette Valley and realizing again, that if certain trends continue so much of that beauty could be lost forever. So much of it has already been lost and it is up to the current generation to maintain what is left of the natural resources that are provided by the land. Not only our physical needs of food and shelter, but also our spiritual needs of feeling connected to the earth, it’s cycles and our mutual dependency. I think that the comment about how the first whites to the Willamette Valley “didn’t tame the wilderness, they inherited a park” was such a true statement. I would rather see nature with a respect and appreciation for what it is, what it means and how if functions rather than as something that has been provided for my own recreation.

    • Hello Alyssa, thanks for your comment. As you indicate we stand at a crossroads. Much of the beauty of the Willamette Valley might be lost if we continue particular development practices–or the land might become more resilient and vibrant if we make the right decisions. As you also note, what is at stake not only food and shelter, but meeting our spiritual needs–and our needs for community as well, since our connections to one another are linked to our connections to the natural world. This is exemplified in many urban gardens, for instance. You have an essential point in the distinction between seeing the land only as what it might do for us rather than its intrinsic value.

  80. I was fortunate enough to take a history and ecology of the Columbian River Basin class last quarter and was consistently amazed at the information that I was exposed to in regards to how the indigenous people utilized the land. It was in fact through respect and reciprocity that the lands and species within it flourished. A partnership between the local communities and the land where they resided allowed for understanding and thus sustainability. We have become so disconnected from the land in which live and rely in for resources that this value of understanding and respect is lost. We are feeling the affects of this detachment.

    Thank you for the wonderful article.

    • You are certainly welcome, Dana. I appreciate the comment. It sounds like you had a great class. We have indeed become disconnected from the land to our detriment. I am heartened by the fact that more and more modern scholarship is investigating and honoring such indigenous knowledge– and the results of the values entailed in it.

  81. I think its cool to learn how people lived in a time when you had to work with the land to survive. Unlike today, the Kalapuya people knew that they relied on the land to give them food, shelter, and the means to survive. Because of this pact they managed their resources and sought to not abuse what was being given to them. By taking care of the land and not taking more than they needed, they insured that they would be able to provide for themselves for many generations. Today people take for granted and forget where the things they need to survive come from. These days you can simply walk into a grocery store to get what you need without really thinking about the costs. The mentality being that it will always be there. Many disregard the impact we really have on the world around us.

    • Thanks for your comment, Travis. We still get our living from the land– it is just not, as you note, obvious to most of us. It is time to reclaim that intimacy and the knowledge that goes with it if we hope to return to the sustainability that goes with these.

  82. While I have never been to the Willamette Valley personally, I can imagine how far the area has degraded since the Kalaypuya lived there. The native tribes of the Americas had a foresight and tradition of self preservation that is absent from our current society. Basic tenants of sustainability and resource management are not taught to children anymore, because there is such a vast disconnect between where their food comes from and the dinner table. Given that most Americans buy their food from the grocery store and don’t often think twice about its origin, there is seemingly little concern for how the food is produced as long as it tastes good. Rather than having reverence for the animals hunted and using every part respectfully. Modern cattle and hog farms butcher millions every day, trying to keep up with the ravenous demands of a growing human population. Respect for the animals being consumed seems to be a vague and lost concept in the factory farm. Given my experience, I would be inclined to say that the general attitude at the factory farm is one more of dishonor and disrespect to the creatures being killed. As the planet’s population grows, we become less and less able to support ourselves in balance with nature. As we apparently see ourselves as the dominators of nature, we continue endlessly consume any and every resource with relentless inertia. This leads one to wonder if it is even possible to nourish so many people in an ongoing way that is in balance with the environment. It seems to me, that without a dramatic shift in our industrial practices, we will discontinue as the planet continues on without us.

    • Thanks for your comment, Joshua. I think we care about self-preservation–but in an irrational way; we place this in the realm of egoism, competition, and displacing other cultures and species with our own. It is as you indicate, an ultimately self-destructive approach with its relentless consumerism and disjunction from the land (or even the knowledge of ) that feeds us. The irony is that the very industrial process that has gone hand in hand with the rise in population–and disconnected us from the land– makes it all the more imperative that we treat our land with care and respect. We cannot afford to waste or despoil it ever–and even more so with the population we now have. Some have named this ecological age the “anthropocene”– the one in which humans have dominance. But as you point out, this could as easily be the last age in which humans even exist if we don’t get smarter and more caring both.

  83. This article has made me realize how ignorant I am of the many ways in which indigenous peoples maintained sustainability for thousands of years. This ignorance may be traced back to the European explorer’s, my ancestors, disregard for the respect and reciprocity that fostered such a “gourmand’s paradise.” If the Willamette Valley had been treated as “a library of knowledge” instead of a resource to be used up, the early pioneers may have adopted the partnership attitude of the Kalapuya people, and been able to pass along the techniques used to create such an abundant landscape. However, like the ecosystems in question, this knowledge is not yet lost forever, as evidenced by the production estimates for Lane County farmland. Maybe the evolution of such ignorance was a necessary step to overemphasize the interconnectedness of life. I think with the modern advances in technology and the lessons learned from the Kalapuya people, the “gourmand’s paradise” could once again be the fertile and abundant valley that we so desperately need it to be.

    • Hi Jordan, thanks for your insightful comment. There is a pointed summary of the historical dynamic here–and a hopeful point about our potential for the future. It would be grand indeed if our ignorance became a step on the path to re-creating a partnership with the land. At the most basic level, learning from the past is a hallmark of true wisdom– and we have certainly set ourselves up to learn.
      Though we are facing much ecological devastation in the modern age, I agree with you that all is not lost–or lost forever. But we have some work to do to make it so!

  84. Its ignorant to think that just because a place is so pleantiful with resources, that it is not sensitive to change. A lot of time goes into managing a natural area so that people can not only live there, but sustain its resources so future generations can live there as well. Its just like any job you get; you may be able to go in and start doing somebody else’s job, but over time, the person that worked there before learned little tricks to make the job more efficient and learned what not to do. This is the same for the Willamete valley. The Kalapuyas knew that by burning the brush they could not only get rid of the poison oak, but they burned the grasshoppers that would devistate crops, which they could eat, it roasted the sunflower seeds for them, it shortened the brush so elk and deer would come there, and it put nutrients back into the soil. They new exactly when to do this and what it would do. The area would not have been as plentiful if not for their collective knowledge.

    • As you point out, it is indeed ignorant to think that because a place is abundant and fertile, we can do with it what we will… I think we can take this further and point out the folly of indicating that because a land seems so verdant and lovely, we have no need to respect it!
      There is indeed work in taking care with our natural resources– we can’t do anything we want and expect all to turn out swell, anymore than we tell our children to behave however they wish and someone else will pick up the pieces (or they can just go elsewhere and use up someone else’s household goods). I like your analogy of those who lived here for all those years having picked up the “tricks” to make the job of living with the land easier and more effective.
      Thanks for your comment, Benj.

  85. I found it exciting that the Willamette Valley has the capability of meeting all of its inhabitant’s caloric needs. The possibility of Western Oregon feeding itself sustainably means that we are the leaders of this revolution. I feel very fortunate to live here, but also a sense of responsibility to future generations. Unlike the village of Gaviotas, we live in a very forgiving and supportive environment. We are priviledged, and we have no excuses. If we don’t lead the way to sustainable food practices, who will? If not now, when?

    • Great questions, Morgan. We are blessed indeed to be living amidst so many natural riches. You make a great point: if we can’t express leadership in caring for this land in a sustainable way, who will? Thanks for the comment.

  86. I often wonder if how much more we could have learned about living with the planet instead of just on it, if our world would be in a better place? If the Europeans would have been better at living with the earth, would they have needed to find more space? What if the pioneers would have taken lessons from the people of the Kalaypuya, would modern civilization be healthier for it? The Kalaypuya people weren’t healthier due to disease that wiped out many of their people with the arrival of the immigrants. And if the pioneers would have been willing to learn more about living with nature, they may not have had issues with the grasshoppers or lost crops. Still, we have modernization ways now, and what we have learned with modernization is how living with the earth instead of just on the earth is now, as it was during the Kalaypuya days, the best medicine for humanization and our planet. It’s just a matter of applying our modernization ways to work, to hopefully replenish out planet for what it needs to survive for itself and for us.

    • Thanks for your comment, Judilyn. If by modernization you mean our current technology and way of life, I think that we cannot keep all these–and the values underlying them– if we also hope to address our current environmental crises. We will have to make some serious changes. As Einstein once observed, we cannot use the same tools to repair a problem as we used to create it.
      We will need new knowledge and new cultural choices– but we certainly cannot afford to throw out any knowledge that will allow us to understand how to live within natural systems– rather than “on” them (simply using them to carry us without any consideration on our part)–as you put it.

  87. I’m lucky enough to live in a house that has room in the back for a garden. There is an intimate feeling I get when I put my hands into the earth and hand till the soil. The sun shining down on me soothes me and I feel at ease. Having a close bond to this small portion of my food source and knowing that no chemicals touch any part of the process helps me feel connected to nature. I can see firsthand what effect I have. If I don’t sow the seeds at the right time, the plant won’t bear very much fruit. If I try to plant too much in a small area, the soil won’t be able to support adequate growth. If I tend to the weeds, water adequately and use organic fertilizer, the Earth gives back to me and it hopefully gets something from me.

    • Congratulations on your garden, Lance. It sounds like you have some lovely ideas in terms of tending to it. Can you say how this is linked to something in the article?

      • It was mostly a reflection on the last three paragraphs; a small scale example of using resources close to me to help reduce my impact on the environment. I guess it didn’t come through in my writing but I was also trying to indicate the fertility of the soil here, even in my own back yard, and how well plants grow here. I see a lot of yards that people spend a lot of time on. Imagine if instead of people maintaining and watering their lawns, they grew their own vegetables.

  88. A thought that came to mind while reading this was, how we have not yet learned to best utilize the space we have. For instance farm land, it is dwindling of course, but as you mention the grass seed grows along I5 I wonder even with space shrinking is this item the best use of this land? Would vegetables and fruit be a better use of the land? Livestock? An example I think of is a co-worker of mine who has a house on a little tiny lot in NE Portland. These barely have a place to park a car, let alone any kind of yard. He planted a garden in this front yard as he did not have a backyard. After much complaining from the neighbors he basically confronted them on the issue finding their only issue to be the look of it. So he built a fence. Regardless, I think this plays into doing what you can with what you have. The best use of the space at this time.

    • Thoughtful point, Bernadette. We need to spend some time accommodating ourselves to the land in such a way that we use it for what it is most suited for…I think your friend in Portland has the right idea.

  89. I loved this article. My tenth grade American History class in Eugene, Oregon, began with a unit on the Kalapuya, as well as other Oregon and Northwest indigenous people. Historically, it is exciting to see that these advanced cultures are finally getting the recognition that they deserve. They were truly an advanced culture. I also attended a presentation by a U. of O. anthropology professor who is a specialist in early Oregon populations. Turns out there was an established civilization here thousands of years before previously thought. If I remember correctly, experts now think that the “history” should be pushed back to 15,000 years ago. History majors, help me out, but I think that is about 7000-8000 years before the ancient pyramids of Egypt (?) Anyway, back to the early people of Oregon, if you go to the Natural History Museum at the University of Oregon, you can see the oldest pair of shoes in the entire world!! They were found in a cave in Central Oregon.

    • Thanks, Taylor. I think you have a well-taken perspective in calling these peoples “advanced”– something we can hardly call a way of life that is destroying the natural systems on which we rely. The Natural History Museum is a great place for anyone who lives in Eugene to visit if they have not.

  90. It is truly sad when I read descriptions of the Americas from one hundred and fifty years ago, and I’m not even able to effectively create a picture in my mind of what it looked like. There was another example of a lush paradise that was slowly destroyed over a two thousand year period on Easter Island. The theory was that because the natural depletion of the environment was happening at such a slow pace spanning over several generations that the settlers were unable to see the slow loss of harmony with nature. We can’t even use this as an excuse in the United States. In the length of history we can be compared with a locust swarm moving over a crop and totally destroying it. The difference is the white settlers had absolutely no belief in harmoniously living in balance with nature. They saw it as a resource and opportunity to be exploited, and that is what we have done for over the last few hundred years. It could be argued that while the natives lived in balance with nature for thousands of years, they failed to progress at the rate by which we have. If we use up all our natural resources due to apathy and greed and eventually must either die or flee our planet what progress have we really made? It is very interesting to think of natives viewing acres and acres of land in much the same way we would nurture our small home gardens. They were capable of learning, thinking, and changing their land to the benefit of all, and they took this responsibility and flourished with it. I hope that once again we can change our views and realize that even though we may not specifically “own” land, it is still our responsibility as human beings to find ways to improve the natural balance, not destroy it.

    • Many argue that sustainability belies progress: if we are just able to live within the natural world without using it up, we won’t progress. As you point out, Damien, this is a peculiarly uncritical notion of progress that sides with planet-destroying “greed and apathy”. Your analogy that native peoples’ often extended their caretaking to the larger household of earth comes up again in this essay.

  91. It’s pretty amazing how much has changed in the Willamette Valley since then. It is hard to imagine the place while looking at the industrialization that is occuring there now. I find one of the most fascinating things about Native American was there use of fire to control overgrowth, grasshopper outbreaks, and make it easier to walk around the forests. It seems like that could still be a benefical practice today, but we have developed such a fear of fire and the destruction it can cause. In some places I think that this fear is causing even bigger fires to burn and ravage areas. All-in-all it wouls have been very cool to see so many camas lilies that it looked like a shimmering lake.

    • Indeed it would have been wonderful to see such verdant landscapes, Hannah. Perhaps if we can envision them in our imaginations, we will someday be able to recreate them through our consideration for the natural world that sustains us.

  92. I found the essay on the Kalapuya to be very insightful and somewhat inspiring as well because it shows what happens when someone cares for something and puts the time into making sure they have a sustainable life and habitat. In return they receive a “gourmand’s paradise.” To me, what made the Willamette Valley such a flourishing place was the Kalapuya’s relationship with the area in which they lived. They took care of it as if it was them and when someone asked who their people were, they gave them the name of their land, “the valley of the long grasses.” Their relationship with the Willamette Valley is truly inspiring. Especially with the way they deal with their hunt. I found it very interesting how they would sing a song to the deer five days before the hunt, “honoring it and declaring” their good intensions. In return they hope the elk and deer would come back again. It seems if the Kalapuya did things for a reason and not just because they could. They burned areas in such a way that would optimize their hunt and when they would hunt they released the finest animals “before they took their own kill,” which would assure the finest quality herds. I wonder though, “What would this world be like if everyone had somewhat similar values of the Kalapuya? Would there still be global warming? Would there be a world food crisis? Or would we have this struggle with sustaining resources?” I know one thing though. We don’t value our land like the Kalapuya did. Suzuki writes in “Wisdom of Elders”, when he speaks of immigrants to the new world, “Land to them was a commodity, a resource to be bought, exploited, developed, and sold.” These “perceptions and values” were also passed down to many Americans. It’s also interesting when Suzuki speaks of his grandparents who came from Japan to America where he writes, “My grandparents had no sense of the sacredness of the land as they might have had in Japan. They were too busy making a living.” This chain reaction could be why this world is what it is today. It’s almost like “the land of opportunity” has become its own melting pot. We take more then we give back, with the idea that this world is limitless. After reading this essay, I think it’s safe to say that the world could learn a thing or two from the Kalapuya people.

    • I agree that what the land yields as a result of our care –such as this “gourmand’s paradise”– is inspiring, Dylan. I don’t think we would have global warming in the Kalapuya scenario, since there wasn’t any fossil fuel burning. Great contrast between the ways of valuing or not valuing the land. Thanks for a thoughtful response.

  93. I find Kalapuya land-use practices very fascinating. They truly understood the consequences of their actions. I feel this begins with how they view themselves; they seem to go beyond a view of themselves as humans in nature and identify directly with nature. Anything applied to Kalaypuya would in their view refer both to them and their environment as one in the same. Another thing I find interesting about their practices is that they are void of greed. Without a modern western view on genetics they were able to appreciate biodiversity. The way they hunted, I feel, incorporates both scientific and social wisdom. Choosing the strongest deer to let go shows they understood and cared both about nature and themselves. On one level they were respecting natural selection by killing deer that were weakest. They also demonstrated their social advancement by not killing large deer as trophies or as a demonstration of their superiority over each other or nature.

    • I like your connection between the ways in which we view ourselves and our ethical systems, Brandon. Wouldn’t it be great if we also chose to work inline with natural selection and to express our social maturity in our choices?

  94. Dr. Holden,

    This is a beautiful reminder of what can be accomplished if respect is given to every part of our world. The Kaylaypuya were respectful of the earth, nature and all other species that share the earth, and through this respect were able to understand how to use what was available without destroying, disrespecting or abusing their neighbors. The environment thrived under their careful interaction with it. It reminds me of a report I wrote about the salmon runs and their current health and vitality compared to how they were before “Americans” immigrated west and began to use the plentiful resources as if there was no limit. The limits have not been reached, but they have been imtroduced by misuse and a severe lack of desire to understand how we can live with nature. This was a wonderful example of how broad and rich were the relationships between the original inhabitants of this area.

    Maria Gilmore

  95. It is wonderful that you have all of this information about the past. My mother and I have tried to research our area in the northern panhandle of West Virginia but we have found little about the native Mingo tribe who lived here. The river has been dammed up and that has buried their original settlements and land. The rest of what exists is covered by hideous factories and a gambling casino.

    • Thanks for your comment, Dana. Unfortunately, I haven’t any leads on finding out your local history. But there just might be stories kept by someone somewhere thereabouts– though it may not be easy to locate them. You also might try local historical archives.
      I did find thishttp://www.shgresources.com/wv/timeline/: it mentions the Hopewell cultures– if your local culture was related to them, there is a substantial amount of information written on these peoples.

  96. Hi Madronna,

    I am trying to imagine the Willamette Valley and its beauty. I am not so fortunate here in Texas to really have such a place. As I read your entry here, I am noticing many similarities with other Native American tribes in not only the Pacific Northwest, but in other areas of the country. Prior to what I call the Euro-American invasion, many different peoples had this type of thing happen to their lands also. The Plains Indian tribes had the land they had worked for years taken away. The Miwok tribes in California had their lands taken away from them by the Spanish. It is unreal to me to see what can be done to something that was so perfect. This article reminds me of the Haida tribe in the Wisdom of the Elders. They had respect for the land, and all that lived in it. The tribes were so careful as to not overharvest, or misuse the land. Upon the Euro American invasion, all the work and love of the land was overshadowed by greed and power. There is a point that the land will quit giving back. In some cases, I think that has already happened. The lack of waste on the part of the Kalapuha meant that they did not have to overuse the resource of the deer, or the crops. This type of use of the land is a great strategy for us all to follow. We have overused the natural resources in this land for far too long. It is time to adopt the envionmental strategies of the Native American tribes. We would have a much better world.

    • Thanks for sharing this thoughtful perspective, Scott. Obviously, we cannot expect the land to continue (as you put it) to give back to us if all we do is take–and take too much– from it.

    • Thanks for sharing this thoughtful perspective, Scott. Obviously, we cannot expect the land to continue (as you put it) to give back to us if all we do is take–and take too much– from it.

  97. I have lived in the Willamette Valley for five years and I had no idea the complexity of the indigenous people’s partnership with the land. I suppose it really doesn’t come as a surprise to me when I think of how long humans have lived in this emerald valley and how pristine it must have been for all those years. It is amazing how different the burning practices of the Kalapuya were when I think about the burning practices that take place around here in the summer.
    I agree that the possibility of the valley reviving its legacy would depend on us caring for it as we once did. Never have I lived in a place with that kind of potential. The deserts of Idaho from which I hail depend on irrigation for food that would grow abundantly in the Willamette Valley. I am glad to be living in a place so progressive and so rich in resources.

    • We will hope that the people of this valley respond in terms of their progressive potential, Ashley. We are blessed with that most important of all resources– water. And those who live on all landscapes need to learn how to live within their natural resources “budget”. Thanks for your comment.

  98. It is so funny the discrepancies you discover when you begin studying the culture and worldviews of Native Americans. Many people start with the very uniformed idea that the Indians weren’t even using the land and so it was not only okay, but necessary, for European immigrants to take the land and use it to its full potential. In hindsight it is apparent that using it to its full potential meant stripping it of valuable resources with no plan for sustainability.
    When I was younger I bought heavily into this view and I lamented to friends that I was envious of Europeans because they had so much history there, while here in the United States we had nothing left of the Native American cultures that once existed. I have since discovered that what I enviously saw was the visible history of Europe (ie cathedrals, churches, city walls, roads etc) and this led me to assume that since we didn’t have similar, immediately apparent proof of historical habitation, our area was lacking in its own history.
    For these reasons it is entirely fascinating to learn that not only were there numerous Native American groups living in our area before Europeans immigrated here, but that these groups were living here comfortably, in complete harmony with the environment.
    It is also nice to see the answer to a previous post I made where I inquired about the feasibility of local land supporting us in a truly sustainable manner after the harm we have done. The answer I am referring to is that, according to the article above, if we restore ecosystems to their previous balance we can meet nearly all of our dietary needs right in this area.

    • Thanks for your comment, Spencer. Unfortunately, such stereotypes (that native peoples did not use the land) provided license both to oust them and ravage the land (as you note, the definition of “use” in this context is close to “destroy”). I like your historical perspective. I think that a true instance of wisdom is being able to learn from the past.

  99. This essay gives a great example of two very different worldviews – one in which all pieces of the earth are interconnected and interdependent, and another in which the world is divided into many parts, each with their own purpose. The Willamette Valley, like so many places in the world (particularly since the industrial age) has seen and been effected by both sets of values. This is evident in Esther Stutzmans stories about the controlled burning practices of the Kalapuya people, as she describes the Valley before and after European settlement. It gives us a picture of how re-implementing Native American values and environmental strategies even on a local level can have huge impact on both environmental health and human and natural productivity.

    • Thanks for sharing this overview of the historical effects of differing worldviews, Kate. What steps do you think are most important in implementing needed values and strategies that yield both environmental health and human and natural productivity?

  100. A point made in the article, which I feel has significant import is how the Kalapuya hunters sang to the deer for five days before hunting. Respect and care, two values that keep coming up in our readings, abound in that act. More significant is the fact that they rounded up the deer and let the biggest and strongest (healthiest) go. I live in an area where getting the biggest animal during hunting season is the goal. The bigger the better, the more points the better. It has only recently occurred to me how insane this thinking in when talking about sustainability. I actually think it was spurred by a previous studen’ts response to your article. If we hunt to own the biggest trophies then aren’t we diluting down the genes in these animals thus weakening a species. It seems like something that needs to be considered soon. People who don’t hunt around here, but do love to watch the local animal population have noticed and increase in tumors in the deer, elk and moose population. Obviously I can’t know what the cause is but it does make me wonder if the strongest of these animals have been hunted and we are seeing the results of a diluted genetic pool.

    Another point you made in your article that was amazing to me was how fast the environmental balance achieved by the Kalapuya was disturbed by settlers. The Kalapuya had found a way to maintain their environment through burning and once that was no longer allowed, the grasshoppers immediately took over. Interesting that the mentality of the settlers probably didn’t allow for them to acknowledge the wisdom of the Kalapuya so missed an opportunity to expand and better their farming methods. This seems to lead back to some of the things David Suzuki was saying in “Wisdom of the Elders” about how Native knowledge was seen as ‘anecdotal and folkloric, less credible than those of the ‘experts’.” I realize that he was not speaking of happenings specific to this time frame or area but I can’t help but think that the settlers thought of the Native American population as ‘less than’, ‘savage’, and ‘uneducated’ so to learn from them would have been outside of what might have seemed reasonable. Really, I don’t know if these thoughts have merit but it does seem likely as otherwise it seems as though many of the practices that had sustained ‘the gourmands paradise’ would have been embraced and continued.

    • Certainly it does not add to the robust nature of a herd when the strongest are culled from them over generations. Tumors have also been linked to toxins (such as herbicides sprayed on forest land or home yards). Sandra Steingraber’s Living Downstream is coming out soon–and will make a good many of these connections, connections that have caused Canada and the EU to outlaw lawn chemicals we are still blithely spreading around.
      The thing about “anecdotes” is that they are told in story and experience– and retold through generations if they are meaningful to a community. This means that they are both experiential knowledge (different from “objective” knowledge) and knowledge owned by and judged by a community.
      Thanks for your comment, Sue.

  101. What a sophisticated and developed relationship with the land. It reminds me of the relationship the Maidu people had with the Central Valley in California. From the stories I have heard, it was sort of like an Eden. They also performed burns to maintain Oak woodlands, had fishing weirs, and practiced game management, and still had ample time left to enjoy each other, and just “hanging out”.

    It is crazy how much fertile land is being used to produce grass seed….and what about the nursery industry in the Willamette Valley? Not only is fertile land being used for grass seed and nursery crops, but is also being wasted with people’s water gulping, expansive lawns. Just think how much locally grown food we could produce if everyone had a kitchen garden.

    It is so sad how quickly European settlers squandered this delicate and ingenious balance. No good can come from dominating the land, and in reality, it doesn’t cooperate but instead revolts quickly. There was, and still is so much opportunity to live in harmony with our native ecosystems, and I can only hope that people are waking up to this on a large scale.

    • I like your observation that this the Kalapuya management of the valley was both sophisticated and developed–as well it might be over the thousands of years of traditional life here. I agree that no good can come from dominating the land, and I think (or perhaps a better word is hope) that we learn how best to protect as well as use our fertile lands. Thanks for your comment, Laida.

  102. Dr. Madronna Holden,
    What struck me most obviously and immediately in this article was how the Kalaypuya have managed to keep the Willamette Valley so well maintained while we, in an age of technology and power are not able to do such a simple task as preserve our own habitat. While I understand the ever growing population can hinder the conservation and harmony of the environment around us, it is completely unnerving to see the continuous changes (for the worse) being done in the area to this day. It seems like such a simple placement of effort and respect, as we can learn from the people who lived here many years ago.
    I also found it interesting to what extent the Kalypuya had manipulated and groomed the land. This article mentioned controlled burning which brought more life to the Willamette Valley, which I never thought would have such a positive effect on the environment. The natives seemed to have so many simple techniques that allowed them to thrive in the area, but that also did not have a negative effect on the land, such as the controlled burning and selection of hunting. The simplicity of these concepts makes me wonder why we as such an ‘advanced’ culture cannot adopt them to protect our fellow living creatures in the Willamette Valley and around the world.

    • Thanks for sharing a thoughtful response, Cheyanne. Your query indicates a challenge for those of us in “advanced” cultures: to create technology that is just as good for the environment, which, in turn, I think we will only be able to do by changing our value system toward care and partnership rather than competition.

  103. I really like this article because it is close to home with me. I have lived in the valley most of my life (26 yrs old) and have witnessed firsthand the development that the valley is constantly threatened by. All my fields, sledding hills, biking, bow and arrow ground, and woods that I spent years as a kid are gone. This area is in the West Salem area along Doaks Ferry rd and I am amazed at the pace of development there. The reason I bring this up is the author says we still might be able to resurrect the gourmand’s paradise, but I believe we have just a skeleton of that and that is all we have left to fight for. Still worth the fight though!
    I like the idea of determining your local output of calories and integrating it with the local economy. This idea may have some teeth to it because most people like the idea of eating locally, the environmental damage is less and it just might provide the kind of incentives local agricultural landowners might respond to.
    I am undecided in the idea of embracing the Kalapuya tradition of burning. I question if we could ever do it like them in the first place (with all the restrictions and public concern these days), but I also question the flawed inherent idea that this act is natural. The Kalapuya changed an ecosystem to their own liking and since their land management goals are not dictated to the land anymore, one could argue that the valley is just reverting back to its old self now.

    • Thanks for your comment, Zachary. I agree that we shouldn’t do wholesale burning of the valley these days– though such controlled burns have been used with some success in forest service management to burn out underbrush and prevent hot burning fires–and some native elders recently advised this policy in the Oregon coast range. I agree with you about trying to raise and buy our food locally and the need to more carefully assess development.
      This article is meant not to indicate that we should go back to all the techniques of indigenous peoples, but we could let such values guide us, and pay some attention to indigenous ecological knowledge as well.

  104. This article is an excellent illustration of what happens to our local environment under different management/partnership styles. The first style showcased here was that of the Native people who had an intimate connection to the living land they were a part of and relied on for survival. The second style was clearly unique to those foreigners who had come into the land and attempted to live off of it without having any intimate knowledge of how it worked, or what the local earth they were moving onto needed in order to thrive. It is amazing to see how much of a difference these two styles have made on our local environment and its ability to remain healthy. The distinction of simply seeing yourself as either a *part* of the local environment versus seeing yourself as a separate entity from the land that is providing for those living on it (self included) has amazing implications.

    I must also say that on a personal level, I’m quite surprised to read that Lane County could “provide for all of our vegetable, fruit, and grain needs, as well as eighty per cent of our dairy needs,” as Dan Armstrong states. Unfortunately, I would have not guessed this possible without such an article as this one. It is especially inspiring to think that we can still rely on our local economy to meet our needs, and that while damage has been done, it is not irreversible.

    • You have hit key points here that impinge directly on our decision to make wise ecological decisions in our ecological niche– the Willamette Valley. I think stats like Armstrong’s can affirm a vision of change that is already being enacted by the many organic farms and urban gardens springing up around us.

  105. This article highlights just how valuable worldviews of indigenous people really are. Imagine how different our world would be now if we had only understood how important it is to see the value in the worldviews of indigenous cultures. The thousands of years of experience and collective knowledge that is specific to individual ecosystems is just too valuable to ignore. Now we facing the consequences that ignorance as fuel loads continue to build up in forests that were managed for many, many years by people just like and including the Kalapuya. Our past arrogance and inability to see the innate value in other cultures continues to impact us today. I especially appreciated this quote, “We need to protect ancient habitat as a library of knowledge about the operation of healthy ecosystems that might otherwise be lost forever.” How true!

    • Hello Molly, thanks for reminding us that of the types of knowledge we cannot afford to ignore. We are sadly suffering the consequences of such ignorance– and the only thing that can cure this is respect for all the knowledge built on historical success of both ecosystems and human partnerships with ecosystems.

  106. It is fascinating to me to hear stories about the place in which I live. It seems to me that the Kalapuya villages really had a grasp on things according to their legacies. From creating marshes to attract birds and producing more root crops when they harvested. They were able to provide for their land as their land was able to provide for them. This Gourmand’s Paradise had an abundance of nuts, fruits, vegetables, deer, and fish, but as a result of our differences in science and technology today we don’t see the abundance as the Kalapuya people once did.

    • Hi Angela, thanks for your comment. Changing our understanding of the abundance available through natural sources rather than the presumed scarcity that supposed forces us to “need” self-destructive technologies such as gmos is a very important issue.

  107. I feel like this article ties in very well with your other article about partnering with the natural world, and further describes ways in which we can learn from the peoples who inhabited this land before us. I found it especially interesting to find out that we have all the resources we would need to be able to support ourselves within our own local area. This was a fact that I was not aware of. Knowing that this has been done before by the indigenous people of the Willamette valley should give us even more hope for our environmental futures. If we could accomplish the task of becoming more reliant on our own local resources by using the examples of previous inhabitants, we could take things a step further and become a role model for people all over the country.
    Just as when I read your other article (previously mentioned) it disheartens me to know that I may never be able to see the natural wonders that were once predominant in this area, even though I have lived here my entire life.

    • Hi Amy, it is disheartening for all of us to think that we and our grandchildren may never be able to take in the “gourmand’s paradise” that this valley was in pioneer times. However, it is my hope that we can change this. The group of those in Portland who are removing pavement and recovering the ground for planting (depave.org) seems to me a move in the right direction.

  108. Dr. Holden makes so many important points in this essay about understanding native cultures and the natural world. It took a long time to learn from the natural landscape. This knowledge was handed down and became engrained into their culture. The blue sea of camas was an important food source, and the woman learned from the older women how to dig the roots, so that their harvest the following year would be good. The care and consideration for the landscape was one of respect. The native people do not have the same “ownership” concept, but think of it as their responsibility. They see the land in which they live belonging to itself, and they are all connected to one another.
    The Kalapuya canoe and seasonal burning are other examples of traditions, knowledged gained over long periods of time, as well as being connected with the earth.
    I think buying locally grown foods is a simple thing that we can start doing now. Learning to do for ourselves, provide and care for our families and the land we are responsible for, are steps that we can take in a positive direction.

    • Hi Erin, thanks for sharing your steps in a positive direction (buying locally). And for reminding us of the importance that passing on knowledge between generations plays in maintaining a fertile and abundant ecosystem in concert with our own lives here.

  109. Much of what happened to the Willamette Valley after emigrants arrived reminds me of a relatively new theory in forest management. Last spring I took a forestry class in which I was introduced to the concept of “disturbance-based management.” As I understand, people are finally accepting the mistakes of what the past century of fire suppression has done to the landscape and are now looking for methods in which to “reverse” what’s been done. Put simply, the fire suppression program has left the landscape weak and vulnerable to disease (think the pine beetle explosion) because it denied the landscape the renewing qualities of forest fires, such as those listed in this article—“burning roasted valley grasshoppers, which were consumed by the Kalapuya,… maintain[ed] the oak savanna, keep[t] down the underbrush (including poison oak), and invit[ed] elk and deer to live in valleys near Kalapuya villages.” Now, the idea is to use historical disturbance patterns to restore the forests’ health. There are several obstacles with this method, however. One, the public doesn’t usually like the idea of forest fires, especially when they own cabins and such near or in the forests. Second, there is no “set” time and state of the forest from which to base management off of. Do we try to go back 100 years? 150? Before western expansion? And three, prescribed fires are not the same as forest fires 100 years ago because fire suppression has allowed for 100 years of fuel to build up. If a forest fire were to run uncontrolled at this point, the fire would be much hotter, burn much longer, and kill much more than before. So although the details of disturbance-based management are tricky, I think it is important to note that what our managers are just recently realizing about forest fires, the indigenous people have often already practiced for thousands of years. Maybe it’s time we respect, value, and pay more attention to such native knowledge. Who could know the needs of a forest better than a people whom “had so intimate a relationship with their land that they named themselves for it?”

    • Thanks for sharing this primer on “disturbance-based management”, Kirsten. Restoration is always tricky in deciding a baseline to return to. It is also interesting that their technology was directed by spiritual leaders who were able to read the land in an astute and sensitive way. In this sense, intimacy with the land is the most profound basis for science–and I also understand that elders at Siletz recently advised the Forest Service on burning policies.

  110. Dr. Holden – it is a pleasure to have read this article. The article very succintly explains the role that Native Americans had in their environment. Instead of letting it be, they used time honored practices for ensuring the future of their people and the land at the same time. Many people refer to Native Americans and the land as untouched during the time before settlers. It seems very important to realize that’s not the case, specifically to make the point that it is possible to create lasting space and fully use it to live the way we need to (didn’t say want to because that’s probably where we are now). The perfect example of this is our current fire suppression tactics, compared to Native American planned burnings.
    It was important for me to realize and believe as I do that the native practices in the environment were not necessarily altruistic – this is how the people assured their resources would not run out. To apply that to current day issues – our environmental efforts are not really for the good of the environment in general, but for *our* environment. We need to make some efforts to ensure our resources do not run out.

    • I’m glad you liked this Jamie. I agree that it is very important to understand the falsity of the image of the “untouched land”. We do indeed need to care for the resources that sustain us so that they do not run out.

  111. The past one hundred and fifty years took away the gourmand’s paradise. It’s technically possible to restore its legacy but I’ll have a pessimistic view about this. Our society is not ready for a type of culture that creates a gourmand’s paradise. The natives created a simple yet deep care for nature. Our society is too complex and we as a whole dominate our natural surroundings for our wants. I’ll go as far and say we’re not capable of creating a gourmand’s paradise anymore. Cars and cell phones are growing instead of wetlands, migrating birds, and forests. We have more respect for technology than the environment that sustains us. Once we develop a greater respect for the environment than materials then that’s where change will start to happen.

    • Thoughtful observation. I am not sure we respect our technology as much as use it as we use so much in our modern lives for personal convenience. I absolutely agree that we should return to a respect for life and living systems.

  112. As a newcomer to the Williamette Valley, I would have to admit that my idea of what is produced and provided within the Valley stands now is simply amazing. Being originally from New Mexico and then a long time Texas resident, seeing such a lush and fertile environment is amazing. I have walked thru the farmers’ market, and every time, I am astounded by the wide variety there. This is just not something I am used to. As a self proclaimed desert rat, to imagine that amount of produce being grown locally is a unique experience, since the most my hometown can lay claim to is a military base and field after field of cattle lots. As I read this article, I could barely imagine what this area would have looked like, the possibilities of a wider range of produce and game. I think the essay went into an image that even someone such as me could see the past and the possible future. I have learned to get adjusted to the cleaner air, the lower noise pollution, the ability to clearly see the stars at night. And this is what I consider to be an area with minimum impact on the area, What an eye opening essay!

  113. Reading “Gourmand’s Paradise” made me think about how people always feel that they have a better way of doing something instead of seeing that the method isn’t broken and therefore doesn’t need to be fixed. The Kalapuya people had been working the land in a way that made it really thrive. They knew the cycles that the earth followed. They worked with the land around them in a way that made the land a “paradise” and all of a sudden immigrants came along and had a better idea. Only it wasn’t better, and they continued to made the situation worse and worse, so now the land is endangered. Unfortunately what happened can’t be changed but by going forth and following the way the Kalapuya people nurtured the land can put it back to its original glory. Obviously they knew what they were doing. The Kalapuya didn’t make it a “paradise” overnight so it will not change back overnight. They were a great example of how nurturing and respecting the land is the only way that will allow the earth to nurture us. I truly hope that the Willamette Valley can get back to the way it once was and become a “paradise” again.

  114. It has always been interesting to me to learn about my own history. Unfortunately I tend to look at it on a broader scope, and have yet to ponder what has taken place in my own back yard. The Willamette valley is beautiful and has the capability of facilitating great plantation growth, so it figures that nuts fruits, and vegetable were everywhere during these times. They are still abundant today in this area. I had yet to consider how this area must have looked prior to industrialization, and this post helps me to attain this thought.
    Peter Boag commented “The first whites in the Willamette Valley did not tame a wilderness; they inherited a park.” I can imagine this statement to be very true. Even today the Willamette Valley is almost like no other place in America, and for that matter the world. The Valley is like its own little place, a niche unaffected by many of the prevalent downfalls of modern society. I know we have poverty, pollution, and crime. It just seems to me that we are all very lucky to call this place home.

  115. Wow, I find the statement “the deer were so easy to kill a man could make more money shooting them for skins than working at a job”, to be really sad. It seems that it is human nature to find the easy way out. We seems to be more concerned with financial gain than maintaining our environment and natural resources. I have had the fortunate opportunity to have visited Oregon. I find it to be beautiful. I was really astonished by the countyside. It seemed to peaceful. I find it easy to imagine the Indians philosophy of becoming one with the earth and replacing what we take so that it will be available for future generations. Unfortunately there are those of us who take and take and take such as the statement in the beginning of the article. The even sadder part is that much of what we take is an excess and not a necessity at all.

  116. (PHL 443 Student Reply) The most interesting part in the article I found was the discussion of the Kalapuya selectively picking which deer to hunt to ensure the stability of the herd. In another class I took, we learned how big game hunting actually leads to weaker genes being passed on to future deer generations instead of stronger ones. I found it fascinating that hundreds of years before our time, the First Peoples discovered the same thing without and Masters or Doctorate degree. They knew this because they listened to the land and respected it as a peer instead of treating it as a thing to conquer.

  117. I think this is a rather remarkable piece on native wisdom in ecology. I just thought it was incredible the way that the Kalapuya had such advanced techniques way before western influence. They also cared for such a large area without the convieniance of modern transportation or farm machinery. I was really impressed with their techniques for keeping the land bountiful and keeping it an ideal habitat for game. Having moved from the midwest to the Willamette valley i feel very blessed to live in such a beautiful place and i owe a big thanks to the native Kalapuya people and i believe that we can learn a great deal from their techniques and their deep relationship with the land and and all beings that live here.

  118. “The first whites in the Willamette Valley did not tame a wilderness; they inherited a park.” A great way to sum up this phenomenon.
    What a horrible thing, this patriarchal mindset of domination. But then again, our society was built on it. Early European settlers saw land that “wasn’t being used” and decided that they could do better. One could argue that this was simply ignorance on their part, but if they had waited and tried to understand, they would have seen the centuries of care that had gone into the “wilderness” that they had first perceived. This mindset continued throughout the centuries, as First Peoples were removed from their lands and people continued to move westward to fulfill their “manifest destiny,” and all the indelicate matters that that entailed. My main issue is that these stories go unheeded. There is a well known quote that states “If we do not learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it.” Well, repeating it is what we are doing. Even today, Native Americans find it difficult to practice their land management techniques because they are frequently illegal. However, the laws that outlaw these practices were made by people who don’t understand the intricacies of the land. Surely if history has taught us anything at all, we should be working in tandem with people who know the ins and outs of the land. But our society does not, and I want to know why.

  119. I think that the point of this entire post is nicely summed up by the quote from the “Willamette Valley pioneer” who stated that “deer were so “easy to kill” a man could “make more money shooting them for skins than working at a job”.” The ideas behind this type of thought are ones of control and greed; if there is enough for the taking why not take it all? However, society is beginning to witness the detrimental effects such thinking has upon the environment and ourselves. Resources are not unlimited and we cannot push the earth to its limits and expect to keep pushing. It seems as if since the pioneers began taking over we have not been satisfied with what is available to us.
    Opposite of this thinking are the thoughts and actions of the Kalapuya who by respected their environment, resources, and facilitated prosperity around them. They paid close attention to the earth in order to learn how to coexist with it. Thus their practices of daily life became curtailed to work with the earth and not against it. The results proved to be beneficial to everything involved. This post also touches briefly upon the idea of eating “locally grown” foods. Studies have recently shown that shipping produce around the globe is harmful to the environment and our bodies as well. “But as Armstrong notes, with world droughts, oil shortages, and rising food prices, it is a good time to look to our local resources to sustain us.” Local eating is something that I have just recently considered and partaken in. As a college student I must be budget minded and have always thought that finding the cheapest produce is most important. Recently I have really learned that cheapest is farthest from the best and that I am not benefiting myself or the environment at all.

    • You are right that greed is a problem in our worldview– and in our economic system, which too often rewards the greedy–no matter what tactics they use to enact that greed, Ashley. I also think there is some carelessness here– just taking the easy way– so many commercials sell us convenience (whether or not they deliver). Paying attention, by contrast (the alternative mode you point out) takes some care as well as energy. We also have a system of “perverse subsidies” which makes it cheaper to buy from far away (take away those subsidies and that should not be the case) or commercially-raised food whose methods destroy our subsistence base. If we figured in the health/environmental costs of such production and priced it accordingly, we would all be buying local and organic as the most economical way to go.
      We need to change the system that crunches budgets with unhealthy food and environmental practices. I find hope in the many urban gardens that are springing up everywhere. In Eugene, there is the “common ground” garden, the Youth Garden, and the “Familia” garden, as well as a community garden in Bethel that specifically cater to community and low income folks, in the produce they raise, sell and share.

  120. This article makes me wish that society today was much, MUCH more attuned to nature. Nature is such a beautiful thing and how it is seen today is totally taken advantage of. The Kalaypuya people are very smart, Dan Armstrong has a good point. If we can manage to live off the land that we have right here and have it be productive and treat it with the idea of improving nature while we can profit off of it. Why not?

  121. It’s quite fascinating to think about the effects the Kalapuya had on their surrounding environment. They were heavily involved in ‘managing’ the local landscape, which is obviously interference of a sort, but their influence was mostly beneficial, and not just for themselves but for the rest of the ecosystem as well. Since the idea of an ‘untouched’ wilderness is essentially a pipe dream (people are almost everywhere), this is a really good lesson of how we could pursue more than just a ‘harm minimization’ goal in our interactions with the environment, we could follow a mutually beneficial path within our surroundings.

    • I like the balance in your response here, Crystal. Great point that we can and should go for more than a “harm minimization” to make a positive contribution to the abundance, diversity, and fertility of our ecosystem–as did those “eco-agriculturalists” who recently reclaimed so many acres of the Tanzanian desert.

  122. I know first hand the beauty and life the Willamette has to offer. I truly believe it is something to fight for and to be preserved. I feel the indigenous people of the Willamette Valley truly did intimately know their ecosystem. They took care of it and loved it as one of their own. In doing this they were able to live as a part of the system and intern make it something that took care of them as well. This is something that is totally achievable by today’s standards if we are will to see ourselves for what we truly are; one part of the whole.

    • Thanks for your comment, Julie. It is essential that we each work to protect what we love, both in our individual choices and in watching over our community choices so that the land we care for can continue to sustain us.

  123. ” It is a good time to look to our local resources to sustain us.” I think this statement points out how politics truly is local even when we have some many things working together. Truly, out of all the articles I think we have had assigned, I think emotion shines through with this one. I say this because seeing how fast humans can change thousands of years of the past in just 150 years is a little disheartening and somewhat makes me sick to my stomach. Overall, the Kalapuya had something that truly worked not only for them but the creatures around them.

    This article actually made me think of how some ancient cities have truly disappeared in the rain forests, and it just showed me how we can reverse many measures we, as humans, have taken.

    • Thanks for your comment, Christopher. It is hopeful point that what we can do, we we can undo– though this takes thought, responsibility and discipline. And in terms of things like climate change, we need to do it quickly if we are to successful in stemming some of its harm.
      I am not quite sure what you mean by “politics is local even though we have so many things working together.

  124. Through this essay, the importance of local food was reminded to me once again. Eating local food seems to be the best way to spend your money; it supports your local community – your money stays within the community, it results in a better fuel efficiency – no additional transportation needed, and you can have fresh food at every meal.
    Although, buying local food seems to be a great idea, I agree that it is hard to practice for many reasons in real life; local produce stores are relatively rare, local produces might cost more, and etc.. Such difficulties can also be solved with the right mind set, just like the ones Kalapuya hunters had – appreciating what is given to you, other than looking at it as if you deserve it. I think if we can change our spoiled minds, we can protect the wild life, natural resources and the knowledge this nature has in a much more productive way, because it shifts your attitude towards the problem. The issue becomes “our” problem other then “their” problem.

    • We are very fortunate to have so many farmer’s markets, community-supported agriculture possibilities and urban garden’s in the Pacific Northwest. I find this heartening, since you rightly point out that we cannot shop local if local produce is not available. These things must change hand in hand: growing of local food and economic support for this, so that each of these dynamics continues to grow. There are also low income community gardens in Eugene– which are very important.
      Owning both the problem and the solution is, as you indicate, essential.

  125. I find this essay fascinating in regards to the fact that we struggle so much today with maintaining practices such as these. Having always lived in Oregon I have kept and open mind and ear to ideas voiced about how we share the land here and how our practices may benefit it. The one described here that jumps out to me the greatest involves the burning practices by the Kalapuya. I personally have always been an advocate for either the use of controlled burning or the deterring of excessive fire prevention. The practices used by the Kalapuya remind me of the natural cycle that forests here in the northwest are experienced with. It is with the fires that some native plants even have the opportunity to continue their lineage with new off-spring either born from the flames or given a head start in the new world with the regrowth of their immediate environment.

    I disagree slightly with the message toward the end of this essay, in that we are responsible for the care of this world. To me this sounds like we are the only ones who understand how nature should exist. Instead I see many acts of nature as ones that have progressed without our intervention or participation at all. Coming back to the fires, I feel it our responsibility to respect natures progression (allowing forest fires to restart ecological cycles) as well as actively take part in it, such as controlled burning in areas already influenced by our presence.

    • Thanks for your thoughtful response, Mathew. I didn’t mean to imply that humans should manage the entire ecosystem– far from it. As I say in the essay on partnership here, I believe that we need to manage human activity in such a way that the natural systems we depend upon can thrive.

  126. Before reading this article I was not aware of the former grasslands along the Willamette. Recently, while living in Illinois, I noticed wildgrasses growing along the sides of highways and in between off and on ramps where I wondered to my friend about their appearance. They seemed out of place, and were even tagged in some of the areas. Driving out to Indiana, I saw more of the same thing. My friend, an Illinois resident said that there had been a recent push to restore some of the marshes and grasslands native to the area. Indiana was doing this as well. To see them along highways where they seemed out of place was odd to me at first, but I soon realized it was the highways that were truly out of place.

    I wonder if a similar program could be started in Oregon if one is not in place already. I do know that when I was landscaping homes in Salem, one of the residents told me of a city wide program to restore trees and grasses along a creek near Bush Park. The city was sending vouchers for people residing along that creek to go to their local nurseries to receive three free trees of native varieties to plant along that creek. It would be nice to see more of this to restore these local ecosystems as indicated in your article, Madronna. I do think such a restoration would bring about a revival of some of the species we can only see by traveling to pretected animal santuaries. These areas should be abundant rather than rare.

    • I don’t know of financial incentives for this type of restoration in the rest of the Valley, but I do know that there are non-profits throughout the Valley working on this type of restoration–there is, for instance, a large meadow area in the Willow Creek area owned by the Nature Conservancy, which is being maintained as native grassland and oak savanna.
      And you are absolutely right, that when the habitat is restored, native species re-inhabit it. Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Odhran.

  127. You painted quite the picture in this article. I have been lucky enough to grow up in the Willamette Valley and considered its current state something of a paradise. Reading this article made me feel a little sad and entirely curious as to the sight that gourmands paradise really must have been.

    I have done a bit of research of my own on the effects of colonization, which the white move west certainly embodies. Its tragic that the effects of that move have done little more than deprive us of the full potential of this fruitful place has to offer, not to mention unforgivable actions taken against the Kalapuya: Willamette valley park rangers and shepherds.

    • Colonialism is always destructive in this way–not only to the colonized, but to the colonizers. The thing we need to do is learn from our past–and work to change both our attitudes and our actions toward the lands and toward its “park rangers and shepherds”. Thanks for your comment, Thomas.

  128. It is indeed interesting to note the disconnection that the settlers across the United States and specifically in the Willamette had with the land that they inserted themselves into. With all of the focus rightly turning to ideas about sustainability in local as well as national governments, it is vitally important to remember the lessons and ecologically sustainable practices that were in place before the arrival of Europeans. Without such knowledge from the indigenous people about proper ways to manage a thriving and diverse ecological environment, we Americans would have to learn new lessons through trial and tribulation which that may turn out to be too late. We need to take heed to the warnings that our environment seems to be sending us.

    • You are absolutely right , Christopher. We cannot afford to throw away knowledge gained over so many generations– though it has already been eroded by the ravages of colonialism on indigenous peoples everywhere. What we can do is take care of the people who take care of the land– and treasure the values that we need to create a thriving natural and human world.

  129. Professor,
    I really enjoyed the section about the deer hunters and the ceremonies and songs they sang to respect the deer. It really shows that they only killed what they could eat, and that killing the deer was merely for the survival of their families and not just a sport. This really ties in with the reading from The Wisdom of the Elders, especially when the Innu people check the organs, bones, marrow, and fur of the animal after it has been butchered to check for any abnormalities. They check on this stuff out of respect for the animal and to make sure it is not being affected but any other means of depletion.

    • Thanks for the thoughtful tie in with the Innu, Jessica. The book Wisdom of the Elders is rightly named– such caretaking and respect is intertwined with wisdom–both survival wisdom and the wisdom that allows humans to live a full and meaningful life in our places on our shared earth.

  130. Professor Holden,

    I was really intrigued with this article. I have been a fisherman my entire life so I enjoyed hearing the old stories of how the salmon used to swim free, towards the ocean, in massive schools. The other really important thing that I took from this article is that the biological cycles that can be interrupted by individuals moving into an area (Kalapuya burning practices) can severely alter how productive that area is. When the burning was suppressed by emigrants the crops were devastated by grasshoppers.

    • Thanks for your response, Kurt. We can devastate natural cycles that have been created over thousands of years, not just human ones, when we try to make the land adapt to ourselves rather than adapting to the land. Groups like the Columbia Intertribal Fishing Commission (see our links page) are working hard to bring the salmon back.

  131. I loved hearing about the Kalapuya and how they were so in-tune with the land. There is a similar story here with the natives of our land. The Islands used to be split into sections (called Ahupua’a) that ran from mountain peaks down to the ocean, so that every tribe had both mountain and sea. What would happen was that when it rained in the mountains, the people would have already worked their land so that the rain water would channel into a single river and split into two, one for drinking, and one to flow through taro patches. And taro is what some people call the universal crop. you can eat the entire plant if you please, or you can use the leaves for covering on a house because they are highly water resistant, or the stem and leaves can be used in making medicine, there are hundreds of ancient uses for taro. but once the water was through the taro, it would usually flow to a waterfall and pond of sorts for bathing. Then all water would simply continue to flow downstream and ultimately get filtrated by the land and then flow out to sea, where the clouds would pick of the water, and drop it right back on the land again. It was a beautiful system and an amazing way to work the land. I like to believe now that many native people were just as much in-tune with the land as the Kalapuya, and the Hawaiians.

  132. This article makes me hopeful that we can once again find was to help the environment while helping ourselves. I wonder how the native peoples learned so much about the ecological impact of their activities. Their practices seem so wise and scientific; I’m surprised we can’t come to the same conclusions today as a country. One example given in the essay that is particularly interesting to me is the use of controlled burns by indigenous peoples. The forest service screwed up big time at the beginning of the 20th century when they began to prevent and snuff out any fire that occurred in nature. Obviously, this created big problems, and by the time 2000 hit the fire season in California and Montana had become outrageous. The suppression of fire in Montana in particular completely changed the composition of the ecosystem. Where spread out forests of ancient, massive and fire-resistant ponderosa pines once stood, now young douglas fir forests with thick underbrush exist.

    • Thoughtful perspective, I think that indigenous peoples, as does all science, learned by a combination of careful observation and trial and error. What they have our industrial societies is their long-enduring residence in particular areas. Wendell Berry has said that modern Westerners treat the land more like a “one night stand”– and we can never develop a wise relationship with it if our stance is simply to use up a resource and move one. Thanks for your comment, Allison– I also see it as a hopeful sign that we might learn that we serve ourselves and the land together.

  133. I love to here about the history of land in connection with the people that live on it. Having that picture of how things were when the Kalapuya seemed to have reached a very integrated and optimal relationship with their surroundings is inspiring for what we, today, can strive for in our relationship. It is unfortunate that there was such and abrupt change of inhabitants and that the new could not learn so readily from the those already living here, but it is good to know that we can, over time, help make up for some of the early lack of understanding in the settlers.

    Connecting sustainable and local farming practices with how the Kalapuya cared for the land, really helped me to see how such a relationship to the land is not restricted to one way, but that it can be expressed in different ways depending on the culture and the times. It also helps me to connect ways that are sustainable from my own mostly European heritage to the sustainable ways of Native Americans and see that at their cores they share the same vision. These stories seem to be one way we can draw out what is sustainable in our culture, that has been covered up by years of quick fixes.

    • Hi Andy, thanks for your comment. One of the reasons that I find gaining perspectives on other cultures/worldviews so important is that this holds up models for us in terms of the range of our choices. My sense is that we are above all a species that chooses our values and ways of life. And as we are doing this, it is essential to understand something of our range of possibilities.
      I like your perspective that such knowledge opens our choices rather than restricts them to one way and time. And I think you are right that there are many Euroamerican farmers who express the same values, though these may have been “buried” beneath mainstream culture–and certainly, buried in the wake of conquest and/or colonialism.

    • I like how you really read into and feel that we can gain insight about having a sustainable environment from the natives in the area. That is so true! I honestly had never thought of going to a native, I always think of recycling or turning off my lights, but in reality we would be thinking in a much bigger picture if as business we took large steps and took notes from natives!

  134. Learning more about history has change the way I view my local Montana landscape, too. I often try to picture it without roads and ugly buildings and rusting cars. Thank you for you rich descriptions in this article, it really made me long for a better world.

    • Thanks for your comment, Michele. I hope that you see that better world in your lifetime. A powerful part of looking at such history is understanding that it can be done.

    • Michele,

      I agree with your sentiments. I often catch myself playing the “what if” game when it comes to nature. I would love to have seen what Oregon looked like back when the indigenous people occupied it. They had such reverence for the land and I can only imagine how beautiful it must have been. Don’t get me wrong, Oregon is still extremely beautiful, but it is changing a little more everyday. I remember when I first moved here, I could see deer and pheasants in my local area almost everyday. Now these sightings are a rare occurence. There also seems to be fewer and fewer places not inhabited by people, with large homes and roads cut through the landscape.

  135. The knowledge that the Kalapuya people had in regards to burning is amazing to me. They utilized fire for so many purposes, each with a specific benefit to their people. Scientists today do not even possess this ability when it comes to fire. They are forced to study previous fire patterns, use trial and error in regards to burning, and revise previous policies to adapt to different situations. We seem to be always questioning whether we should use prescribed burns in an area, or withhold burning all together. We do not know what the right answers are and do make many mistakes, but the Kalapuya people seemed superior in their knowledge on this subject.

  136. I found this essay extremely interesting because I’ve spent the majority of my life in the same area, and yet in a very different world. Peter Boag’s experiences with the Kalapuya illustrate a prolific environment that I can only dream of. After reading about salmon runs all the way to Oakridge, migrating bird flocks that blocked out the sun, and such an abundance of deer, I find myself somewhat disgusted with the region I’ve loved and returned to all these years. I’ve always returned to the Willamette Valley, after traveling abroad, with a sense of security because of the great abundance of resources still visible and available to us here. But, after reading about the world in which the Kalapuya belonged I find myself annoyed by the sound of traffic outside my window. I’ve spent allot of time in the Cascade Range and I’ve never been exposed to anything remotely close to the experiences of those who lived in the Willamette Valley a couple centuries ago. The native peoples description of hunting an animal while singing its praises just goes to show their collective consciousness for their environment. I believe that its essays like this which will help people understand the destruction capabilities our Western cultural view has on its environment, even when we think we’ve done a good job at protecting it.

    • Yes its sad, but there are probably only a few places left in the world that are still as ecologically healthy as they were several centuries ago. Maui, where I currently live, was not even discovered by westerners until 1778 and I’m sure you can guess it has changed a lot since then. I’ve talked to people who have lived here for only a few decades and even they will tell you much the island has changed even in a few short decades. Too many hotels and too many cars almost everyone would agree. The sad thing is that so many local people here are now reliant on the tourist industry for their jobs that it would be devastating to many if that were to be cut off. Fortunately, it seems there is a push for the return to the sustainable agricultural lifestyle. I feel that I am incredibly lucky that I can buy my produce at a farmers market where the vegetables are grown by the very person who sells them to me.

      • My father was there in the late 1940s and was musing the other day that he would probably not recognize it now. For instance, there was not a single hotel on Waikiki Beach then. I think we are very lucky indeed whenever we can take advantage of farmer’s markets. And I love conversations with the ones who grow what I eat!

  137. I was truely amazed when I read this article. How could have the Kalapuya people have known to burn the land to perserve it? I guess I saw that burning as a more modern technique and never realized who really came up with the idea. This article makes me want to visit Willamette Valley one day. I would love learn and experince what went on there to perserve nature. The Kalapuya people really knew what it meant to love and protect their land. My hope is that we learn from them and see how precious really is.

    • Thanks for your comment, Kimberly. My hope coincides with yours in terms of learning how to care for the land (and giving due credit to those who effectively cared for it for so many thousands of years)–and see in their model what we are both capable of and responsible for.

    • I really liked that part two. The fact that burning could help to create marshes and water holes and preserve the land is an incredible thing. I always associated burning with dry and baron lands and I did not even know that it was a technique to save lands. I guess I am not really agriculturally sensible, but that is why i am in this class! I agree the people loved and protected their land, and its sad that people are so quick to destroy it for a profit.

  138. I found this article really informing about how the natives of land land employed farming and agriculture methods that actually replenished and aided the regrowth of what they were collecting off the lands. I have been reading many articles lately about the fishing populations suffering because of technology in the area. The building of damns for electricity and water is taking the habitats of the salmon and therefore overall depleting the salmon population. I actually find it really sickening that a once plentiful forests is now an endangered forests because the Northwest is one of the most beautiful places in the Unites States. I really hope that people start caring more and are able to overpower these corporations that are aiding the destruction of our wilderness,

    • I too am very interested in native agriculture practices. Alternative agriculture, such as organic agriculture, is about viewing the farm as a living organism and not a machine. I think too many people view nature as a machine, something that is going to give us more than we put into it, and not as one whole functioning living organism. In fact, before WWI all farming was organic. I believe getting back to organic agriculture will dramatically improve our relationship with nature.

      • Great point about the contrast between viewing the land as life versus as a machine (or an object) we can make do our will. I agree with you in terms of organic agriculture, Emily– because, as you note, it will pressure us to improve our relationship with nature rather than taking the easiest short-term techno fix.
        And also because we cannot continue to put so many toxins into our landscape if we hope not only other lives but our own to thrive.

  139. The part of this essay that interests me the most is the detail of the Kalapuya’s hunting traditions. It is amazing that a total of ten days of ceremony took place for just one hunt. I was particularly intrigued by was the fact that the Kalapuya hunters always stated their intentions to their prey showing their honest and admirable traits. The Kalapuya also never wasted any of what they hunted. This belief is echoed in the article “Judaism and Ecology: A Theology of Creation” by Daniel Fink and is stated, “We are given permission to enjoy the Creator’s abundant gifts, but we must not waste of wantonly destroy anything”. Many of Native people’s honor the animals before killing them because of their belief that humans and animals should be treated with the same amount of respect. This practice of the Kalapuya’s highlights the environmental values of reciprocity and humility.

  140. Oh how often it is that we (westerners) discover a place that we absolutely love, only to turn around and attempt to change it in to something that it is not supposed to be.

    Perhaps it’s just “human nature” or perhaps it is an artifact of our western culture and colonial ideology that drives us to feel the need to change everything that we encounter (which is not exactly like our way) regardless of how much we initially find it delightful and appealing.

    In your essay Gourmand’s Paradise: The Once and Future Willamette Valley, you described the place that early explorers and settlers encountered upon into this region. The area appeared as a largely natural and wonderful. A sustainably cultivated “Paradise” in which the efforts of the indigenous people yielded a balanced and sustainable way of life that was beneficial to all members of their natural environment.

    You then continue by describing, in some detail, the sustenance practices and the techniques used by the natives of this area which yielded this environmentally balanced and very productive paradise.

    Finally you describe the area today since it has yielded to modern agricultural practices, overfishing, development and industrialization.

    All of this sounds so familiar and so typical of the colonization of many areas of this world. Though each story has its own subtle variations, the end seams to always be the same. Basically it goes like this:

    – A group of people go exploring and discover a “paradise” which they are enamored with.
    – This group of people decides they love “their discovery” so much that they absolutely must move there and settle.
    – This new group of settlers encounters the local indigenous people who have been in this place for generations.
    – Through force, law, disease or some other cause of attrition of the natives, the settlers take control of their new home.
    – The settlers view the locals as inferior in all ways and disregard any wisdom about the nature of the area that might be offered. Instead, they bring their own “modern” ways of farming, building, fishing and hunting to their new home. Thus supplanting the indigenous knowledge, authority and sustainable way of life in the area.
    – New settlers live in their new home for a time and appear to thrive. Their community expands and they place an ever increasing demand upon their environment.
    – Eventually, the demand on their environment becomes too great and the ecosystem begins to collapse, and along with it their community.
    – In a panic and straining to find a remedy for their predicament, they lament that they should have listened to those who came before them.

    This story has played out over and over again, many times around the world and through our history. Yet, as a whole, mankind has not learned the most valuable lessons from it all.

    Perhaps, as you have stated “it might still be possible to revive its legacy as the “gourmand’s paradise” by restoring and protecting local ecosystems if we act quickly and with commitment”. And perhaps this is also true for the many other areas of “paradise” situated all around this wonderful planet we call home which were once a gourmand’s paradise. I can only hope…

    But in all of this I can’t help but wonder how much better off all of nature (including ourselves) would be if we would just learn that all important lesson which we somehow keep missing – How to prevent all of this destruction by simply learning to live sustainably and in partnership with nature the indigenous peoples (and our distant ancestors) did.

    Maybe we’ll get it right this time….

    • I don’t think we can blame human “nature” for trampling another culture– since they are part of “human nature” (or its potential as well), Ron. We have great power to effect and this makes it all the more important that we learn the lesson you note about the results of our actions. “Getting it right this time” is a hopeful vision that means learning from our past–but as your classmate Barbara noted in her recent comment, what we can change is ourselves– certainly a challenge. But I think all life– that includes our own children– is depending on us to do it. Thanks for your comment.

  141. Your article brings up a very valid point. The indigenous people really did have an extreme connection with the natural world around them, which made it possible for them to sustain their way of life. Since times have changed and our culture does not really go after food sources like dear as much they have been able to flourish a little more. However due to industrialization and the building of many communities it is leaving many of these animal without a home. These animals are a huge part of our ecosystem, and efforts must be taken in order to preserve there lives. It relates to another one of your essays talking about the beaver and how it is extremely important to many ecosystems and if they were gone this would have a huge negative effect on the environment. Since we no longer hunt these animals it seems like people no longer care about them at all. They do not realize what a huge part of our world they are.

    • Thoughtful point, Jason. I know in my neighborhood many think of them as garden invaders, since they eat even small trees we plant. =) But raccoons and introduced (red) squirrels are worse. None of these creatures have predators to keep them in balance anymore. In this respect, it is interesting that coyotes, wildcats, bear and cougar are coming to suburban areas as their habitat is taken up by human activities– we have some thinking to do about how we treat those whose habitat we are taking up in this way. Thanks for your comment.

  142. The Willamette valley still sounds like a very special place, even though it has certainly changed a lot in the last few hundred years. I have only been in the area once for a short period of time, but hope that some day I get to spend more time there. In the U.S. I think the idea of plundering nature for all its worth came from, at least in part, from the seemingly endless amount of land and natural resources that were available when this land was first being “discovered” by westerners. Nature’s bounty must have seemed so abundant and the opportunity for profit so irresistible that even from the very beginning they abused it for their profit. A little while ago I came across the story of the passenger pigeon. I had never heard of such a bird before and it turned out to be one of the saddest stories I had ever heard. You can read about it here if you get the chance http://www.eco-action.org/dt/pigeon.html

    • Thanks for the comment and the link, Roman. The passenger pigeon’s story is a powerful one in its great numbers — and its demise. A reminder that our natural commons (including things like air, water, fertile soil, and stable weather) can be depleted by the wrong actions. on our part.

  143. Find it interesting that we rely so much on other states for some of the same foods we are able to grow in this state and vice versa. I haven’t really thought about Willamette Valley as you all have here. Before taking so many “Liberal” type classes, I had no clue really as to what I’d be getting myself into. I really enjoy reading about all you have to say. I am learning so much and it is just the start of the term. I have met several local farmers due to the business I worked for and never once did they tell me that they sell worldwide and didn’t realize it until I traveled to different places. The owner of Organic Valley is one of the clients I dealt with and really am amazed as to how big of a change farming has on our society. Where would we be without it really?

    • Hi Jennifer, thanks for your comment. You make an interesting point about local production and sales. Can you clarify what is the “big change farming has on our society”.
      Can you link this change to any of the worldviews expressed in this essay.
      Sounds like an interesting topic for discussion, but I’m not clear what you mean.

  144. Every time I read articles like this I cannot help to think of the Eagles song “The Last Resort”. It is interesting that the Native Americans of the Willamette Valley managed the lands so they were more than sustaining. The settlers came and did what they thought was the best for them and ruined it. Now one hundred and fifty or so years later we are trying a lot of the same things the Native Americans did to manage the land for sustainability. The problem is there is less land to that with, but we are trying to use some of the same methods. I also find it interesting that tar weed nuts were used by Native Americans and farmers today find this plant as an unwanted weed.

    • It is ironic that we have come full circle in returning to some of these technologies; perhaps if we came full circle in honoring local biodiversity, we would change our definitions of weeds as well– and thereby reap the 79 per cent better yield that the UN documents (noted here in the essay on biodiversity.) Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Bob.
      To my mind, it would be great if we learned from the past before a crisis forced us to do so.

    • I agree with you Bob, it amazes me how the Native Americans were able to cherish the land and foster it, while the settlers were able to do so much destruction. If only the settlers were able to see that (as Boag puts it) they “did not tame a wilderness, they inherited a park”. Now, we must learn from the mistakes of the past, before we have nothing left. It is only by nurturing and caring for the land that we inherited, that we will be able to sustain it for future generations.

      • I certainly agree with you, Leah. It is time to care for the land that sustains us by looking to its welfare– instead of rewarding greed and short-term convenience. The former course takes more discipline– but I don’t think we have any choice.

        • I really think that depends on your values and how you are brought up. If the settlers were brought diffrent and had diffrent values, closer to the Native Americans would it be diffrent? I think it would.

        • I also like the fact that we are creatures of choice–and given such choices, many of us are capable of moving beyond the ways in which we were brought up.

  145. I find it truly amazing how detailed and interconnected the Kalapuya were with the lands and ecosystem around them. While reading this I couldn’t help but wonder what early settlers did learn from the Kalapuya or other Native American tribes. It would seem logical that since some natives married into whites and that some tribes were more welcoming than others that we would learn some of these habits that were so deeply woven into the Native American lifestyle. After reading this text I looked it up on a few search engines and found out that some tribes did trade agriculture knowledge to white settlers for tools and other items. I did not find anything specific to the Kalapuya though. While white settlers did for the most have a basic belief that they couldn’t learn from the conquered tribes of this land it is nice to know that some of that knowledge was passed on. It would be even nicer to know that it was being used today and had implications to affect our future. I did email the Oregon Department of Agriculture asking them if they have looked into early Native American agriculture practices in Oregon and if so what practical use was learned from it. If they respond with anything worthwhile I will be sure to post it.

    • Hi Phillip, thanks for taking the initiative to spread such knowledge, place it into the present day. I do know that the Forest Service has worked with particular elders at Siletz to work with them in new burning policies. Sadly, the removal of the Kalapuya from their valley prior to the vast amount of settlements (specifically to open up farmlands to pioneers) and the subsequent three generations of boarding schools that enforce separation between elders and their children destroyed much place-specific knowledge. Though some with Kalapuya heritage have now made their way back to the valley (as has Esther Stutzman), the recovery of this way of life in its specifics today is a tenuous thing. What we do have is the earth-centered values (such as biodiversity and reciprocity) that still remain among particular elders– and we would do well indeed to put these into practice. Other Oregon peoples, such as those at Warm Springs who are closer to their natal lands on their reservation secure more place-specific knowledge. And in fact, a graduate student in your class (check out our discussion board) is working with elders there and doing her thesis on the incorporation of indigenous knowledge in modern ecological strategies. One thing native leaders are taking the initiative on throughout the Northwest is protection and recovery of fish stocks.
      I love it that you emailed the Department of Agriculture–at the very least, we might recover some respect for these traditions. We might recover info like the ways that the Umatilla farmers on their reservation lands in the mid 1800’s outdid all white farmers in taking prizes at the local county fair, for instance. Unfortunately, that only motivated white farmers to pressure their Congressman to move the Indians off their lands– since, they assumed, they must be more verdant than the lands the pioneers worked with less success.

  146. I am somewhat surprised to see that the native people of Oregon took such care to preserve the local landscape and food supply. It really touches me to know that they cared about their entire surroundings, not just take whatever they needed and let the other animals and plants suffer. I greatly admire this and very much wish it could still be this way. It is a type of pride and happiness that is rarely seen today, and by taking only what you need and allowing the plants/animal supply to replenish yearly, the balance is kept and there is little suffering from either side. It makes me think of this area, which I just moved to, differently. It’s a fertile and plentiful land.

    • I like your point that pride and happiness is linked to sharing and caring for other lives in this way, Samantha. I like it that you also point out that knowing the history of peoples on a land allows us to better appreciate it and feel at home here.
      Thanks for your comment.

    • It was interesting to ready that they not only took care of it, but they actually drastically improved it for animals, plants, and of course human generations! Your point about not taking and using more then you need does seem to be lost in our society of excess and ‘bling’. It would be great if even small changes in our society could be made that mirror indigenous populations!

    • I think you will find that all over with native people. The balance with nature is the way of life. and hopefully will continue

    • I like that you mentioned the “balance is kept”. Balance is a perfect word to describe what our relationship should look like with out environment. We need to give as much as we take from the land, and if we fail to do so, that balance is not kept. You mention this land being fertile and plentiful, which it is! Yet we are not letting the land reach its full potential because of our modern practices. some say it’s best to leave the past behind, and concentrate on the future. Yet when it comes to the environment, I think we need to take knowlege from the past, and apply it to a more promising furute.

      • Balance is an important value indeed, Melinda–and hardly attained by the capitalist economic dictum of “externalizing costs and internalizing benefits”– we certainly must do better for the sake of ourselves and our children.

  147. I am a strong supporter of eating, supporting and extending local products. And on that note, I think you are right, we have not fulfilled our potential in that regard. Oregon as a whole, but the Willamette Valley in particular is full of potential. My good friend’s family just started a business, Eat Oregon First. This company is pretty much a taxi-service to local farmers who post their “wish lists” on FoodHub. Distribution is the single largest barrier to the growth of the regional food economy, so Scot Laney, my friend’s dad, started his company. The operation is blending the line between farmer and distributor—incorporating some of the positive practices of industrial, macro-food giants like Sysco, while only selling small-production Oregon items within days of harvest. I think it is fascinating and awe-inspiring that he would think far enough to create this vision, and what’s more, make it a reality. Yay for Oregon.

    • Great example of blending business sense with environmental responsibility, Katie–seeing where the need is (distribution) and stepping up to help fill it. Cheers indeed! Another process that blends the line between farmer and consumer are Community Supported Agriculture contracts–and we are very fortunate to have so many of these in our region.

    • Thanks Katie for the information about your friends company “Eat Oregon First.” I am excited to see a website that makes it easier to find everything your looking for in one place. They did an awesome and I look forward to getting emails about local meat, produce and such. What a great idea and I will tell people about it as well. Tell them to keep up the good work!

  148. “Gourmand’s Paradise”
    Reading this essay above all…made me hungry! Being native to this area, I do not think I actually realized what a Mecca it once was, for food. What a shame to see the state that it is in now; however, I would argue that even though the current state of agriculture in the Willamette Valley is not what it once was, and…as the article pointed out, “mainly producing Grass Seed”, I do not believe that all the values of sustainable food production have left. Our valley has seen a recent surge in responsible farming that incorporates many of the ideas that Native populations used thousands of years ago, with a contemporary twist that makes the glory day of yesteryear seem not too far away. Sometimes when things get bad, it is easy to think that nothing can be done to mitigate our current situation, but this essay leaves the reader with a firm foot planted in contributing towards a change.
    I loved the part of the essay when the author was describing…or rather clarifying, the true “state of nature” that pioneers inherited when they first came to the Pacific Northwest, “The first whites in the Willamette Valley did not tame a wilderness; they inherited a park.” This really symbolizes the striking difference between what the first colonizers described as the “wilderness” and what it really was… “tame, fertile, well preserved, perfectly utilized, utopia of farmland”. This also contributes to the theory of “World Views”, which stipulates that different people have different perceptions of reality based on their constructed views of reality. This is proven when you take a look at the different accounts from Settlers, and Natives, of the same pieces of land, who had completely separate views over what those geographic regions possessed. In other words, Native Americans had concrete systems and traditional patterns for using the Earth that were sustainable, and all encompassing. Where as Pioneers, coming to this place for the first time, saw the land as a “complete wilderness” wasting away. Their only perceptions of “Lane Use” were ones rooted in a World View of Dominance over Nature. With this world view there is no way that they could have seen what the Natives were doing as purposeful and tactful. In order to use land efficiently, Colonists believed that you should drain the sight of resource for maximum economic benefit. This type of thinking also demonstrates perceptual world view differences! In conclusion, this was a well written essay that included some more good points that describes the excellence that “First Peoples” had in harvesting our natural environment.

    • Thanks for your comments and feedback here, Shana. You have an excellent point that the worldview of dominance obliterated the view of the “tactful”, subtle, complex–and long-lived responses of native peoples to the land that sustained them.
      The trouble with the idea that we must “drain a site of resources” in order to “develop” it– as we are finding out, is that ravaging the land in this way is only a very short term survival strategy– not to mention, that it creates so many tragedies for human and more than human lives who share the land.
      I too am heartened by the ways in which so many small farmers throughout the Willamette Valley have taken organic–and sustainable and humane– approaches. I know that there is also a group that works to educate grass seed to farmers to the economic benefits of turning their farms into organic and diverse food producing ones–and a number of grass seed farms have undergone this type of conversion (I understand it is not a huge percentage, but it is a start).

    • You know I remember growing up in the northwest and if food said it was from the Willamette Valley you always knew it was fresh and good.

  149. This essay is great example of the misconceptions many of us have about indigenous people’s lives and the natural world interact with each other. Many of us think of these cultures as ‘hunters and gatherers’ who roam around and ‘live off of the land’, but the fact is that this view is very narrow! The essay points out that the Kalaypuya have formed a “partnership…fostered with their land for thousands of years”. This relationship is not about harvesting, moving, and harvesting again, but rather is a relationship built over time and built on knowledge of the natural world around them. The fact that this knowledge leads to increasing sustainable habitats, increased seed production, and a healthier ecosystem overall is just remarkable. For example, the use of controlled burning to foster growth and ecosystem building is something that would cost millions of dollars and be marred with political and social issues in order to even start doing in this day and age! I think the essay has the ability to change peoples’ narrow-mindedness about indigenous populations through the use of only a few examples of how the Willamette Valley was fostered by these populations instead of just harvested. Our modern technology seems to be no match for the acquired and fostered knowledge of the Kalaypuya people.

    • Hello Brad, you bring up an important point with respect to the “use up and move on” stereotype applied to indigenous peoples. In fact, it was the pioneers (as Wendell Berry observed) who related to the land in this way: as what he terms, a “one night stand”. A group ironically termed “Friends of the Indians” who lobbied Congress for federal Indian policy in the nineteenth century labeled the native inhabitants of North America “nomads” who had no rights to the land, since they didn’t “improve” it– the example they gave for improvement included the gold mining that ravaged the West with mercury toxins and used sluices that sheered off whole hillsides, polluting the landscapes and the rivers below.
      It is time that we learn the destructive implications of “using” the land in this way–and turn to caring for the land that sustains us instead.
      Part of such care much be based on knowledge acquired in the long term, as you indicate.

    • I agree that many have the misconception about native people and unfortunately like many things it seems to be a problem that has to be learned an relearned over and over again due to an overall lack of education on the subject. As I mentioned in my initial response I emailed the Department of Agriculture asking if they had looked into early Native American agriculture practices in Oregon to see what could be learned from it and if it could have a practical use in the future. Here is the response I received from them:
      To my knowledge no one at ODA has looked into Native American agriculture in Oregon. I suspect it was mostly hunting and gathering native plants and animals.
      It seems to be along the lines of the misconception you mentioned. I think I will respond to them with a short explanation about the level of sophistication that the Kayapua had and add some links to some of the essays we have discussed. I will hold off my response to them for a few days incase you or Dr. Holden have any better suggestions.

      • Thanks for sharing this, Phillip. It looks promising, in that at the very least, it will allow some changing of misconceptions– the first step to getting things right! Thanks for taking the initiative in this.

      • It is nice to see you took such an active role as to email the ODA to inquire on such a thoughtful question. As I mentioned in my response, I did not learn to ride a bike simply by desire or jumping on the bike. I had to learn. We have much to learn from ancient Native American traditions and practices. I agree many misconceptions exist about Native people based on false belief systems and lack of education. It is time for us all to look inward and realize we all have filters that sometime mislead our personal assessment and judgements.

  150. While driving in the Willamette Valley the other day, I was blessed to witness a massive flock of birds, more than I have ever seen before. I was memorized by not only the massive number of birds, more by how gracefully they all flew in sync landing in huge trees, only for a fleeting moment, to then take flight again. If I was not driving, and in traditional Western standards in a hurry, I could have sat for hours in awe of the magnificent beauty of all the birds as they danced together in the sky. Yet, as I watched the sea of birds for the few moments, I reflected back to this article realizing in that moment I was experiencing somewhat firsthand what the indigenous people of this land experienced as they recalled memories of birds blackening the sky. And in that moment, I felt closer to nature and my understanding of my place among its brilliance I realized deeper my connection to all living beings in a new more profound way. The more experiences of this nature the more my awareness deepens and the greater respect I have for the natural world.
    I realized in that moment this article has a deeper message, it is not only an invitation to join forces to share in environmental strategies to restore the natural habitat and rely on local food production, it is a call to re-evaluate the fast-pace lifestyles that do not leave room to fully take in the beauty of nature and connect with nature experiences. Just as the first non-indigenous settlers stumbled upon what they thought to be an oasis of rich abundant sources, what they were not aware of is the indigenous people of the land were part of the reason for such abundance and to sustain bountiful crops required a long-established relationship with the land and ecosystem.
    It will take more than environmental strategies to restore the environment to a healthy sustainable balance to produce food locally to meet the local population needs; it will require everyone to establish a relationship with the natural world to live consciously as caretakers of the land and all living beings. People must shift entire belief systems to support healthy behavior patterns to allow for the possibility to live in harmony with nature as the Native’s in this article did. I did not just get on my bike as a little kid and know how to ride it, I had to take lessons. Humanity has a lot to learn from the ancient wisdom keepers in Native indigenous tribes.

    • Hi Angel, thanks for sharing your insights here. Living consciously as a caretaker of the land seems like a powerful environmental strategy to me. I agree that we need more than a top-down strategy decided to follow a list of regulations: we need a whole way of life to respond to our environmental crises.
      I also think you have an important point about taking the time to listen to and respond to the natural world– both in terms of its beauty and wonder–and its needs. There is something priceless in the experience of wild lives intersecting with our own in the way you experienced.

  151. Being new to the Willamette Valley, I really enjoyed ready this article as it tells the story of how everything came to be. My family emigrated here in the early 80’s from Laos and being the farmer workers that they are, they are huge believers in utilizing our natural resources for growing their own vegetables, hunting for fresh game such as deer and catching fresh fish. My family in many ways sounds a lot like the Kalapuya as we also still have traditional ceremonial events that honor the animals that we sacrifice for food purposes.

    • Good point, Brenda: a word without its living context IS very easy to misinterpret. I am also thinking of words like “friendly fire”: if one were standing with a soldier thus killed, one would hardly label it thus.
      It sounds like your family background has given you a great perspective: I very much like the fact that there are so many value connections between earth-centered peoples.

  152. Professor Holden,
    “Gourmands Paradise” is another great example of a lesson we keep hearing over and over again from indigenous people who live in harmony with their ecosystem. The Kalapuya for thousands of years sustained the surrounding land surviving on the abundance of plants and animals found in the region. Only taking what they needed to live healthy and full lives. They never over exploited the natural resources for personal gains and in return the forests and streams rewarded them with a bounty of food to feed their families for generations. They practiced sound management techniques, such as controlled burns in specific areas to enhance succession and new growth at the right time and place each year. They made adjacent fields and forests favorable for deer, to limit the need to travel long distances for the hunt. When the deer showed in great numbers they took only what was needed and utilized every part of the deer throughout the community. The same could be said for their farming and harvesting of local crops along the edges of the forest. The care and partnership between the people and the land resulted in a balance that was a win-win for all living entities. The Kalapuya worshiped the land in a religious manner, which could be highlighted in their ceremonial process leading up to the annual deer hunts. It’s this closeness and bond between people and nature that proves again and again to be successful. Management and conservation professionals worldwide looking to save our planet should study closer what the Kalapuya and other indigenous people have mastered.

    David Dowds

    • Good summary of Kalapuya practices, David.
      Your point about intimacy with the land is especially well taken. The indigenous elders I know stress the religious significance of their links with the land–which allowed them to see it better and honor it more pragmatically.

  153. I have a very small garden in my front yard, I nurture and protect it. Without real conscious awareness I was providing a similar similar environment as were the Kalapuyas. I look at my garden as a whole. Within it is plants to attract butterflies and bees. Sunflowers for the birds, I allow for deer to come in and share the bounty. I compost with worms. I worship my garden, provide a win-win situation. The Kalapuyas lived in harmony with all around them. There was no waste, each action was done to bring forth and create a sustainable life in balance. Much damage has been done in the name of progress and it continues for we live in a greed based society. One that is only concerned with what it wants right now. We lost site of what the first peoples knew and that is if you care for the whole the whole will care for you. In my own little way, with my garden, I work to take care of the whole.

    • Thanks for sharing your contribution to the living world in your garden, which may be small in space but sounds to be very large indeed in life. What a joy it must be to live with and nurture this space, Debbie.

  154. The presence of fire in the damp valley must have relieved some of the pervasive molds, fungi, and other funk that like moist temperate environments. I imagine an oak savanna and no blackberry. I wonder if field burning and some of the maintenance of open space in the valley via agriculture mimics some of the effects of native burning and harvest activities? Restoration of native grassland via prescribed fire along the Interstate 5 corridor would be a challenge as field burning becomes all but illegal.

    • Current grass field burning is vastly different from former Kalapuya practice: the Kalapuya burned specific areas to foster ecological edges and provide increased habitat for diverse plants and animals. They burned just before the winter rains to allow the native crops to come back–and they consciously preserved wetlands. The purpose of the grass seed burning is to foster a monocrop and obliterate all other growing things. Moreover, the current grass fields are often on former wetlands that have been drained for the purpose of growing grass. In addition, one of the problems of the burning is that it carries pesticides and herbicides into the air for miles (though burning was supposed to replace herbicide usage, it did not entirely do this).
      In fact, this is all a moot point, since the vast majority of grass seed growers have shifted away from burning at this point–and the few who do still burn are bucking the trend of their own fellows.
      Perhaps molds are a natural repercussion of taking up something like 99 per cent of former Willamette Valley wetlands for human habitat and agriculture. Certainly we created an imbalance there: indeed, south Eugene (where I live) is riddled with springs and creeks put underground for the sake of development. I can imagine making natural sinks and planting native grasses out of help the mold issue immensely. And the pollen issue is exaggerated (maybe you know this) by planting so many male trees so that the “messy” fruit won’t other home landscapers.
      Also, may of the native habitats had removable roofing so that in the long dry summer, they would allow sunlight into their dwellings. UV rays are nix on mold.
      Thanks for your comment, Amanda.

  155. It’s sad to think what has become of our ” Gourmands Paradise”. The Kalapuya lived on the land almost as if the land was a brother or a friend. They treated the animals like each one was as special as the next, and honored the animals while they were hunting them and after they hunted them. Their burning techniques created wetlands for habitat to live. The Kalapuya had a give and take relationship with the land, taking only what they needed, and giving as much as they could. Their worldview of their environment is so humbling and intriguing . Somehow modern practices have choked out these sustainable practices and we lost something great a long the way. Now there are minimal healthy ecosystems left, but we can still make changes to help support these indigenous practices. At the end of the article you talk about buying local, and stress the fact that this is one way to sustains ourselves among the land. Buying local decreases so many emissions that are contributing to global warming. Locally grown products are becoming more and more popular as we enter this “Green evolution”. I just hope that we are able to make the necessary changes quickly enough.

    • I hope with you that we will be able to make these changes quickly enough, Melinda. The Kalapuya did honor the other lives on their land as family–as did many indigenous peoples. The give and take relationship with the land you point out is the ethic of reciprocity that is exhibited in folklore and oral tradition throughout the world: something that nature might teach us if we would pay attention.
      Buying locally grown products is a great practice.

  156. What made the Kalapuya lands so fertile and abundant was not only their partnership and respect for the environment. Also integral was an intimate knowledge of the land and its species and a long term vision. The intimate knowledge was gained from thousands of years of experience that was passed down through generations. In my experience and observations, Western culture tends to dismiss the knowledge of the past as being an “old wives tale” based on the ignorance of yesterday. The “newest” science is revered, and incidentally, constantly being amended and changed as new studies are done. Thousands of years of human experience and learning is there for us to learn from, yet we turn our backs on it. Most people feel they need a pill to heal their bodies from sickness, rather than eat chicken soup. The Kalapuya also had a long term vision. They dug their roots to increase future yields. They wouldn’t burn specific areas for hundreds of years – following the practice of their people despite the outcome not affecting the individuals during their lifetime. Environmental practices of today have shown no concern for the impacts of even a few years from now, no less hundreds of years.

    Personally, I have made it a priority to live as locally as possible and have been fortunate that local farmers have an internet-order market that allows me to do so- all in one place as I would a grocery store. All of our meat (except for fish which is a rare find for sale in mid-TN), dairy, eggs, nuts and vegetables are local as well as many other products such as healing balms and soaps, etc. Not only does this benefit the environment, it also makes me feel more connected with the food we eat- I know who has grown it and how they have cared for it. It would be wonderful if resources like this become more commonplace.

    • Hi Valerie, thoughtful points: I think that the “partnership and respect for the land” is intertwined with intimate long term knowledge, since intimacy leads to knowledge and commitment both. Good point about our obsession with the “newest”–and loss thereby by learning from our past.
      It would indeed be wonderful if the resources to feed ourselves locally became commonplace. As you point out, not only would this better connect us with the food we eat, but the people who work to produce. The residents in the Willamette Valley are fortunate in the same regard you are–with perhaps the difference that there is a distinctive herbalist tradition in your part of the country as well.

      • I was particularly struck by the long-term knowledge mentioned in the essay. The root management and the field burning were both serious adjustments to the land, modifying and manipulating nature, but in ways that led to more life. (Except for the grasshoppers.)

        I agree with the claim that Westerners assume that First Peoples didn’t change the land, and it’s important to hear stories like these of them seriously manipulating the land but in a sustainable way.

        • Nice perspective, Anders. What is interesting to me (wearing my anthropologist hat) is how new the acceptance of the fact that indigenous peoples consciously cared for and maintained their environments is: not so very long ago, the stereotype was that either they ran over the environment willy nilly destroying it or that their presence had no impact whatsoever.

        • Anders- You really hit the nail on the head with what I would have said about the Kalapuya impact on their environment. I believe that modify is a great word to describe the impact the burning had on surrounding life. It does not have a positive or negative connotation to it, it just shows that they did change life to benefit themselves, without affecting the land negatively, and one could argue, positively. They simply changed it.

        • Yes, it is important to note that our presence isjust that– a presence, and that it has effects for better or for worse. The latter choice is up to us and our care and our knowledge.

  157. The fact that native Kalapuya selectively harvested deer to ensure the robustness and health of the herds does not surprise me. To contrast that practice with the longstanding western European practice of trophy hunting is to prove the flawed thought process that continues to plague America.

    The Kalapuya were directly ensuring the long-term survival of wildlife while simultaneously ensuring their own access to food. Why did it take the devastation of the Atlantic Cod fishery to tell us that we were “doing it wrong”? Why do we need long, expensive feasibility studies to build a new hydroelectric plant? Ask elder First Peoples. They will tell us what will work and what won’t. Columbia River tribes knew that dams would devastate salmon populations before they were even designed.

    Without going into detail, the “Importance of Vision” reading pretty much sums up the action required to re-achieve balance in our natural systems. I hope we can get there before it is too late.

    • I hope so too, Gabe. And thinking like yours (with its integration of ideas as well as care) leads us in the right direction.
      You have an interesting point about asking (or perhaps merely listening to) indigenous elders on certain points.
      For those who have not seen it, here is a link to the “Importance of Vision” reading you are referring to:

      Click to access rachels-envisioning.pdf

      Very thoughtful comment.

    • Gabe,

      Great point about the contrasting hunting practices of the Kalapuya and western Europeans. The indigenous respect for the lives of taken animals is wholly missing from traditional western hunting. Where did this disconnect begin, I wonder? At what point did people lose respect for the lives of the animals that sustain them?

  158. The fertility of the Willamette Valley always astounds me. It is interesting that this land is capable of producing nearly all the food its population requires, but instead people choose to grow grass seed. This seems like a poor choice in times of impending resource crises. Hopefully, residents of the valley will soon become aware of the incredible opportunity for self-sufficiency this land offers. Awareness will likely give way to changes in local agricultural land use.
    The Willamette Valley is in a position to become an example of sustainability for the world. This region has the potential to be a major pioneer in the local food movement. Other areas of the world could look to changes and methods of self-sufficiency used in the Valley when creating new sustainable agriculture regions. Hopefully, the bounty of this land can be fully realized.

    • The abundance of the valley was a gift–and also one fostered by native practices. There is a move to transition from grass seed to organic food production: I think a local food organization is working on encouraging that–and some farmers have already made the switch.
      We are already fortunate for the variety of the food that is locally grown here.
      Thanks for your comment on these points.

  159. I think its wonderful that some one actually realized that they way Native Americans interacted with their environment actually expanded and improved their habitat.
    Reading this makes me wish that “modern man” would pay more attention to how the indigenous maintained the forests and fields with their controlled burns. Now, if there is a fire, it has to be fought which increases the fuel for the next fire, that will be bigger than the first one.
    If modern forest managers would go back to the ways of the natives, we could light a fire in October instead of fighting one like heck in July.

    • Hi Loni, indeed- it took long enough for this realization to dawn on some of us from mainstream culture.
      One issue that your fire analogy brings up is that of long term planning. It takes knowledge of the land to make such burning decisions–and also means taking the time to step back and plan rather than to (literally and figuratively) put out all the fires that happen to emerge.
      Thoughtful points!

    • I agree with you about controlled burns and forest management. After so many decades of a policy of fire suppression, any fires that start now are (as we know) more often than not HUGE fires that threaten acres and acres of land and consume much more plant life than they would have had regular fires burned the underbrush. Forestry people are finally starting to realize the benefit of “prescription burns” but in many areas (southern California, for one) it isn’t feasible anymore because of the sprawl of houses and development. I imagine that even if a burn was approved for that area by the forestry department, the public outcry over it would keep it from happening.

      • Thus development of a particular type has made fire-established landscapes even more dangerous to human dwellers, since massive fires can no longer be controlled with smaller fires as they once were.

  160. What a wonderful thought that a deer leaping away would take along with it all of your negative feelings. The mind certainly is powerful when put to use. This article makes me think of being a dog owner. To have a healthy and balanced pet you have to put work into it. To have a healthy and sustaining earth, you have to put in the work. You cannot just take and take and expect the earth to continue to provide, you must give back in equal parts what you take so that there will be more to take when you need it. It’s so much easier to be lazy and expect everything to be there when you need it, but that is not a healthy mindset nor reality. You must take a dog for a walk and feed it good food to ensure that you have a happy and healthy pet that does not harm you. Equally, you must take care of the earth and share with it rather than dominate it. Wonderful thoughts in this article.

    • I like your caveat that that mind is a “powerful thing”– “when put to use!” Time to do more of that, I think.
      Interesting analogy with a “pet”– though looking at natural systems or other natural beings as “pets” seems a bit patronizing, your ideas about inappropriate expectations of results without effort are well taken.

  161. American settlers viewed the landscape they had found as vast and the resources appeared limitless. The Kalapuya people had a special relationship with the land and paid it great respect. Like the days-long rituals involved before a deer hunt and the extra care they took not to waste a thing. The rituals are beyond expectations for most of today’s society, but I believe the minimum waste tactics are methods we could pick up. As populations rise the strain on resources also grows. The earth will only provide for so long before resources are exhausted so we must change our ways to prolong our time. The changes need to be big, but not drastic, like only take what you need and be more thoughtful when wasting things out.

    • Hi Morgan, I completely agree, we need to pick up on minimum waste tactics. Waste is such a horrible thing that we face, especially in our industrialized nations. I have told the following story to several people: Upon the end of one of my trips to the grocery store last year, I noticed one of the workers putting crates and crates of what I would consider perfectly edible fruits and vegetables into the garbage. I asked why they were all being thrown away instead of provided to the local food bank and I was told it is prohibited by law. There were easily dozens of bundles of bananas, bags of apples, etc. being tossed simply because they had them one day (one day!) past the date of suggested sale. What a travesty. One of my projects is going to be efforts toward changing those policies, because the waste itself should be against the law.

      • I am glad you are working on doing away with such waste, Carol. In Eugene, much such one day old pull date produce is donated to the local food bank.
        In similar manner, we might organized gleaners to gather and share the fruits and nuts that otherwise go to waste.
        If in nature waste is food, this is literally the case in these situations.

    • The changes we need do indeed need to be big, Morgan. I agree that we can “grow” them from small steps as more and more of us do them– and that minimizing waste (especially toxic waste by not producing/using it?) is a great step forward. We might do well to remember that in nature waste equals food– and adjust our technologies accordingly.

  162. What stood out to me in this essay was the description of how the indigenous people of the Willamette valley hunted deer. I knew that it was important for indigenous people (of many different cultures) to perform ceremonies before and/or after a hunt, but I had never before heard that they would encircle the herd and let the best deer go free before beginning the hunt. So different from the way hunters today operate (always looking to get the biggest, best males) and yet they say that they are “helping to keep the herds healthy.”

    • Hi Sarah, I appreciate your view of hunters today, although it is not entirely accurate and more of a sweeping generalization. Real hunters, not mere “sportsmen”, are bound by ethical hunting practices which adhere to the very same indigenous practice of passing up the “best” looking animal and taking what nature is offering you. It is only logical to let the best one continue to breed, because they are clearly from a strong genetic pool. There is no advantage to nature or real hunters to continually search for the biggest animal then kill it. Despite the TV shows and magazines articles about extremely wealthy “trophy” hunters, there are far more of us with strong ethics that hunt for food and not simply victory over nature. I have also noticed there is a huge misinterpretation in the use of the word “hunter(s)” and it is all too often used synonymously with the definition of “poacher(s)”, which is inaccurate and unfortunate.

    • Good point about the contrasting understanding of “keeping the herds healthy”, Sarah. Seems pretty clear which really worked in the long run–and which statements were more self-serving.

  163. Early on, this essay highlights the objectification of nature that is so common of the Western worldview: “There’s lots of it, let’s use it all”. I believe the whole “Age of Exploration” was more of a desperate and greed driven search for resources and a “fresh start”, rather than mere curiosity.

    The Natives of the Whilamut, in contrast with European explorers and fur traders, did not view their lands and its offerings as a “jack pot”. They venerated their land rather than material possessions. Their reverence was demonstrated in many aspects of the way they lived and even by the fact that they named themselves after their land.

    From brush burnings to harvesting roots and paying careful attention to the cycles of nature through basic observations, we have a lot to learn from the practices of indigenous peoples in regard to our actual needs for survival and sustainability. My favorite quote from this whole essay is, “…our land sustains us only when we care for it.” What a simple concept, in which I firmly believe, yet the dominant worldview makes it much more complicated than it needs to be.

    • It is certainly true that most pioneers were looking for a new home: unfortunately, many re-created many of the problems they thought they were escaping from. One of the drawbacks of fleeing history…
      Pointed phrase of discovering a “jackpot”, Carol. Reverence for the land– and understanding the need for reciprocity in relationship with it, is certainly very different.
      Thanks for your thoughtful comment.

  164. Truly a shame what we have done to the Williamette Valley. Explorers came to this land looking to get rich and stock up on food, but ended up destroying the land. What is sad is that they even realized this land was a “paradise”, because of the way the natives had treated the land. The natives understood how to keep a balance in the land, something that was not understood by the explorers. Because of this, the land is tarnished and will most likely never be restored to its paradise like state.

    • Thanks for your comment here, Troy. Can you think of any values that supported the valley’s original fertility that might help up in restoring its natural resilience?

    • I like your term of paradise for the northwest. Obviously we don’t have palm trees and monkeys swinging through trees, we have more rain and cloudy skies. I would have to say that if we could meld the ideas of responsibility and a dash of the explorer’s consumerism we could make out land very productive and hopefully restore some of our land. I think because we still have an abundance of fertile land and clean water sources we have a chance to restore some of the “tarnished” land. I am very greatly that the area does have so many environmentally thoughtful people. I mean a lot of states don’t even recycle so Oregon has a chance with it’s forward thinking to make changes for the better I feel.

      • Thanks for your comment, Carly: of course, the term “paradise” was not mine– as noted in this article, which gives this term some irony. We do have a long ways to go to repair and care for the future of our valley, and I appreciate your upbeat perspective on Oregonians.

  165. Reading this article shows me just another example of how pioneers or the newcomers to the west overlooked the complexity of the land they stumbled upon. It only makes sense that the natives took care of their land and maintained such a beautiful place to live.

    It always intrigues me to hear stories of what the Willamette Valley used to look like, with it’s numerous wildlife population and abundant flora. I say it intrigues me because knowing how other locations in the US and world are, we still are comparatively rural and picturesque in many places. I wish, as do many others, that I could have really seen the change that have occured.

    I agree very much with the end of the article’s refence to Armstrong’s article about the self sustaining community. I see no reason why our local areas cannot sustain us. Not only would it provide jobs, have a better impact on our environment, the quality of food would be better and we would not be so reliant upon other country’s resources. It is true that we may not be able to eat bananas all year if our local areas were self-sustainable but that is the reality of how the earth works seasonally. We need to step away from the instant gradification that has been ingrained into our society and realize not every single item we want is just sitting waiting for us in every store. Now I realize we don’t want to lose our bananas in the winter but cutting back and living a little more in-sync with our land is always a good thing.

    • Hi Carly, thanks for your thoughtful points here. It is true that we have lost much- but also that we have more natural resilience remaining than in other parts of the US.
      I think we should certainly be grateful for our land use laws in this regard.
      I agree with you in emphasizing local production. Not only does that reduce much CO2 released in transporting goods over long distances– it helps put all of us in touch with the natural sources of our food.

  166. Many of the contrasting principles of indigenous cultures and those of pioneers in the Willamette Valley are also indicative of the problems with modern Western culture as a whole. Many Americans have become desensitized to our food sources, no longer caring where or how it was raised or grown. Much traditional grocery food comes prepackaged and pesticide-laced, yet it is considered cheap and convenient. Comparatively, cultivating and growing crops is so ingrained in the lives of indigenous peoples, which I would argue is better for the land and the people themselves. It is telling that organic and local food is often labeled “alternative.” Going to farmer’s markets is such a fulfilling experience that everyone should have if only to become more in touch with whole food and the people who labor intensively to bring it to our tables. Volunteering at an organic farm is also rewarding and humbling, to be able to work with the earth and witness firsthand the rigorous work involved in planting and maintaining produce without chemicals. I think everyone should have the opportunity to participate in the “slow food” movement, which seeks to foster healthier eating habits for us and the earth, and a more personal relationship with our food.

    • You have an important point that we are little able to think responsibly (or wisely) about resources that we are disconnected from. I like the insight you indicate in shifting to values that have sustained natural lives for tens of thousands of years with modern day experiences such as volunteering at an organic farm.

    • Good point about how a large portion of Americans have become desensitized to our food sources. We are more concerned about saving money and getting food quickly, and could care less about what we are buying. A perfect example, fast food chains. I wish I could live in a time where I could grow my own food and survive on my own, rather than live in a time where I am too focused on being convenient and eating cheap.

  167. Very interesting topic. It is noce to learn about the history of where I have grown up. Thinkking of nearby Camas’ beauitful blooms as water shimmering in the sun makes you think of a warm sunny day here in Oregon when tehre is still dew drops on the grass almost throughout the day.
    Being a native Oregonian I believe in doing what we can do sustain our beautiful environment that we truely have inherited because thanks to the peoples before us that took care of this land we now have the oppotunity to take care of it so our children can inherit this park like scenary.
    When I read the part of the religious leaders being mostly women it really surprised me because I think of religious leaders to be mostly male, especially in history, but like with many Oregon traditions we know how to equal the playing field and invite everyone to be a part of this home-like territory.
    Lastly, the one part that put me in a serene state of mind was imaging the canoe that was ‘made for the river’ gliding over the water. Every year I go to Montana for a week and stay on Whitefish lake where we canoe and explore and just as with their canoes, my canoe glides over the water and becomes one with it, as do I.

    • Hi Cryria, thanks for your comment: a camas lake is a lovely image. Nice perspective on female religious leadership. I have never been to this part of Montana, but it sounds lovely!

    • Many old religions have/had female leaders. They were/are considered to be more connected to the spiritual earth and more understanding of her followers problems. There were also many tribes that balanced their religious gatherings, having both a female and male representation.

  168. I agree with your statement at the end of your article; “In turn, our land sustains us only when we care for it.” The Kalapuya people understood this concept. From the caring of their land to the animals that they hunted, they respected all forms of life. They understood when and where to burn their land so that it would bring new life but also would not destroy life that was already there. They new how to use all of the lands resources to its’ full potential. For example, they believed that if they threw part of the deer away that could possibly be used for something, the deer would never come back for them to hunt. We can take a lesson from the Kalapuya people. With prices going up in our economic society we should look to our natural resources and use them to help supplement our basic needs.

    • Thoughtful considerations here, Desiree. Note that the tactics of the Kalapuya were not supplementary but sustaining of both themselves and their environment in the long term. Are there ways that the values and strategies you mention here might be applied to our economy and the sustenance we take from the natural world as a whole?

  169. Biodiversity in the beginning can be used to supplement then sustain small cities. Then maybe global diversity can be possible.

  170. I am always amazed at how much of an influence the practice of burning had on the land. It did so much to help not just the land but the people. There is a story I read that interviews a native of the Yosemite valley. It sticks with me because when they brought her from the reservation back to Yosemite after many years had passed her response was that the area was “to bushy. Where did the open go?”

  171. In conjunction with the reading of Suzuki’s “Wisdom of the Elders”, this essay adds more light on the ecological situation of the Willamette valley not that long ago. It’s a shame that we as citizens of this planet cannot enjoy that rich and productive bread basket. It’s a shame that we have allowed our societies to be debased by ignorance, consumerism and a removal from the relationship we once had with Nature.

    We can reclaim our heritage if we educate our people through the wisdom and authority of elders, environmentalists, conservationists, and ecologists. We have a right and a duty to treat the world with love and compassion instead of allowing it to fall into the hands of depravity and death. Our collective voices need to get louder.

    • It is a hopeful vision and a powerful one that we might do such reclaiming, Dwayne. I agree that our collective voices (and actions) supporting the land that supports our lives must indeed grown stronger. Thanks for your comment.

  172. This reading triggered many of the thoughts my wife and I have recently shared over the past year. She grew up knowing how to plant and harvest crops on her parent’s farm, and her parents taught her how to garden and can produce and use a root cellar to store potatoes, apples, etc. (They also participated in the Minnesota Land Set-aside Program to allow indigenous prairie grasses and flowers to flourish. Furthermore, they adopted the practice of replacing any felled or weather- uprooted trees on their property with those of the appropriate cover- type.) We have begun planning our own gardens to focus on self-sustainability and passing that on to our children. There has been increased reliance on commercial produce; a task many could accomplish on their own, without the negative effects commercial produce has in the forms of insecticides and fertilizers used to sustain yields and marketability.

    • What a wonderful heritage of care you wife experienced from her family. I can imagine what the US might look like if we all exercised such standards. It is a true gift to your children (and the next generations in general) that you will be passing these on to them. Thanks for sharing this.

    • I think it is outstanding to hear that Americans are still being raised to nurture and love the land. It would be amazing if more families raised their kids in this way. It would be interesting to see how America would change if more parents shared these values with their kids.

    • Hi Michael, You have the right idea! Commercial produce isn’t as good as the fresh homegrown kind and plus they use to many pesticides and other harmful products just to increase quantities grown. When I have my own property I’m going to start my own vegetable garden. I like the idea of living off my own homegrown fruits/vegetables. It is good that your wife’s family passed down these skills to her and that you are passing this on to your kids.

      • Indeed, a tomato traveling green from Mexico and ripened by nitrous oxide is hardly the same. I am not looking forward to genetically engineered tomatoes that are tough enough to stand longer journeys either.

  173. I enjoyed reading about the Willamette Valley, and picturing the area in its pristine form. The Kalapuya are a good example of the type of native scientific knowledge expressed through their actions. The careful digging of the roots of the camas plant causes the plants to spread. Choosing their kill of deer carefully as to leave the strongest improving the chances of a healthy herd in the future, without having all the “genetics” information that most modern people rely on for decisions.

  174. When reading the first few paragraphs of this essay, I couldn’t help comparing the description of the Willamette valley to the Central Valley of California. I grew up in Fresno and the stories I have heard about the wetland valley, the foothills and mountains (like Yosemite and Kings Canyon) pre-colonialism, or pre-agriculture, sound quite a lot like the Willamette Valley. Up by Yosemite, there is a place called Fish Camp, named because the salmon heading upstream were so loud, folk couldn’t sleep at night. It’s scary how a place could go from being so abundant to terribly scarce is such a short time. People forget the Sierra Nevada is only 45 miles away, the air is so thick and chalky, they are covered most of the year.
    The ethnocentricity of the Europeans is mind boggling. I saw a story about Vikings, I believe, probably on the discovery channel, who landed and settled in either Iceland or Greenland. No one in the community survived a harsh winter that occurred maybe a year or two after they settled. They died, not because they did not have the option or resources to survive, but because they refused the advice of the native people living there. How Europeans could come to the Willamette Valley and think they could improve upon it, especially coming from a place already stripped of vast resources by their ancestors, by following in their foot steps is beyond me.
    And still I marvel at how the US and the world manage food and agriculture. That a small geographic area is responsible for the majority of food or seed for our entire country, huge spans of the globe. Agriculture has raped the Central Valley repeatedly so that it is now an arid, dry desert, with trickling, poisoned rivers, a depleting aquifer, soil stripped of nutrients, poisoned air, poisoned water, poisoned land, carrying the agricultural burden of the nation. Why do we build huge communities in areas that can not sustain them? Why do we poop in our water? So why do Willamette farmers grow grass seed that gives us all horrible seasonal allergies while we have to buy all our produce from farms in Chile and Mexico?
    Oh, and on a side note, is Willamette the English version of Whilamut?

    • Thanks for this comment and the information on the Fish Camp, Amy. Kat Anderson has done a remarkable job of reconstructing the ethnobotanical and other ecological practices of native Californians.
      I would want to add one modification to your comment. It is not agriculture per se that is the problem, but a particular type of industrialized agriculture described in The Death of Roman Gonzales: agriculture reliant on high inputs of petrochemicals, monoculture, and straight row plowing. In fact, an argument can be made, as Bill Mollison who founded the “permaculture” movement did, that indigenous people practiced agricutlure: it was just a very different type of agriculture than what we practice today. It is more akin to what has been called “agroecology” (see http://agroeco.org/).

  175. I think it is amazing the care and detail that the Native American’s of Oregon gave to their spiritual killing of a deer. The fact that they sang a song to the deer telling them to run because they were coming to kill them shows their reverence for the animal and for nature. I was also struck by the Native American’s thought toward the future. The diligence that they took with root management, burning of fields, manipulating nature led to a more vibrant and productive ecosystem for them to live in.

    • Great points, Justin. I agree. If only we might return to comparable care and detail in our environmental choices today.

    • I also was amazed by this and I have so much awe for this type of outlook. Reading all this material really makes me want to go and experience this type of living somewhere. You also make a good point with them making a better ecosystem for themselves. It also seems like they did it because they knew it was beneficial for all. Really amazing philosophies.

    • Some Native Americans believed that they lived in a world of equilvalent beings; that the trees, rocks, deer, birds, and humans all had equal standing as citizens of their community. To the indians killing of an animal did not signify dominance over nature but rather as a gift given by the animal to the man.

  176. I’ve been looking for years for a gourmet cookbook that focuses almost exclusively on foods available naturally in Cascadia. Does anybody know of one? Is there a “native foods” harvest celebration or somewhere that one could taste camas or other native foods? I’ve lived in Oregon my whole life and the only native foods I can say for certain I’ve tasted are a variety of berries, which I love. If I ever get a chance, I’d like to plant several acres in a variety of native berry bushes and use those in preserves instead of the imported fruit.
    The amazing wildlife populations and abundance of food was after the plagues of small pox had decimated the indigenous populations. How much did their sudden drop in hunting numbers affect what the new arrivals were seeing?
    How did the people learn to tend the land in this manner? When? Only after they’d done some real damage, or did some of their practices come with them over the Bering Land Bridge? I find it interesting because the indigenous people of Siberia live in many ways in a similar manner to many of the First Peoples of the Americas.

    • Hi Neyssa, thanks for your comment. There are a number of natural foods guides and cookbooks combined you are probably familiar with. I can’t think of one off hand that is focused particularly on Cascadia. Aside from the berries and mushrooms (and perhaps some greens) that are plentiful and many of us have tasted, I’m not sure about the ecological benefits of such a book, since so many native plants or their habitat are currently threatened, we need to build up their numbers before we consume them. Having said that, it is also true that a number of secondary crops can also be harvested in native forests, such as ferns, mushrooms, salal and some hardwood– also some medicinals such as Devils’ Claw roots. My favorite native berries include huckleberries of any kind.
      There is an idea being circulated (I believe, in 1492) that the vast populations of wildlife came after the decimation of native human populations who were no longer therefore harvesting them. But in fact, this does not work for the Northwest, since, for instance, practices that fostered habitat for deer and elk and native root harvesting and fishing practices were hundreds if not thousands of years old, according to archeological as well as ethnographic data. Though native populations at the mouth of the Columbia likely were hit by smallpox epidemics in the 1790s (about the same time some early fur traders were arriving by ship and a decade before Lewis and Clark), the Willamette Valley epidemics took place later– and in fact, peoples on the southern Oregon valley and coast sent word to fur traders in the nineteenth century to stay away since they were spreading disease. At this point, the native populations throughout the Northwest far outnumbered the populations of pioneers– even though it was post-epidemic. Meanwhile, fish, game and plants remained consistently abundant in all these regions. There is also this: populations that built up for thousands of years (or co-evolved with humans, as Lichatowich details in his Salmon without Rivers) were not likely to explode in numbers in a decade or so.
      This theory may not work for the East Coast either, if you read Carolyn Merchant’s careful ecological history of that area.
      Where it might work (in reverse) is for the technology brought by Europeans that was specifically focused on obliterating particular species like wolves, grizzling bear and beaver. Unfortunately, it seems to take much longer to build up a population than to make it extinct.
      The answers to your where and when are complex and we may never be able to ascertain them completely. But Northwest folklore provides a blueprint for such management– for instance, in the Skokomish tale that indicates how to release salmon eggs as the salmon were harvested in order to bolster future generations. It seems (though this is speculation) that such knowledge was built up over generations of experience–and some native peoples will also say that they learned it through communication with more than human species. Check out my sketch on “indigenous peoples” here– there is more detail in my pdf. “indigenous ecology in the Pacific Northwest”.

      • Thank you, Madronna, that was very informative. I didn’t mean to imply that the native human populations were holding down the populations of other organisms or that their deaths were in any way a positive event for the ecology. Quite the opposite, actually. I have the feeling that the human population had become such a part of the natural check-and-balance of the area that the sudden drop in their numbers would have been a negative event if it allowed for sudden explosions of other populations. But apparently, as you point out, this didn’t happen.
        I read Salmon Without Rivers last spring and loved it.
        You make a good point on the need for natural edibles to be built back up before anyone makes a point of consuming them.

        • Thank you for the thoughtful follow up comment, Neyssa. You raised some very important questions that deserved a response. And I did think of one exception to the idea that there is some time necessary for a species to recover and flourish after human pressure on it (many endangered species can and have come back, but it takes awhile)– and that is, with insect species. The one species that did flourish as a result of the absence of indigenous burning practices was the grasshopper.

        • I remember reading that in one of the articles we’ve read for this class, someone talking about the increase in grasshoppers and locusts. I’ve actually thought about that quite a bit since because in the diary-based memoirs of the pioneers so many of them talk about the grasshoppers destroying their farms. I’d never before put it together that those swarms were in direct relation to the farming practices.

        • Particular kinds of agriculture do nurture insects: in the case of the Willamette Valley, this was exaggerated by the suppression of native burning, which previously inhibited grasshopper populations (in fact, it roasted them so that native people might consume them rather than have the grasshoppers consume so much local greenery).
          In terms of this dynamic, the case of squirrels is also interesting. Native oaks of Oregon and California produce substantial numbers of acorns once every seven years as a response to the squirrels that would otherwise destroy the acorns and stop oak reproduction. But by keeping the numbers low for several years, the squirrel population did not over-grow. The other thing that happened was that native peoples consumed both the squirrels and the acorns, maintaining a kind of balance. But today squirrels (including a non-native one brought here from the East Coast) are over-running orchards, devastating their crops and girdling street trees through chewing– while too many urban dwellers feed them since they find them cute.

  177. I have traveled much, in the United State and out, and one thing that always reoccurs in my mind is “What did this place used to look like before modern technology?” Reading this essay and also the quotes from Malcolm Margolin’s book “A Blessing on the Land: the Cultivated Landscape of Native America” makes me extremely jealous that I never have been able to see a land in it’s “true” beauty. Even though natives did have an impact, it seems that it was in a way made the earth more beautiful, more diverse. I do hope that one day the Willamette Valley can look like what it was when settlers first came. To be able to look out and see vast abundance of wildlife everywhere would be a dream come true.

    In all this it still amazes me that there was a time and place where partnership with the earth was the common practice. The fact that people learned from their mistakes and made changed in order to not only better themselves but to better the land, their family, as well. The fact that the Kalaypuya people did things in such a way that life flourished is something I would like to see become commonplace again. I love reading how they honored and respected the wildlife around them, and it makes me want to try and do more of that.

    I feel like we could take a few thousand pages from their book and come out better on the other side. One thing that really fascinated me is that the Kalaypuya knew that keeping the land well meant that it kept themselves well. In making the land a fruitful place deers came to them so they ‘“didn’t have to go off and look for them”’, and they also knew that letting the fittest species alive meant that they would have better harvest for the future. Now people go out and purposely try and kill the best specimen, not to eat or use but just to say that they did. I love the fact that their respect was immense and that they held ceremonies for just one deer. Now we can go in a helicopter and chase down animals until they have no will to run anymore. Their appreciation for all live strengthens my own.

    • Thanks for such a thoughtful and deeply feeling comment, Laura. Your last sentence sums up it up eloquently, indigenous “appreciation for all life strengthens my own”– and all of ours. Another important thing such indigenous appreciation gives us is the vision of the human potential to life in concert with a flourishing land.

  178. It is such a shame that the first whites that came to the Willamette Valley did not care and tame the wilderness as did the indians. They viewed that land as an area to be dominated as a park that they could use on a daily basis but not give back to it. They came and took and took and took from the land but gave nothing in return until the land could no longer give then the whites moved and repeated the process.

    • And given not only the interdependent nature of the world that sustains us, but the way in which reciprocity works within it, we are facing the sad consequences of the history of taking without giving back.

  179. It would have been impressive to see the Willamette Valley as it once was before the arrival of settlers. Buying locally grown food is a good idea as it supports your community and due to the short distance the food is transported, is also a green practice, but from my understanding it is not always an option. Unlike more southern climates, some crops are not able to grow year round. So while caloric needs might be able to be satisfied by growing locally, people who have become accustomed to being able to have whatever produce they want at any time of the year may be reluctant or even refuse to adopt this model.

    • Locally grown models might, I think, be supplemented by fair trade “exotics” that are truly treated as luxuries. Though they did not rely on non-local crops, indigenous peoples traveled all the way to Central America. They did rely on trade routes that tied them across the mountains and thence to the Plains (they loved bitter root, a Central and Eastern Oregon crop, for instance).

  180. Being that I am a Native American in Oregon, I can add that honoring a kill is still practiced. We believe that the animal is a grandfather and when you kill something, they in essance gave their life to you. First kill ceremonies are given for the hunter or fisherman to signify a step towards adulthood. Also all the meat of the animal is given away to family and the community to teach the importance of providing for the community.

  181. What really struck me about this piece was how much obvious diversity and knowledgeable practice was already in the Willamette Valley when the explorers and emigrants arrived. Had they come to the area and discovered a poorly managed and abused environment, I would have a much easier time understanding why they forced their views of correct management on the Native population. As it was, it seems to me that they walked into a veritable paradise of diversity, and ignored the fact that part of that diversity was complemented by the interactions between the Kalapuya people and their home ranges. Whether this was due to simple ignorance of natural systems (not an unsafe bet, early American settlers do have a rather poor history in that regard) or a belief in their own superiority (again, not unlikely), it would be fascinating to know what the Valley would be like today if the emigrants had worked with the Kalapuya people rather than restricting them.

    • Of course, had the pioneers found a place that was poorly managed and degraded, they wouldn’t have much to attract them there. John Sauter, in his book on history of the Tillamook peoples state that they had the good fortune to manage their lands in such a way that it attracted pioneers. The same went for the Umatilla, who created such fertile farmland on their reservation in the mid nineteenth century that they lost it to pioneers.
      And as for the future, you present a hopeful potential: if we learn from the past, we (or our grandchildren) might indeed someday see the kind of flourishing Willamette Valley that once was.

  182. When I first came to OSU someone told me that this valley was so fertile because it had been burning for the last like 100 years. I got this image into my head of a giant raging inferno with towering flames consuming everything in their path. I think all students need to read this to clarify that these were controlled burnings practiced by the Kalapuya tribe in order to help enrich the land. This article was enlightening, learning about the ancient tribes that made the wonderful Willamette valley what it is today. I found it very interesting that the spiritual leaders of the tribe who guided their wisdom when it came to growing foods and enriching the land were women. This is something that is not often seen and was wondering if the view point on nature for the Kalapuya tribe was that of a more feminine nature?

    • I am glad you got a different impression to supplant the one of a “raging inferno”, Kayli. I think you might want to adjust the timing here as well: the controlled burning done by native people took places for hundreds of years, but was suppressed by pioneers.
      I think we might say that in societies that express a worldview of partnership, that is likely to carried out not only with respect to the natural world, but with respect to the treatment of other humans.
      Thanks for your thoughtful response.

    • As humans first started to get their training wheels, ancient tribes were guided by women. They made a lot of the decisions for the tribe while the men went out and performed the muscle power. I do not know when things shifted to a male dominated world, but I think that the power shift needs to lean back toward a woman’s nurturing view of how to handle things. Even today the, for lack of better words, arguing skills of a woman still exist from all those generations ago.

    • Wow your view of the whole Willamette Valley engulfed in fire not a pretty sight. I am glad you read this article to have a better idea of what really happened. But yes ash is a great fertilizer for plants, also wildlife have been known to go to burn areas and get certain minerals from an old burn sight. I also like the idea that the elders of the Kalaypua tribe were women. I think that women are more nurturing and caring than men. This leads to great ideas of taking care of the natural world like we do our family.

  183. The picture painted of the Willamette Valley in this article is incredible. It is astonishing to me that European settlers could move into the Willamette Valley and disregard the Kalapuya’s advice, practices and warnings, when the obvious success of these practices was laid out right in front of them. I cannot understand how these settlers could move to a new place and landscape and think that they knew how to better care for the land than the people who had inhabited it for thousands of years. Here is a time when the partnership of the Kalapuya’s and the settler’s knowledge would have been extremely beneficial.
    This article also made me again consider how valuable it is to overcome the disconnect I often experience with my food. Going to the grocery store gives no indication to where or how food was grown, farmed or slaughtered. By becoming more knowledgeable about this I believe I will also become more knowledgeable about taking advantage of the natural land. Actually being a part of harvesting my food will give me a much greater appreciation of the lands gifts then picking it off of supermarket shelves.

    • Of course many pioneers saw this as due to the nature of the land (which they wished to own and farm)–and in this sense it was convenient to neglect the native impacts.
      If we remove this motive to take the land and look at things clearly, as you point out, it is pretty remarkable how much denial and ignorance was entailed in the attitudes of many (if not all) pioneers.
      I am glad you are determining to heal your own disconnect with the sources of your sustenance– something we might all well attend to in the modern age to help us tend to our responsibility as well as need for the land and lives that sustain us.

  184. This, at least to me, shows that people can live a sustainable life. The Kalaypuya people developed a way over many generations to become one with their environment that they were able to make the area prosper where nature was struggling, by evidence of the locust swarms devastating the crops after controlled burning was suppressed. If the Kalaypuya did not manage the land in this way, they would have never lived here for as long as they did. I think that people can manage the land in any part of the world, though it make take time and patients, it can be done.
    Respecting the land is a must, and by respecting the land one needs to use everything that it offers. Using the entire deer does not waste the life of the deer, but uses the sacrifice as a gift to the rest of the inhabitants of the area. I do not eat meat, but if I did I would make sure every part of the animal were used; just as I use ever part of the plants I eat, even composting what is not usable by my body. I believe people should be given more incentives to use their backyard as a garden which would take more stress off already stressed land and “tune” their gardens toward a local area to get better results. Patients is the key, but people are not and want everything now; even more so in this new age of instant access to information.

    • Good points, Stephen. It IS true that there is no excuse for living unsustainably, since humans have lived sustainably in the past. I am also heartened by the number of backyard and urban gardens currently springing up (see some of the links here for a few of these).
      And I absolutely agree that we need better incentives to get what we want in this society. (Corporations should not be rewarded for destructive social and environmental actions).
      Eating meat is problematic unless we can find non-factory farmed sources. I think Barbara Kingsolver has an excellent discussion on such choices in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.
      Assessing our food choices is an important ethical action for all of us in a society in which we are so separated from food sources and in which we consume so much.

    • I raise my own meat as well as hunt for my meat that my family eats. We also have a garden it is so nice to know where your food is coming from and to know that is has not been fed hormones or been sprayed with pesticides. I also have chickens for organic eggs. But not everyone is able to raise their own food I understand that. But I agree with you that more people today need to take more of an interest in growing their own food and improving the natural world. Even if it is as small as a garden in the back yard or planting some fruit trees. We will be a lot healthier as well as the natural world would benefit.

      • Not everyone is able to raise their own food, but many are able to make choices to purchase particular kinds of food. And community gardens are important especially where good food is otherwise unavailable– as in Oakland, Ca (see our links page).

      • Someday I hope to be able to live similarly to you. I don’t eat much meat regulary, but having a garden would be great. Knowing that I can go out and just harvest something and then eat is a very appealing idea to me. I think that many problems stem from the fact that people just don’t care where their food comes from. I almost think that we would all be better off living as natives once did, at least for the envinronment’s sake.

        • Whereas I don’t think we can return to the past, we CAN enact particular values and the wisdom that flows from them– and what better way to begin that being responsible for growing and harvesting a portion of your own food?

    • Hi Stephen,
      I agree that in order to respect the land one must use and treat every sacrifice like a gift. Its important for each one of us to live more sustainably. I love the idea of incentives for implementing personal backyard gardens. It is possible that just by growing and nurturing the plants in which their food comes from people would have more respects for the earth. Suddenly, the food they are eating is more like an accomplishment then something easily accessed. I would absolutely agree that patience is key in this process.

      • It does indeed seem like the ability to practice patience might turn around much of our destructive actions these days– that is, working as patiently as the folks in Gaviotas did, to find a technology that truly reflects their values instead of leaping in to do the first thing that comes to mind.

  185. I grew up in southern Oregon. Part of my childhood was spent learning in the outdoors. My family would hunt and fish. While I never chose to hunt, I became quite proficient at processing game and fish for our freezer. Through girl scouts and later 4-H I learned about which plants were edible and how to gather and survive in the wilderness. I wish I remembered a fraction of what I once learned, but I will never forget the bounty of the Oregon wilderness. After living in various parts of Oregon, I was always proud to show my state to visitors. We would relish the seafood on the coast and the fresh produce in the Willamette valley. To this day I miss the food found in Oregon. The beef in Montana is better, but the artisan foods, produce and seafood were amazing. I always order my garden plants and seeds from Territorial Seed out of Cottage Grove, Oregon. Their philosophy to preserve the earth and the food products within the Willamette Valley, as well as promoting heritage foods, has garnered my business for as long as I can garden.

    • Besides your experience with tasty and nutritious food, you also have some acquaintance with intimate connections to where our food comes from and how to process it. I think this info is invaluable for making both practical and ethical decisions. And you like have forgotten less of the details than you think!

  186. The Willamette Valley back when the Kalapuya tribe inhabited it sounds devine. I have not been to see the valley today but from the sound of the article it sounds like it has suffered from our inhabitance today. I really do hope that the locals today will do all they can to preserve what is left of the Willamette Valley. It is sad to think that a paradise such as that is now not as nice. I grew up in the Napa Valley in California when I read about when the first settlers saw the valley how much wheat and wildlife lived in the valley. Today the Napa valley is all grape vineyards and I never thought of it being any different. Humans change the Napa Valley forever. I know a lot of farmers who burn their fields to get rid of weeds and unwanted insects as well as too fertilize the ground. It was neat to hear that the Kalapuya tribe did this as well. I think the part of the article that was most shocking to me was that the Kalapuya elders were women. When you think of tribal elders I think of them being men like in a lot of native American tribes. I think that women are a lot more caring and nurturing then men so it makes them great leaders. I also agree that today we need to farm and grow as much as we can to feed society today. This was an inspiring article.

    • Thanks for your comment, Christi. I do think that this history is a vision to contemplate for the future and says much about our human potential– and the ability of women to exert leadership and men to be nurturant both.

    • I think it is evident that women are more spiritually inclined than men are. I just believe that women ave a better brain capacity for the spiritual world.

      • I think one must be careful about generalizations with brain as opposed to cultural capacity. Development in particular regions of the brain is linked with cultural knowledge: large parts of the brain actually dissolve after about the age of 11 if their circuits are not filled in.

      • I understand what you are trying to say–and I agree there is a propensity there–but, I don’t know about it being brain capacity. There are many (many) male spiritual leaders. Maybe you are thinking of families..and the female ability to nurture? In most families, it is indeed the female that leads her children (and sometimes partner) to her belief system.

  187. We need to redefine the term progress. Even at the lowest point of the current housing bubble debacle, new subdivisions were still going up on every available piece of land in my neighborhood. Each house sits cheek by jowl with its neighbor and there is a 1 foot by 9 foot piece of grass between each house and road. They have all sold within the last year. Developers make money, many farmers do not.

    I admire the premise of Dan Armstrong’s article about local food production, but I think meeting this goal will take more than replacing grass seed farms with cabbages and kohlrabi. Dan measures “the caloric needs of today’s population,” but what about our caloric wants? The Pacific Northwest seems to have a number of people interested in eating healthy, even organically, but we still provide enough business to McDonalds and Hersheys to keep their products in town (not that chocolate and fast food are necessarily bad, sometimes they are quite tasty). Telling people they can live locally if they would only stop expanding their communities, starting and growing businesses and building parking garages is going to be a hard sell unless we can change the idea that the only good economy is a growing economy. A stable, sustainable local economy can be a good thing too.

    • I absolutely agree with you about defining the term progress: in fact, that is the central theme of the latest essay posted here. Fast food obviously does not figure into the equation of raising healthy food locally. This is an important point to ponder as we make choices that influence our future. I like the idea of school gardens and farm to school programs to get the next generation started on a healthier track.
      As for Hersheys, tasty they might be, but not if you look below the surface to the fact that they are supplied with chocolate grown on African plantations by enslaved children–and have refused to make any progress in changing this despite international pressure and their own promises (on which they have not followed through).
      There is much research being done on the addictive nature of “tasty” fast food that combines salt, oil, and carbohydrate to trigger habituated brain reactions that subvert our actual hunger signals.

    • Growth is going to happen, but the way it is managed is the key and through education. Educate the community on buying locally or made in America goods or buy a older house and refurbish it instead of a new house. A stable sustainable local economy is a good thing, but some people are just not educated on how.

      • I agree that what kind of growth is the key issue. Paul Hawken (Natural Capitalism) suggests that we can “grow” human ingenuity and wisdom and not so much an economy basing growth on use of limited natural resources. Here’s one idea: Bhutan (a Buddhist nation) has a “Gross National Happiness” quotient rather than a GNP– and that is their measure of “growth”. They also have very stringent environmental regulations.
        Closer to home, Oregon is struggling with growth in the face of limiting carbon output and urban sprawl, etc.

  188. One of the main problems humans have had with respecting land is the addition of trading to other humans. The quote “a man could make more money shooting them for skins than working a job” shows that humans can create a living for themselves by gathering one resource and trading for all of their needs. Trading resources to other areas makes the initial area scarce of these resources and allows a population to arise in an area that does not have the means for survival. This is part of the problem with over population in locations such as Africa. Peter Boag has some good ideas and is a creative thinker. You see this on a massive scale in forestry as they cut down trees but have a plan to replant them for future generations. Esther Stutzman has some ideas that suggest we get the most out of our resources. I compare it to the genetic manipulation of corn over the decades which allows for it to be a vital food source. I think humans need to do more research before they start starting these types of technology to improve the method before it begins. Esther Stutzman also proves that having a spiritual side is very helpful in finding environmental strategies because people tend to care more when it is close to their heart.

    • I would say yes and no to your comment in looking more closely at history. Trade was actually carried on extensively in the pre-contact Northwest. There were trade routes that went all the way to Mexico and local trading centers that brought together groups from the entire bioregion at least annually.
      So trade wasn’t the issue.
      Genetically engineered crops tend not to be producing for us actually– although they may be producing money for Monsanto. Check out the Union of Concerned Scientists report on this, entitled “Failure to Yield”.
      Barbara Kingsolver has a great essay on the distinction between genetically engineering and hybridization in her Small Wonder. It is important not to confuse the two.
      I very much like your idea about our caring best for what is close to our hearts!

  189. I found it interesting that the opening sentence is about European explorers using the Willamette Valley as a place to return too for food. My initial thought after reading the essay was how interesting it is that with the more advanced technology of those European explorers, they had to rely upon a land that was cultivated and sustained by the Kalaypuya. It is humbling to know that technology or advancements are not necessarily the best solution to sustainability. It took natives who were stripped of such “tools” to create such a bountiful harvest for the Europeans to benefit from. Maybe this is how we retain what we have, by stripping away all of the extras and learn to use the basics. I think we are on the right track by encouraging recycling, this is HUGE in Oregon and very little in so many other parts of the country, but our focus needs to go back to a love of the land. We need to reclaim the appreciation for that vital part of our life, the part that sustains us.

    • Or perhaps natives had different types of technologies: place-based tools and knowledge stemming from a different set of values than those European explorers had? Thanks for your thoughts here, Jamie.

    • European thought at the time when the first pioneers came was that of a masculine viewpoint on nature. Nature would bend to their will and do what they wanted it to do. This has produced results and they instituted that as a standard but in the Willamette valley the non-intrusive ways of the natives was so effective that it baffled them, and they did to the land as they had always done. Now its hard to change those farming practices back, but I’d like to see it. Oregon’s recycling program is ok just that. California has a more comprehensive one and even has put in penalties for not recycling certain things. In Oregon we mostly work by the honor program when it comes to personal recycling so the motivation is low for doing the right thing. I don’t think there should be such harsh penalties for not recycling but these needs to be more of an intensive.

      • You bring up and important point in terms of incentives for doing the right thing. And I know that though we are proud of the Oregon program, parts of Washington state have better processes– including compost in yard waste and accommodating plastic bags, for instance.
        It caused an historical loss that so many pioneers only saw the land in terms of subduing it– we can grieve for that at the same time that we can change the future.

    • I appreciated your comment about recycling, Jamie. Though, sometimes I feel it’s too little too late. Oregonians have embraced the concept, but the oceans are so littered with plastic, causing the deaths of many species, I am concerned about the remedy. Is there one?.

      • Seems like the more such tragedies there are, the more we need to do whatever we can. That is, the argument that we are doing “too little, too late” does not indicate that we should stop doing the “little”, but that we should each do what we can to do more.

  190. The application of controlled burns was not recognized as important for a healthy ecosystem like it is today. I know that many North American forests rely upon fires to spread their seed, fight off pests, or even just for growth purposes. The native viewpoint was lost in the need to “save” the forests from fires. Now, many areas have so much underbrush that any fire that does occur will burn too hot from all of the built up fuel. It is really amazing to me that we are just now realizing that native techniques tend to be the best techniques for promoting a healthy environment rich in life. Having a value for the environment and the life that resides therein is what made the Kalapuya and many other native cultures focus on preservation and health. When I eat chicken for instance, I don’t really think about the animal that was killed to give me it. If more people cared about where their food came from and honored the life of the animals, there might not be so much pollution from animal farms.

  191. A quote from the article that really struck me was from Peter Boag when he said, “The first whites in the Willamette Valley did not tame a wilderness; they inherited a park.” This is a powerful statement. Many settlers, including people today such as myself, assumed the Europeans took over an untamed land. The indigenous people where here for thousands of years cultivating and utilizing the most of it. They cherished their land and respected it. A powerful image of how beautiful it once was, is the image of “camas lakes.” As someone who was born and raised in the Wallamette Valley, along with having ancestors that were some of the first pioneers, it breaks my heart to understand how the land was treated when white people settled on it. I couldn’t imagine how the indigenous people felt watching the land they love being not only ripped away from them, but slowly and carelessly being destroyed. The indigenous people loved there land, like they were one with it.
    As I was reading the last few paragraphs of this article about reviving the land, I couldn’t help but think about — as a business student — how the laws of trade wouldn’t allow for the valley’s farmland to provide all our dietary needs. Farmers would make more money by exporting and ulitlizing subsidies from the government. Then it hit me how our culture is so driven by money. This land (my land) was the most beautiful and fertile (as described in the article) when people were living with it, not from it. The indigenous people were not motivated by a quick buck, they were motivated by their heritage and values – although some of this is due to our differences in trading practices. I believe our challenge today is getting people to understand this. Instead of overtaking the land and seeing what it can give us, we need see the beauty this land has already provided through (like the article said) partnering with it; using the techniques the indigenous people had been perfecting for thousands of years.

    • I very much like your deep feeling here, Shana. You obviously have a personal investment in caring for the valley landscape.
      The Union of Concerned Scientists has an idea about a changed Farm Bill that would do away with the disincentives you mention for NOT caring for the land or producing for the local market. (they are linked on our links page)
      We need some creative business majors of the visionary type that run the CSRwire: http://www.csrwire.com/ (also on our “links” page). You might enjoy checking them out.

  192. Learning more about the Willamette Valley and the city I grew up is very satisfying. I hadn’t ever heard it described as a park, but since it is brought to my attention, I couldn’t agree more. However, I have lived on the beautiful McKenzie River and knew how amazing it was.
    I appreciated the mention of the camas flower in this article. Camas is a bulb growing wild and abundantly on our ranch. I didn’t know very much about it, but have come to know its heritage. I would like to know more about the legend of the “white” camas. In spring, when our pastures are purple with camas, there are about two white camas per acre. It’s just beautiful. I was noticing them for sale at a plant show I went to in Portland—for $2.00 per plant!
    I now feel a kinship to Esther Stutzman, hearing that she sang a song at a dedication at Alton Baker Park in Eugene. As mentioned in my introduction, before Alton Baker Park was a park, I was pulling hot water heater heaters and tires out of the Willamette River on the first Earth Day. Back then, the land was covered in native blackberries and very hard to navigate. We didn’t know what we were helping build at the time. Yesterday, I had lunch with several friends at Sweet Water Restaurant at the Valley River Inn, which is on the banks of the Willamette River, adjacent to Alton Baker Park. They were both there on that very day and we had a wonderful time going down memory lane. I told them about Esther Stutzman and we all agreed we would have been there had we known about the dedication. They both remembered different things about the day, funny things teenage girls would remember, but there is no doubt it helped them appreciate and love the Willamette Valley.

    • The info about the white camas is not a “legend”: there is a camas look-alike that has a white flower and is poison. It is a different species from the edible blue camas. There are a few white and even pink flowered camas of the edible species, but I would be extra sure of the identification if I decided to harvest them!
      And though you missed the dedication, you can walk the trail and see the “talking stones” there. Thanks for being one to do some serious cleaning of the river in those earlier decades. As Siletz elder Agnes Baker Pilgrim, who is spearheading clean water campaigns around the globe likes to put it, “The river is not a garbage dump.” Instead it is the source of our lives.

  193. The Kalapuya tribe really knew how to balance nature and sustainability for their livelihood. I like the sentence in the article, “The first whites in the Willamette Valley did not tame a wilderness; they inherited a park.” The Willamette Valley then must have been a lush bountiful garden well managed and appreciated. That right there is the key, they appreciated what they had. Now I’m not sure the Willamette Valley is appreciated and yet it still has rich soil for growing, just not as much wildlife. Burning the valley was such a necessity to the Kalapulya people and now burning is almost gone away with. Field burning today is so limited, which is very sad. Farmers have to use more pesticides to control weeds and insects due to the limited almost banned burning practices. It will be interesting to see how the future holds for the valley.

    • You have an excellent point indicating the relationship between caring for and appreciating the valley.
      The field burning of today is quite different from that of the 1700s. Today, the burning actually puts pesticides into the air with burned materials– and there are a number of farmers who spearheaded changed methods without herbicides of excluding burning, with only a few “hold-outs”. One problem is visibility on freeways and another is drift into urban areas, but perhaps the greatest difference is that the former burning was used to encourage biodiversity of animals as well as plants, whereas the current is used to great a mono-crop.
      You may or may not know that there is a local organization working to encourage farmers to grow organic food grains and beans rather than grass seed–and a number of farmers have changed over. Trying to keep grass seed “pure” is not so easy without chemicals.

  194. It’s really a shame the settler’s in the Willamette Valley didn’t carry on the traditions of the Kalapuya tribe by following the environmental strategies they used such as the annual burnings. It seems like a bad decision to make when obviously the land was thriving under this kind of care. Especially after seeing things happen like grasshopper plagues devastate crops. You would think people would be like “Oh we need to do it like they were.” This just makes sense to me, but obviously there were reasons not to. I guess shunning the natives traditions was part of the way new settlers enacted their new cultures. Unfortunately new methods are not always the best.

    I like the idea of supporting local grown foods and farmers. The Willamette Valley is one of the more fertile areas of Oregon, but there are many other areas including the Corvallis area that are good for farming fruits and vegetable as well. I have many friends who have their own chickens and greenhouses. This is something I’m looking into doing as well. Any small thing people can do to sustain themselves off the land where they live is a positive movement to bring back productivity.

    • It is a sad point of history that the worldview of pioneers divided land under human control from land not under human control and could not see the latter as “thriving”. Thomas Kuhn’s analysis of the historical difficulty in changing scientific paradigms when they conflict with the prevailing worldview indicates how certain ways of thinking limit our perception– I haven’t seen any pioneer records that indicate they noticed the plagues might be linked to their actions. We are very fortunate in the beauty and potential fertility of this valley: we already have many local food producers that can serve us as we support them.

  195. Really good article. I believe that changes need to be made in how we manage our resources because if we miss manage them now then they will not be around too much longer. Since the population of the world is growing every day now is the time to consider changes to our management styles and its going to take all of us as humans to accomplish this. It will be interesting to see what type of changes will happen in the next 50 years if any?

    • Indeed, Ryan. I expect there will be such changes, one way or the other, since climate change, environmental toxins, and resource depletion will force changes on us if we don’t change the actions that create this.
      Thanks for your thoughtful response!

  196. As a land manager, I understand the concept of gaining knowledge of the land over time, and making the right prescriptions to increase its functionality for both humans and wildlife. I think when one is able to accept self-sacrafice for the land and its inhabitants, they put the good of the whole over the benefit of an individual. That is true caring and nurturing. This trait was expressed by the Kalapuya when they allowed the best deer to live, and harvested the lower quality animals. But the respect for even the marginal animals was reflected when they made sure to utilize all the part, for fear that if they wasted a life, the animals would fail to return.

    • Thoughtful response, Mary. Are you working with range management at all? The new High Country News has some excellent articles on cooperative models of ranchers working with environmentalists– check them out online.

  197. It is unfortunate that so many wetland habitats have been lost and so too their richness of sustaining humans. I live in Florida and my property abuts two sides of a wetland. I feel fortunate to have this serene habitat, while living so close to the city. Though it is a small pocket, it is rich with small wildlife species and thick with a rich canopy of mature native swamp flora. Though this land is not mine, but belongs to the city, I would fight to keep it in its natural state. Why doesn’t everybody see the importance and beauty of woods, wetlands and wildlife? Even if this wetland did not abut my property I would stand with those whose property it did.
    It is so unbelievable that it has taken only six generations to do so much harm to the planet and what really is unnerving is that Native Indians would do nothing that could possibly harm up to seven generations. Indigenous peoples, which are also part of my blood, never cease to amaze me.
    For the Native Seminole Indians of Florida the ‘Trail of Tears’ started in St. Augustine. Is there any where in the world where the Indigenous people have not suffered after having given generously their knowledge after which immigrants used for their advantage? The Kalapua like so many Native Indians are in tune with their environments and for thousands of generations learned the nuances of Mother Earth’s mysteries. Though they manipulated the landscape to benefit their food needs, who is to say that nature didn’t tell them how to do it!

    • I hope it is also inspiring to think that so many humans have taken the responsibility for seven generations approach. There is certainly some perspective to be gained here when compared to short term perspectives– as well as the profit for some at any cost to others mentality.
      Thoughtful point about nature telling humans how to “manipulate” (work with) the environment– if only we listen…

  198. There are so many parallels to our list of contrasting worldviews in this essay. The story of the Kalapuya shows us their ideas of reciprocity, of reverence and of kinship with the local resources, flora and fauna. The sheer fact that their name is the name they had given to their land shows their intimate relationship with the land, that they consider themselves one and the same. It shows the idea of a “partnership,” as written about in the essay “Partnering with the Natural World.” There is no dominance here, but instead an interdependence established throughout generations of residing in this valley, living in harmony with the world around them. These qualities, too, are part of the contrasting worldviews list.

    I find it interesting that the Willamette Valley could support a substantial portion of its inhabitants food needs. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to live in a society such as that? Where the majority of our foodstuffs were grown and produced locally, and in accordance with the land and what it can sustain? I know that as a society we have been making slow but seemingly steady progress toward locally, sustainably produced products and that is reassuring to me, but there is so much more progress to be made!

    • I like your connections to the values on the contrasting worldviews list here, Jillian.
      And there is a small but solid movement working on changing over current grass seed production in the Willamette Valley to sustainably producing grains and beans.

    • Jullian,

      I also find it interesting that the Kalapuya named themselves after the land they possessed. Possess may not be an appropriate term as these peoples were depended upon the land for sustenance and survival. This lead to a reverence as you pointed out.

      I have the opportunity to produce fruits and vegetables during the summer and fall as we have an area large enough to do so. This is empowering as I think of how locally grown crops can make an impact on our environment.

  199. I find it interesting that the Kalapuya people named themselves after the land where they resided. It is as if they were invited as guests to harvest and live in harmony with the land. The cultivation of crops such as camas demonstrated the intimate knowledge that these people possessed. Over time burning and harvesting techniques were mastered. In essence the land was able to provide the necessary food items while inviting animals to the region. Thus we see that humans can encourage certain animals and vegetation to inhabit a region such as the Willamette Valley. I think the key is that they did things with an reverence and with an understanding of nature. It was their way of life to work with nature rather than against it. I wonder about the complexity of life for the Kalapuya compared to today. The Kalapuya women had time to forecast fall rain and understand natural cycles. In our rushed world today, perhaps technology or tools have not been used effectively as we have lost some meaningful principles of life. I like the reference to this ancient habitat as a “library of knowledge.” Knowledge is powerful and can be given as a gift to those who would understand. And these lands are true gifts in and of themselves to those who appreciate them for what they were and are today.

    • Chris,
      I agree with you, so much is being lost because the world is moving so fast! Children spend most of their time inside, never experiencing nature, even their own backyards, often. Our food comes from boxes because we can’t spend 20-30 minutes each day preparing meals. Or worse yet, we only make time to eat in the car from fast food establishments. Because of the rushed lives we live, not only is our physical health suffering but also our social and psychological health. Time spent together in our natural world promotes stronger families and well adapted citizens, more inclined to become productive as adults. Imagine, even if all families did was spend time in their urban backyard nurturing gardens what a difference it would make for them physically and emotionally.

    • Thank you for your response, Chris. I am not sure all Kalapuya women could forecast the rain, but certain wise elders could. You have an important point about the values behind our knowledge and relationship with the land. I can only imagine the different kind of technology we might be using if our values entailed reverence and humility.

    • I shared many of your thoughts. I’m humbled by the way that indigenous people were able to use experience and communication with nature as a tool in understanding it, and then implement helpful practices. I can’t wait to have land of my own in which to help restore some of the native vegetation, thereby helping native species who are suffering.

  200. I’m so glad to see at the end of this article the information from Dan Armstrong that claims that the our population could be sustained by local food production. So much of the time the “experts” providing the public information are telling us that today’s population has grown past sustainability without the use of agrichemicals and deforestation, CAFOs etc. Living in rural Oregon, I am witness to the small farms who are trying to revive this reciprocity with the land, while providing adequate nourishment for everyone. I love the works of Joel Salatin, who has mentored many of these small farmers, who reminds us that it isn’t healthy for humans or animals to eat the way most humans are eating today. It isn’t healthy for the Earth for us to eat the way we are eating today.
    We are at a vital place in history, or maybe we’re past it I’m not sure; we need to gather the knowledge of those left who have the traditional ecological knowledge to make sustaining ourselves and our planet a less daunting task. I think that much of that knowledge has been handed down through the generations, and many of the younger generations are starting to make use of it.

    • Kendra, I really appreciated you mentioning the concept of marrying the modern scientific knowledge with the traditional ecological practices to make a more sustainable future. I don’t often think of the ancient ways of doing things as a viable option for future practices. But if you can partner the sustainable aspects of the traditional practices with the production of modern science than we might be able to feed everybody before we completely pollute all of our waterways with nitrogen and phosphorus.

      • I second the idea of bridging in these different knowledges– surely there is no information we can afford to thrown out in meeting our current environmental challenges.
        I also think this: if we expand our worldview and values, we also expand our thinking and thus our options.

    • We are very fortunate to have access to the produce of small farmers in Oregon, Kendra.
      In fact, it seems to me that instead of arguing that because our population is large we have to ravage the land to feed ourselves, our burgeoning population means that we have to be all the more careful not to undermine the soil that sustains us–as too much of modern agriculture does.
      Polyface Farms is quite a project– as well as model for others. I did not know that Salatin was teaching farmers in Oregon– I thought he had his hands pretty much full with his farm in Virgina. But then those who are at the forefront of innovative sustainable strategies are often tireless in their work!

  201. I really enjoyed the quote “The first whites in the Willamette Valley did not tame a wilderness; they inherited a park.” The balance that the native people of the Willamette Valley had with their environment never ceases to amaze.
    While I enjoy to hear the history of how the natives managed their lands, I can’t help but get a bit depressed at the same time because I feel that there is such a societal disconnect between people and even their immediate surroundings. It makes me wonder if there will ever be a time when people will have such good communication with the earth again.
    I do however believe that we can restore the fertile wetlands of Oregon’s past. It was good to read that even the natives knew that wetlands were a particularly integral part of the ecosystem. I wish our different communities would manage our natural resources for the overall health of the society like the natives used to do, but I am happy that there has been a more broad movement towards protecting and restoring Oregon’s wetlands.

    • I appreciate the balance you bring to this comment, Aaron. Yes, we have lost some precious things and there is considerable grief in that, and yes, as well, there is hope in what we are doing to re-value the natural world (as in Willamette Valley wetlands)–and the consciousness of the change we need to make.
      That same consciousness you express here is a matter for hope for me as well. We have much to do!

  202. I’ve heard and read so much about controlled burning, and wetland mitigation in recent years that I am very interested in learning more. In a former class, we studied the conditions (chemical, biological, etc.) at two different urban streams; one was left pretty much “intact”, and the other had been channeled and cleared of most of its riparian vegetation. Originally, both contained similar chemical and biological characteristics. Now, the one that was disturbed for man’s convenience is free of the native fish and many other invertebrates that previously called it home due to runoff, lack of a food supply, and other inhospitable conditions. The other, that bears conditions resembling it’s native state, is flourishing despite its urban setting and use (as a park). I guess what I’m trying to get across is how incredible it is that the Kalapuya people (and other indigenous cultures) had such a comingled relationship with the earth that they were able to learn and care for it’s needs, so that they may both live sustainably. I think that the mistake that some people make is thinking that they were acting on unfounded intuition (“untamed wilderness”), where in reality, our surroundings can speak volumes if we are willing to listen and observe.

    • Excellent perspective, Latifa. I am glad you had the opportunity to do these comparisons in the field. “Unfounded intuition” is a pretty sweeping idea to cover thousands of years of complex and sustainable behavior!

  203. This is an informative yet moving essay! It is amazing that the Native Americans of Oregon spent thousands of years perfecting these management practices of their resources. I believe we have so much to learn from them and these policies should definitely be in place in management of resources today.
    I am a beginner hunter and I am off on the right foot after reading this essay. Of course my need for hunting is not for recreation or trophies, but I want to learn to live off the land and provide for my family. The native people truly show how to honor your relationship with your food (kill) and I feel blessed with this little bit of knowledge. I hear many stories from local Oakridgians how the hunting in the last 10 years have been lacking, and to fill a tag is like winning the lottery. Hunters want to kill the biggest, healthiest animals, but the native’s worldview really shows how this is detrimental to the species. This makes perfect sense in population fitness dynamics, if the only animals left to breed are the weaker ones then the population is weakened and compromised. Not to mention that our wildlife is overhunted and stressed.
    Hopefully in my career in Fish and Wildlife I can help to make a difference in in the way we manage our resources using this most valuable information from the amazing people who know this land best.

    • Hi Melissa, I only hope that we use our resources wisely enough so that we might have thousands of years to perfect our own actions with respect to the environment.
      We have an upcoming discussion on the difference between subsistence hunting and “trophy hunting” you might relate to.

  204. This was a fascinating read, and it is commendable how the Native Americans helped maintain a stable ecosystem. However, what of those of us who do not subscribe to their own religion? They seemed to believe that humans are partners with the very beasts of the Earth, not just in an ecological sense, but in a spiritual sense. What if one does not subscribe to that philosophy?

    And on another note, what of technological progress? The way that the Native Americans lived as seems to describe/focus on a world without electronic devices and such. I imagine that perhaps some kind of balance can be worked out to factor those in, but I suppose the point I’m getting at is that it seems that that Native American lifestyle is being somewhat idealized in this article.

    I suppose something I’ve always hoped for in these regards is being able to use the land but finding a balance between sustainablitly and development, something that can work without necessiarly accepting this notion that man is simply a partner to a beast.

    • Hi Thomas, thanks for your comment. It seems to me that one does not have to “subscribe to that philosophy” to appreciate it and its results with respect to the Willamette Valley landscape.
      I also think we need a definition of “progress”–all societies have technologies. Instead of indicating that modernity is better (or worse, for that matter), we might instead think about building bridges: how, for instance, might some of these values and knowledges contribute to meeting our current environmental challenges?
      It is interesting that you phrase it as being “simply” a “partner to a beast”– depending on the way one understands other lives that “simply” and “beast” might have very different connotations that it has to you here (or to many moderners?)

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