Willamette Falls

Willamette Falls have been a focal point of the Willamette valley heritage.
Throughout time these falls have played a key roll in the development of the
area. Long passed are the days of the Molalla Indian fishermen. It is now the
center of a very industrialised thriving city. In this paper I will take a look
into how this transition took place and what made this area such a special place
to all those that have come into contact with it.

The Willamette Falls are a three hundred yard wide thirty-foot high wall of
shier stone. The Falls stretch the width of the Willamette River. These falls
were virtually impassable by boat until the construction of the Willamette Locks
in 1868. The Molalla Indians who were the first to call the falls home believe
that the Falls were placed at this spot in the Willamette by god to trap the
fish travelling upstream so that the Indians and their ancestor the bear could
easily catch them. To this day the Falls still serve as a blockage for migrating
salmon, shad and other various fish runs, Although today there is a fish ladder
that allows the fish a way of passage through the falls.

The surrounding area of Willamette Falls was once a rich and thriving
ecosystem. The banks of Willamette falls were part of a dense forest that was
riddled with Molalla villages. The area was also full of wild life and became a
center of the fur trade as early settlers arrived. Bear, elk, deer, beaver and
other animal skins were traded through these early settlements. Settlers soon
found the draw of the fishing industry, as it’s primary wealth. The draw of
the plentiful fish is something that the Native Molalla Indians had discovered
much earlier

The birth of the Molalla Nation according to an old Molalla legend sprung
from the grizzly\'s demise, this came about when he met Coyote who was on his way
to “make the world”. The Great Bear demanded a fight but Coyote cunningly
challenged him to a red-hot rock-swallowing contest instead. But Coyote cleverly
swallowed strawberries while Grizzly gulped down hot stones that burst his
heart. After much thought Coyote skinned and cut up Grizzly and while scattering
his body to the winds. From a place near the summit of Mount Hood, Coyote
scattered the heart of Grizzly Bear whom he had just slain. To what would become
Molalla Country he threw the heart and said, "Now the Molalla will be good
hunters; they will be good men, thinking and studying about hunting deer."

A lot has changed for this nation of good men and thinking hunters since
their emergence from the land where Grizzly\'s heart was placed. This includes a
mid-19th century treaty with the U.S. government and their relocation to a
reservation in the Grand Ronde Valley.

By 1876, the Northern, Upper or Valley Molalla’s, had winter villages from
their legendary birthplace near Mount Hood to present day Oregon City and just
east of Salem to the foot of Mount Jefferson. During the warmer months these
mostly nomadic people left their mud, cedar and hemlock bark homes to freely
roam parts of the Willamette Valley. Like their neighbors to the north, the
Upper Chinook, the Molalla used dugout canoes and they were also using horses by
the early 1800s. Their population was estimated at about 500 at that time. The
Molalla’s had strong ties with the Klamath peoples who they regularly traded
with. Despite the distinction between the northern and southern bands of the
Molalla Nation and the lack of information on the southern band, the general
history and culture are said to be mostly similar. The general difference was
more regional than anything else, all Native people adapted to the region they
were in as a means of survival. Molalla of the mountain region adapted to
hunting the larger game of that area and those in the valley were more similar
to the Kalapuya people whose primary diet was roots and small game, common in
the valley. Whether hunting large or small game, the prowess of Molalla hunters
was well known, and respected by all of the surrounding tribes. Hunters would
camouflaged themselves with dear heads while stalking their prey and were
renowned amongst neighbouring tribes for their use of skilfully trained dogs for
tracking and hunting as well. Along the Willamette the Molalla expertise also
extended to fishing salmon and steelhead. The tribe developed a tradition both
of spear and basket fishing. The baskets were 10-by-12 foot vine baskets
suspended on poles to catch fish under Willamette falls as they were