Connection to a Place

Connection to a Place

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December 29, 2010

connection to a place

Esther Stutzman - Kalapuya and Coos elderEsther Stutzman, Kalapuya and Coos Elder, speaking at the 1st Annual Traditional Ecological Knowledge in Ecosystem Sustainability Conference, May 14, 2010.

Esther Stutzman is Coos and Komemma Kalapuya and an enrolled member of the Confederated Tribes of Siletz. She is the chair to a non-profit Kalapuya organization, the Komemma Cultural Protection Association, which is dedicated to researching the Kalapuya Peoples.

A storyteller and history keeper, Esther only tells Coos and Kalapuya stories. Her grandmother told her that it was bad luck to tell other people’s or other tribes’ stories. Stories are regarded as private property, as are songs. In total she has thirteen stories that she shares with the public.

One of the stories that Esther shared at the conference explores the origins of the Kalapuya people, who traditionally lived in the Willamette Valley from the Clackamas River area near Oregon City down the valley to the Umpqua River near Roseburg, a span of about 150 miles from the coast range inland to the Cascades. There were about 15,000 Kalapuya at the time of European contact. Together, they spoke three distinct dialects in twelve to thirteen specific groups, each with their own government and villages.

In telling her stories, Esther reminds us of the relationship between culture and ecosystem, the role of Ceremony, the value of Traditional knowledge and the importance of trust.

Adapted from Esther’s biography at

You can find more videos from the Traditional Ecological Knowledge in Ecosystem Sustainability conference at

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