Our beloved church building sits on land that once belonged to the Tualatin, also known as the Atfalati, band of the Kalapuya people. They are believed to have migrated from the south and displaced the previous occupants from the land. The tribe worked as hunter-gatherers and later became skilled traders. They traveled to obtain shells from the Pacific, volcanic glass from eastern Oregon, and buffalo robes and other bison products from the Plains Indians to use as trade goods. They chose shamans who were both prophets and healers. The shamans could be male or female, slave or free.
The early population estimates of this tribe were as many as 15,000. Then, in the early 19th century, Euro-Americans began arriving in the area, and in 1842 white settlers founded the community that is now known as Hillsboro. Amongst these settlers, Congregationalists came to the area sometime in mid-century. Unfortunately, epidemics of smallpox and other diseases devastated the Native American tribes and made it very difficult for them to challenge the land grants that were enacted to give the land to the white settlers.
In the treaty of 1851, the Atfalati ceded lands in exchange for a small reservation at Wapato Lake, near modern-day Gaston, as well as some horses and other goods. That treaty was renegotiated in 1855, and in 1856 the Kalapuya were removed to the Grand Ronde reservation, along with the members of various other tribes. Current scholarship estimates that the population of the tribe at that time was 600.
The Kalapuya persist as part of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, and most of the tribal members live on that reservation - though others were removed to the Siletz, Warm Springs, and Yakama reservations. It is estimated that there are 4,000 descendants of the Kalapuya, many of them of now mixed Native American ancestry. In 1954, all bands and tribes of the Kalapuya were officially “terminated” by the U.S. government, meaning that they are no longer recognized by the U.S. government as official tribes.