Takelma Tribe

Takelma Indians (from the native name agelmáεn, ‘those dwelling along the river’). A tribe which, together with the Upper Takelma, or Lat’gāaε, forms is the Takilman linguistic family of Powell. They occupy the middle portion of the course of Rogue river in south west Oregon from and perhaps including Illinois river to about Table Rock, the northern tributaries of Rogue river between these limits, and the upper course of Cow Creek. Linguistically they are very sharply distinguished from their neighbors, their language showing little or no resemblance in even general morphologic and phonetic traits to either the Athapascan or the Klamath; it was spoken in at least two dialects. They seem to have been greatly reduced in numbers at the time of the Rogue River war; at the prevent day the few survivors, a half dozen or so, reside on the Siletz Reservation, Oregon. J. O. Dorsey 1 gives the following list of village name,: Haslikushtum, Hudedut, Kashtata, Kthotaime, Nakila, Salwahka, Seetliltun, Sestikustun, Sewaathlchutun, Shkashtun, Skanowethltunne, Talmamiche, Talotunne, Tthowache, Tulsulsun, Yaasitun, and Yushlali. These are nearly all Athapascan in form. The following native Takelma village names were procured by Dr Edward Sapir in 1906: Gelyalk (Geiyālk`), Dilomi (Dīεlōmi, Gwenpupk (Gwenp’uñk ), Hayaalbalsda (Hayāalbālsda), Daktgamik (Dak`t`gamīk`), Didalam (Dīdalâm), Daktsasin (Dak`ts!asiñ) or Daldanik, Hagwal (Hagwál), Scmouluk (S·ōmōulùk ), and Hatonk (Hat!õnk`).

Takelma Culture

Culturally the Takelma were closely allied to the Shasta of north California, with whom they frequently intermarried. Their main dependence for food was the acorn, which, after shelling, pounding, sifting, and seething, was boiled into a mush. Other vegetable foods, such as the camas root, various seeds, and berries (especially manzanita), were also largely used. Tobacco was the only plant cultivated. Of animal foods the chief was salmon and other river fish caught by line, spear, and net; deer were hunted by running them into an inclosure provided with traps. For winter use roasted salmon and cakes of camas and deer fat were stored away. The main utensils were a great variety of baskets (used for grinding acorns, sifting, cooking, carrying burdens, storage, as food receptacles, and for many other purposes), constructed generally by twining on a hazel warp. Horn, bone, and wood served as material for various implements, as spoons, needles, and root diggers. Stone was hardly used except in the making of arrowheads and pestles. The house, quadrangular in shape and partly underground, was constructed of hewn timber and was provided with a central fireplace, a smoke-hole in the roof, and a raised door from which entrance was had by means of a notched ladder. The sweat house, holding about six, was also a plank structure, though smaller in size; it was reserved for the men.

In clothing and personal adornment the Takelma differed but little from the tribes of north California, red-headed-woodpecker scalps and the basket caps of the women being perhaps the most characteristic articles. Facial painting in red, black, and white was common, the last named color denoting war. Women tattooed the skin in three stripes; men tattooed the left arm with marks serving to measure various lengths of strings of dentalia.

In their social organization the Takelma were exceedingly simple, the village, small in size, being the only important sociological unit; no sign of totemism or clan groupings has been found. The chieftaincy was only slightly developed, wealth forming the chief claim to social recognition. Feuds were settled through the intervention of a “go-between” hired by the aggrieved party. Marriage was entirely a matter of purchase of the bride and was often contracted for children or even infants by their parents. The bride was escorted with return presents by her relatives to the bridegroom’s house; on the birth of a child an additional price was paid to her father. Though no law of exogamy prevailed beyond the prohibition of marriage of near kin, marriage was probably nearly always outside the village. Polygamy, as a matter of wealth, was of course found; the levirate prevailed. Corpses were disposed of by burial in the ground, objects of value being strewn over the grave.

No great ceremonial or ritual development was attained by the Takelma. The first appearance of salmon and acorns, the coming to maturity of a girl, shamanistic performances, and the war dance were probably the chief occasions for ceremonial activity. Great influence was exercised by the shamans, to whose malign power death was generally ascribed. Differing from the shamans were the dreamers, who gained their power from an entirely different group of supernatural beings’ and who were never thought to do harm. Characteristic of the Takelma was the use of a considerable number of charms or medicine formulas addressed to various animal and other spirits and designed to gain their favor toward the fulfillment of some desired event or the warding off of a threatened evil. The most characteristic myths are the deeds of the culture-hero (Daldâl) and the pranks of Coyote.Citations:

  1. Dorsey, Takelma MS. vocab., B. A. E., 1884[]


Siletz Reservation,

Hodge, Frederick Webb, Compiler. The Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico. Bureau of American Ethnology, Government Printing Office. 1906.

Search Military Records - Fold3

1 thought on “Takelma Tribe”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Pin It on Pinterest

Scroll to Top