"View to the Blue Mountains" by NPS Photo by Stephanie Martin , public domain
Official Brochure of Whitman Mission National Historic Site (NHS) in Washington. Published by the National Park Service (NPS).
National Historic Site Washington Whitman Mission National Park Service U.S. Department of the Interior Newcomers From time immemorial, the weyíıletpuu (Cayuse) have called this valley and this region home. Intimate with every part of it, they consider each plant and animal to be a relative. Over tens of thousands of years they have managed for the best mix of forest and grassland to support their foods. Inspired by the religious zeal of the time, Marcus and Narcissa Whitman left their New York home in 1836 to open a Christian mission among the pášapuu band of weyíıletpuu. pášapuu interest in this new lifestyle and religion waxed and waned; few converted. When the mission’s sponsors wanted to end the effort, Marcus Whitman hastened east to petition for continuing the mission. Successful, he returned, leading the first major wagon train through weyíıletpuu land. Moving with the Seasons weyíıletpuu spirituality is rooted in tamáalwit, laws that govern use of the land and follow natural cycles of the landscape. The laws dictate how humans relate to plants, animals, water and other natural elements. tamáalwit requires people to move frequently to manage dispersed foods. Abiding by tamáalwit, weyíıletpuu enjoyed stable communities and economic success. naco̓ˀx̣ Chinook salmon © FL ICK FORD pášx̣ tmɨš cemíitx Chokecherries Huckleberries © DOUG WAYLETT @ MARE JOY SMITH NPS A religious revival in the 1800s, called the “Second Great Awakening,” encouraged Christians to dedicate their lives to missionary work. Inspired by this revival, the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions sent the Whitmans and other missionaries throughout the continent to convert American Indians. The Earth says that God tells me to take care of the All are scattered in little groups far and near, Indians. . . . God names the roots that he should feed digging their kamas root and taking salmon. Here is the Indians on. The water speaks the same way. . . . the missionary’s trial in this country. The people are Take good care of the earth and do each other no with him so little of the time, and they are harm. God said. so scattered that he cannot go with them. weyíıletpuu leader táwatoy, 1855 Narcissa Whitman writing about weyíıletpuu seasonal rounds, 1841 Balsamroot sunflower A New Mission The Whitmans introduced the weyíıletpuu to a different spiritual relationship to land. People stayed in one place tending fields and livestock instead of moving with the food. This new way of life conflicted with weyíıletpuu spirituality and tamáalwit, and began to destabilize their society. Originally the missionaries’ calling was to bring their Christian beliefs to the tribes. When Marcus Whitman failed in this calling, he shifted his focus to selling crops and livestock to other missions and ministering to new immigrants. These shifts, along with a growing weyíıletpuu frustration and sense of alienation, transformed the “mission” into an immigrant way station. PIXABAY It does not concern me so much what is to become of any particular set of Indians. . . . I have no doubt The Whitmans wanted the weyíıletpuu to raise animals like sheep and crops like wheat and our greatest work is to be to aid the white settlement of this country and help to found its religious potatoes. institutions. . . . The Indians have in no case obeyed DAVE POWELL / USDA FOREST SERVICE the command to multiply and replenish the earth, © JIM LAMB PIXABAY Increasing waves of immigrants alarmed weyíıletpuu leaders tílewkeyˀkt, ˀıcıyéeye šıléq̉ıš, and tamáx̣aš. They were convinced weyíıletpuu sovereignty and lands were threatened. Then a measles epidemic killed over half the pášapuu, mostly children and elders. Many suspected that Marcus Whitman’s failure to cure them was an intentional way to acquire their land. Tensions reached a breaking point. Life in the Walla Walla Valley would soon change forever. and they cannot stand in the way of others. Marcus Whitman in a letter to Narcissa’s parents, 1844 In 1840, 15 US immigrants entered weyíıletpuu lands. Marcus Whitman escorted 1,000 more in 1843. Over 4,500 newcomers arrived in 1847, the last year of Whitman Mission. There’s blood left here by both sides. Our ancestors and the other people—their breath left them here. We both hold this ground sacred and special. k̉oỷam̉á šáamqın (Fermore Craig), 2015 Overlooking the mission site and valley Staying in One Place táx̣cik̓ay Berry basket The Valley as It Was This map shows some waterways and trails of the mid-1880s. weyíıletpuu followed streams into higher country each summer. NPS wewúukiye Elk © WENDY SHATTIL / BOB ROSINSKI tatáp̓ay White-tailed deer TIM BUSKIRK 4,500 1847 2,700 1846 A series of eight overlapping circles arranged to represent chronological order, the 3,000 colors shifting from the smallest dark green on the left to the largest yellow-green 1845 on the right. These colors are similar to the trees in the cover photo. From left to right, the smallest dark green circle (0.2-inches) represents 15 immigrants arriving 1,475 1840. The next larger circle (0.3-inches) represents 74 immigrants arriving in 1841 1844 The next larger circle (0.4-inches)1,000 represents 105 immigrants arriving in 1842. The next larger circle (1.3-inches) represents 1843 1,000 immigrants arriving in 1843. The ne larger circle (1.6-inches) represents 1,475 immigrants arriving in 1844. The next la er circle (2.2-inches) represents 3,000 immigrants arriving in 1845. The next circle 15 74 105 (2.1-inches) represents 2,700 immigrants arriving in 1846. The last and largest circ 1840 1841 1842 (2.8-inches) represents 4,500 immigrants arriving in 1847, the last year of Whitma Mission. New Dangers We had medicines for diseases from here. Medicines The Mission’s Last Day and poultices. But they brought new diseases like smallpox and measles, that my people had no defense against. paqaˀlapáykt (Norman Dumont), 2017 By 1840, native communities along the lower Columbia River had been decimated by malaria. Formerly vibrant communities could no longer defend themselves or their homes. The weyíıletpuu knew this and feared the same result. When measles struck the mission community in 1847, most immigrants recovered, thanks to natural immunity. But the weyíıletpuu did not have immunity, and they had already been weakened by other diseases. Thirty of the 50 pášapuu band died within six weeks. Survivors questioned whether Whitman had poisoned them, intentionally introduced the disease, or made mistakes. American artist Norman Adams depicted weyíıletpuu watching Whitman treating a man. NPS / NORMAN ADAMS Trained as a physician, Marcus Whitman believed that ministering to the physical health of his followers was an important complement to his ministry of their spiritual health. Similarly, tıwáat (weyíıletpuu doctors) drew upon their spiritual connections for healing power. When Whitman assumed the role of tıwáat, he knew he had to abide by tıwáat ethics, which recognized those with the power to heal also have the power to kill. The weyíıletpuu penalty for malpractice was death. The night of November 28, 1847, a small group of men led by tílewkeyˀkt met near the mission. They discussed options to halt the spread of death and concluded Whitman was the problem. The next day, Whitman received warnings of a plan to kill him but did not react. By evening, he and Narcissa lay dead. Within days 11 more men were dead. Forty-seven other people, including children, were held hostage until December 24. Newspaper editors soon reacted: For the barbarian murderers . . . let them be pursued with unrelenting hostility, until their lifeblood The Braly family was among the immigrants carrying measles into weyíıletpuu land. The son, John, wrote: has atoned for their infamous deeds; let them be hunted as beasts of prey; let their name and race Father was the first victim of measles in our family; be blotted from the face of the earth, and the place but soon, one after another was stricken, until that once knew them, know them no more forever. blessed mother and I were the only ones fit for Oregon Spectator, January 20, 1848 duty. . . . We had only one more range to cross— the Blue Mountains—before reaching Whitman’s Mission. . . . Mother was now very ill. Top: Irish-Canadian artist Paul Kane sketched the Whitman Mission three months before the missionaries’ deaths. OREGON HISTORICAL SOCIETY Revenge and Sacrifice In March 1848, immigrant settlers organized a militia to seek revenge for the November killings. For several years they waged what is known as the Cayuse War. They seized horses and cattle, cut off weyíıletpuu from their gardens, and disrupted their seasonal harvest. The weyíıletpuu faced famine. To preserve any future for their people, they surrendered five men for the killings at Whitman Mission: tílewkeyˀkt, ˀıcıyéeye šıléq̉ıš, k̉oỷam̉á šamqíın, tamáx̣aš, and ƚókomut. The trial began May 21, 1850. The men were quickly convicted despite lack of evidence and disagreements over jurisdiction and applicable law. They were hanged June 3. All five men were buried in one unmarked grave. Their descendants still search for them. Our Cayuse people were labeled terrorists and murderers because of the events at Whitman Mission. While it is true that people should be held accountable, it disregards the jurisdiction that we had over our own country and our own people. sᵻsáawıpam (Roberta Conner), 2019 In 1855, the US met with leaders of the weyíıletpuu and other area tribes to negotiate a treaty. The tribes ensured some of their most important lands were reserved for their exclusive use before they agreed to share some lands with the growing United States. In 1859, the US Senate ratified the treaty. The weyíıletpuu homeland was now part of the United States. It is good for the old people to talk together good and straight on account of our children on both sides to take care of each other. . . . Think for year after year for a far way ahead. tıwíıteq̉ıš (Old Joseph) at the 1855 treaty council Trauma and Healing All people are traumatized by this history. We all have to heal from trauma at some point. Not only the tribal side, but the nontribal side as well. wıyáapalašan̉may (Malissa Minthorn Winks), 2015 Those who lived and are buried here are central to this place. Their presence resonates through teachings, graves, and an atmosphere of sacredness. Others, buried elsewhere but forever connected to these events, are no less central. We continue to draw from their tragedy to learn and practice understanding and empathy. The Cayuse people, one of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, remain strong and sovereign, applying tamáalwıt to the land and their lives. This site, these events, were catalysts . . . to the The land where my forefathers are buried colonization of the Pacific Northwest, established should be mine. That is the place I am the Oregon Territory, and brought in the treaties. To speaking for . . . that is what I love— me, these events created the foundation for all that the place we get our roots to live upon. followed: these events reverberated through the lives táwatoy (Young Chief) at the 1855 treaty council of everyone then and continue to impact lives today. German-American artist Gustavas Sohon sketched the crowd at the 1855 treaty council (below) and táwatoy (above). WASHINGTON STATE HISTORICAL SOCIETY píitamyanon maqsmáqs (Phillip Cash Cash), 2015 In one lifetime, native lands shrunk from the entire Columbia River Basin to one plot of land per family in the dark brown area. Plant gatherers from the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, Spring 2018 © CONFEDERATED UMATILLA JOURNAL Whitman Mission Today Whitman Mission National Historic Site commemorates these events and explores how the mission changed this region in ways no one could have imagined. We welcome everyone and encourage you to reflect on the solemnity of this place. Please visit the park website for park and visitor center hours. The visitor center includes information, museum exhibits, a film, and bookstore. Things to Do Explore the park using self-guiding trails. • Walk up the hill for a view of Walla Walla Valley. • Earn a Junior Ranger badge. Safety Watch your children carefully, especially near the pond and on the hill. • Dogs are allowed on the trails if leashed. Do not leave them unattended. • Federal law protects all animal and plant life, and all other features in the park. • Firearms regulations are on the website. Accessibility We strive to make our facilities, services, and programs accessible to all. For information go to the visitor center, ask a ranger, call, or check our website. Tamástslikt Cultural Institute The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation invite you to Pendleton, Oregon, to learn more about their culture. The route between the park and the institute passes through part of Cayuse homeland. For information, call 541-429-7700 or visit www.tamastslikt.org. More Information Whitman Mission National Historic Site 328 Whitman Mission Rd. Walla Walla, WA 99362 509-522-6360 www.nps.gov/whmi Emergencies call 911 This is one of over 400 parks in the National Park System. To learn more about national parks, visit www.nps.gov. IGPO:2020—411-224/82570 New in 2020 Printed on recycled paper.