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The Whitman Massacre

The History and Legacy of the Native American Attack on Missionaries That Started the Cayuse War
Narrated by: Scott Clem
Length: 1 hr and 45 mins

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Publisher's Summary

"I and some others went upstairs where we could look from a window and see a part of the conflict near the Doctor's house. Three or four men were butchering a beef there. I saw them engaged with quite a number of Indians. Mr. Kimball was dealing hard with several, he having an axe to fight with. He fought desperately for awhile, but they killed him at last." - Mary Marsh Cason’s account of the attack

The first to begin showing up in large numbers were missionaries. The native populations were by then diminished by disease and dispirited, which meant they were more receptive to missionary aid and the Christian message. Christianity, of course, was not entirely unknown among the indigenous populations, given that marriages between white men and Indian women created a hybrid of “folk” Christianity that was commonly observed among the Indians. The first wave of missionaries represented the American Methodists, arriving in or around 1834, followed a year or two later by a second series of arrivals, sponsored this time by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM). The ABCFM was an ecumenical organization founded to promote the general outreach of the Presbyterian and Dutch Reform churches in the United States. Roman Catholics arrived around 1830, bringing missionaries mostly from Canada and Europe.

The mission was well-funded, and its settlement, at least by the standards of native society, was lavish. Initially, the couple and their followers treated the neighboring Cayuse tribe with generosity, distributing material largess, as well as medicine and rudimentary education. The relationship between the two parties, however, was complicated, and Marcus Whitman appeared to grow disenchanted with persistent demands for material goods made upon the mission. Eventually, he stopped providing goods, which sowed a certain amount of discontent among the Cayuse, and animosity took root. When an epidemic of measles swept through the community, killing hundreds of natives, they blamed the mission for poisoning them. In November 1847, Marcus and Narcissa Whitman, along with 11 other missionaries, were massacred by a Cayuse war party.

That attack would have profound implications not only for the Cayuse and other native tribes of the region, but also for the future direction of the territory. The immediate aftermath brought conflicts known as the Cayuse Wars, which resulted in the banishment of the native peoples of the region to reservations and galvanized the federal government to act over the status of the Oregon Country.

The Whitman Massacre: The History and Legacy of the Native American Attack on Missionaries that Started the Cayuse War looks at the chain of events that led to one of the most notorious attacks of the 19th century on the frontier. You will learn about the Whitman Massacre like never before.

©2019 Charles River Editors (P)2019 Charles River Editors

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