Saturday, January 3, 2009
Marcus and Narcissa Whitman were missionaries to the Walla Walla Valley natives starting in 1836. The valley was then in what was known as the Oregon Territory, but is now part of southeastern Washington. The settlement became a stop along the famous Oregon Trail, and was known as Waiilatpu (why-ee-LAHT-poo), meaning "Place of the Rye Grass" in the Cayuse language. Marcus farmed and provided medical care, while his wife, Narcissa, set up a school for the native children. The sudden influx of white people brought with it disease and sickness. In a short amount of time, many natives were dying with measles. The medicine to cure measles known to the white people didn't have the same effect on the natives, leading to more white people being healed than natives. This, coupled with the intense nature of the conversion attempts of the Whitmans and their white friends, led the natives to believe that Marcus was killing the natives and only healing the white people. Over the course of several weeks, 53 women and children were held hostage by the natives until negotiations were finally settled for their release. Unfortunately, in the angry acts that followed the hostage-taking, the Whitmans were murdered in cold blood by the very people they were trying to help: the natives. Today, Waiilatpu is an historical marker along Highway 12 just north of Walla Walla and College Place. Whitman Mission is a few miles outside of town, located on several acres of beautiful tree-filled land. It's free to park and enjoy the picnic area, and a minimal fee (used for upkeep and staffing) allows you to explore the grounds and the museum, as well as the monument to the Whitmans located on a lone hill to the east of the museum. This photo was taken on the grounds of the Whitman Mission during the winter two years ago.