- Cayuse War
Infobox Military Conflict
Oregon Countryand Oregon Territory
result=United States victory
Cornelius Gilliam Henry A. G. Lee
commander2=Chief Five Crows
casualties2=The Cayuse War was an armed conflict that took place in the
Northwestern United Statesfrom 1848 to 1855 between the Cayusepeople of the region and the United States Governmentand local Euro-American settlers. Caused in part by the influx of disease and settlers to the region, the immediate start of the conflict occurred in 1847 when the Whitman Massacretook place at the Whitman Missionnear present day Walla Walla, Washingtonwhen fourteen people were killed in and around the mission. Over the next few years the Provisional Government of Oregonand later the United States Armybattled the Native American peoples east of the Cascades. This was the first of several wars between the original inhabitants and Euro-American settlers in that region that would lead to the placement of many of the Native Americans onto Indian reservations.
In 1836, two missionaries—Marcus and
Narcissa Whitman—founded the Whitman Mission among the Cayuse Indians at Waiilatpu, six miles west of present-day Walla Walla, Washington. In addition to evangelizing, the missionaries established schools and grist mills and introduced crop irrigation. Their work advanced slowly until in 1842, Marcus Whitman convinced the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missionsto provide support. Returning the following year, he joined approximately a thousand settlers traveling to OregonTerritory.
The sudden influx of white settlers led to an escalation of tension between natives and settlers, which owed much to cultural misunderstandings and mutual hostilities. For instance, the Cayuse believed that to plow the ground was to desecrate the spirit of the Earth. The settlers, as agriculturalists, naturally did not accept this. The Cayuse expected payment from wagon trains passing through their territory and eating the wild food on which the tribes depended; the settlers did not understand this and instead drove away the men sent to exact payment, in the belief that they were merely "beggars".
The new settlers brought diseases with them. In 1847 an epidemic of
measleskilled half the Cayuse. The Cayuse suspected that Marcus Whitman—a practicing physician and religious leader, hence a shaman—was responsible for the deaths of their families, causing the disaster to make way for new immigrants. Seeking revenge, Cayuse tribesmen attacked the Whitman Missionon 29 November 1847. Fourteen settlers were killed, including both of the Whitmans. Most of the buildings at Waiilatpu were destroyed. The site is now a National Historic Site. For several weeks, 53 women and children were held captive before eventually being released.
This event, which became known as the
Whitman Massacre, started the Cayuse War.
Provisional Legislature of Oregonand Governor George Abernethycalled for "immediate and prompt action," and authorized the raising of companies of volunteers to go to war, if necessary against, the Cayuse Tribe. A fifty person unit of volunteers was raised immediately and dispatched to The Dalles under the command of Henry A. G. Lee.Corning, Howard M. "Dictionary of Oregon History". Binfords & Mort Publishing, 1956.] Called the Oregon Rifles, they were formed on December 8 1847, and then gathered at Fort Vancouveron December 10, where they purchased supplies from the Hudson’s Bay Company(HBC) post.Fagan, David D. 1885. History of Benton County, Oregon: including its geology, topography, soil and productions, together with the early history of the Pacific Coast, compiled from the most authentic sources : a full political history ... incidents of pioneer life and biographical sketches of early and prominent citizens : also containing the history of the cities, towns, churches, schools, secret societies, etc. [Oregon] : D.D. Fagan.] The HBC would not extend credit to the Provisional Government, therefore the volunteer soldiers each pledged their individual credit to purchase supplies with the expectation that the government would repay them at a later time. [http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/ops/rogue-river-war.htm Rogue River War.] GlobalSecurity.org, accessed September 25 2007.] The group was to protect the Methodist’s Wascopam Mission at The Dalles and prevent any hostile forces from reaching the Willamette Valley. In addition, the Governor appointed a peace commission, consisting of Joel Palmer, Lee, and Robert Newell.
The Oregon Rifles marched to The Dalles, arriving on
December 21. Upon arriving there, they drove off a band of Native Americans, but not before the Natives stole 300 head of cattle. There the troops built a stockade and named the post Fort Lee for the commander, though the small fortification was also called Fort Wascopam. In January 1848, a force of over 500 militiamen led by Colonel Cornelius Gilliam(who did not approve of the peace commission) marched against the Cayuse and other native inhabitants of central Oregon. These troops arrived at Fort Lee in February, and with a larger force, the militia forces pressed east towards the Whitman Mission. By March 4the forces reached the mission after a battle at Sand Hollows. After reaching the mission, Col. Gilliam set out to return to The Dalles with a small force to supply that settlement, before continuing to Oregon City to report to the governor. However, on the journey Gilliam was accidentally killed in camp, with Lee then continuing on to Oregon City with Gilliam’s body. Lee was then promoted to Colonel, but upon returning to the front resigned as colonel, but remained as an officer, after learning the troops had elected Lieutenant-Colonel James Waters as colonel to lead the troops.
These militia forces were later supported by the
United States Army. Some Cayuse initially refused to make peace and raided isolated settlements while others, considered friendly to the settlers, tried to work with the peace commission. The militia forces, eager for action, provoked both friendly and hostile Indians. Many Cayuse resisted, but they were unable to put up an effective opposition to the firepower of their opponents, and were driven into hiding in the Blue Mountains. [cite web
title=Oregon History: Cayuse Indian War
Oregon Blue Book
In 1850, the tribe handed over five members (Tilaukaikt, Tomahas, Klokamas, Isaiachalkis, and Kimasumpkin) to be tried for the murder of the Whitmans. All five Cayuse were convicted by a military commission and hanged on
3 June 1850. The hanging was conducted by U.S. Marshal Joseph L. Meek.Brown, J. Henry (1892). Political History of Oregon: Provisional Government. The Lewis & Dryden Printing Co.: Portland. p. 114] Kimasumpkin's final statement:
This did not end the conflict, though, and sporadic bloodshed continued for another five years until the Cayuse were finally defeated in 1855.
As a result of their defeat the Cayuse, with their numbers much reduced and most of their tribal lands confiscated, were subsequently placed on the
Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservationwith the Umatilla and Walla Walla peoples.
The war had significant long-term consequences for the region. It opened the Cayuse territories to white settlement, but wrecked relations between whites and the native tribes and set the scene for a series of fresh wars over the following forty years.
Spokane-Coeur d'Alene-Paloos War
Fraser Canyon War
List of conflicts in the United States
* [http://www.narhist.ewu.edu/Native_Americans/timelines/timeline_wars_treaties.html Timeline: Native Americans in the Inland Northwest: Wars and Treaties]
* "Sacajawea's Dual Legacy: Heroine In Discovery, Catalyst In Conquest", "The Oregonian", July 23, 1993
* "The Cayuse War (Early Indian Wars of Oregon, Vol. One)", by Frances Fuller Victor. Taxus Baccata: 2006.
* [http://www.nps.gov/whmi/index.htm Whitman Mission National Historical Site]
* [http://nwda-db.wsulibs.wsu.edu/findaid/ark:/80444/xv85849 Guide to the Cayuse War (1847-1855)at the University of Oregon.]
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