Cayuse War

Cayuse War

Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=Cayuse War
place=Oregon Country and Oregon Territory
result=United States victory

commander1=Cornelius Gilliam
Henry A. G. Lee
James Waters
commander2=Chief Five Crows
War Eagle
strength1=500 militiamen
The Cayuse War was an armed conflict that took place in the Northwestern United States from 1848 to 1855 between the Cayuse people of the region and the United States Government and 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 Massacre took place at the Whitman Mission near present day Walla Walla, Washington when fourteen people were killed in and around the mission. Over the next few years the Provisional Government of Oregon and later the United States Army battled 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 missionariesMarcus 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 Missions to provide support. Returning the following year, he joined approximately a thousand settlers traveling to Oregon Territory.

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 measles killed 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 Mission on 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.

Ensuing violence

The Provisional Legislature of Oregon and Governor George Abernethy called 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 Vancouver on 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. [ Rogue River War.], 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 4 the 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
first=Stephen Dow
title=Oregon History: Cayuse Indian War
publisher=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 June1850. 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 Reservation with 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.

See also

*Yakima War
*Spokane-Coeur d'Alene-Paloos War
*Okanagan Trail
*Fraser Canyon War
*List of conflicts in the United States


* [ 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.

External links

* [ Whitman Mission National Historical Site]
* [ Guide to the Cayuse War (1847-1855)at the University of Oregon.]

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Cayuse — infobox ethnic group group = Cayuse caption = The Cayuse Tribe land area poptime = The Cayuse Tribe has no descendants since its interbreeding with the Umatilla Tribe. popplace = Washington, Oregon langs = isolate (unclassified) rels = Animism… …   Wikipedia

  • Yakima War — The Yakima War was a conflict between the United States and the Yakama people, a Sahaptian speaking people on the Northwest Plateau, then Washington Territory and now the southern interior of Eastern Washington, from 1855 to 1858. NamingThis… …   Wikipedia

  • Guerra Cayuse — La Guerra Cayuse fue un conflicto armado que tuvo lugar en el noroeste de los Estados Unidos entre 1848 y 1855, y que enfrentó a la tribu india de los cayuse contra el gobierno y los colonos blancos locales. Contenido 1 Causas: choque de culturas …   Wikipedia Español

  • Fraser Canyon War — The Fraser Canyon War, also known as the Canyon War or the Fraser River War, took place in the fall of 1858 during the Fraser Canyon Gold Rush in the newly declared Colony of British Columbia, which would later become a province of Canada.… …   Wikipedia

  • Puget Sound War — The Puget Sound War was an armed conflict that took place in the Puget Sound area of the state of Washington in 1855 ndash;56, between the United States Army, local militias and members of the Native American tribes of the Nisqually, Muckleshoot …   Wikipedia

  • Bannock War — The Bannock War was an 1878 war primarily between the Bannock people and the Northern Shoshone, tribes of Native Americans, vs the United States government.The tribe, having been restricted to the Fort Hall Reservation in Idaho by the Fort… …   Wikipedia

  • Coeur d'Alene War — v · …   Wikipedia

  • Spokane–Coeur d'Alene–Paloos War — The Spokane Coeur d Alene Paloos War (also known as the Coeur d Alene War, and the second phase of the Yakima War) was a series of encounters between the Coeur d’Alenes, Spokanes, Palouses and Northern Paiute tribes and United States Army forces… …   Wikipedia

  • Hughes OH-6 Cayuse — H 6 redirects here. For other uses, see H6 (disambiguation). OH 6 Cayuse Right side view of the OH 6A Cayuse helicopter in flight …   Wikipedia

  • OH-6 Cayuse — Infobox Aircraft name= OH 6 Cayuse/ Loach caption= Right side view of the OH 6 Cayuse helicopter in flight. type= Light observation helicopter manufacturer= Hughes Tool Co. Aircraft Division designer= first flight= 27 February 1963 introduced=… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.