The Umatilla Indian Tribe

The Umatilla Indian Tribe

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The aboriginal story began thousands of years ago. The ancestors' homeland of nearly six and a half million acres encompassed the Columbia River Plateau in today's southeastern Washington and northeastern Oregon. Their religion has been variously called the Dream, Seven Drums, or Washat, which professes belief in one creator and the resurrection of the spirit after death, as well as the organic unity between people and the earth.The original bands subsisted by fishing, hunting, gathering other foods and concocting medicines. In addition, they took part in trade with other bands that extended from the Pacific coast to Great Plains.The advent of the horse, which Europeans introduced into the Americas at the end of the 15th century, extended the tribes' mobility and range, and improved trade by increasing contact with the region’s other tribes. The name eventually became the standard term for Native American horses.At the beginning of the 19th century, the encroachment of such non-Indian outsiders as trappers, missionaries, settlers and U.S. soldiers, changed the land and significantly impacted the tribes' lifeways. By the 21st century, descendants would constitute about one third of that number.In 1855, the tribes and the U.S. The tribes also reserved for ever their rights to pasture livestock and maintain self-government.As an outcome of congressional legislation in the latter 19th century, the 250,000-acre reservation was reduced to its current 172,000 acres.

See also Indian Wars Time Table.
Native American Cultural Regions map.

Umatilla County

The first settlement of any kind in Umatilla county was the Catholic Mission, established on the Umatilla above Pendleton, by Bishop A. M. A. Blanchet, Father J. B. A. Brouillet and Mr. Leclaire, November 27, 1847, two days before the Whitman massacre. This was the actual founding, but for several months previous they had been living at Fort Walla Walla, and negotiating with the Cayuses for land upon which to build the mission. After the horrible massacre at Wailatpu, they were unable to do any missionary work and January 2, 1848, Bishop Blanchet left for Vancouver with Peter S. Ogden and the rescued prisoners. Father Brouillet and Mr. Leclaire remained at Umitilla, in accordance with a promise made to the Cayuses to stay with them as long as they and the Americans did not go to war. On the nineteenth of February 1848, the Cayuses went out to fight Oregon volunteers, and the next day Father Brouillet and his companion went to Fort Walla Walla, and about three weeks later to Willamette Valley. The Indians being displeased, burned their house and destroyed the property left behind them. This ended the first settlement in Umatilla County.

The first actual American settler was Dr. William C. McKay, son of the celebrated Tom McKay, and grandson of Alexander McKay who came to Oregon in 1811 as a partner of John Jacob Astor, and perished soon after in the massacre of the Tonquin's crew at Vancouver Island. Dr. McKay was born and reared in Oregon, and it was his familiarity with, and confidence in this region that led him to make a settlement. After this difficulty with the Cayuse tribe had been adjusted a few Americans, and Hudson's Bay Company French, came to this section to locate. The majority of them selected choice spots on the Walla Walla, Touchet, Tukannon, and Mill Creek, while Dr. McKay located on the Umatilla River at the mouth of Houtama, or McKay creek. This was in the fall of 1851. The French settlers were chiefly in the Walla Walla valley, and not more than one or two, if any, were within the limits of Umatilla County. The great respect and regard entertained by the Cayuses for Tom McKay had, in a great measure, been conferred upon his son, and Dr. McKay was welcomed by them and received favors that would have been denied other Americans. He was looked upon as a Hudson's Bay Co. man, though he was born in Oregon, educated in New York, and had always identified himself with the Americans. This fact saved his life and that of several others a few years later. In 1851 an Indian agency was established on Umatilla, opposite the present town of Echo, by Dr. Anson Dart, Superindent of Indian affairs for Oregon. E. Wampole was installed as agent, and was succeeded the next year by Thomas K. Williams, and he by R. R. Thompson. The last named gentleman resided at the Dalles, and placed Green Arnold as his deputy at the agency. This station was known as Utilla, and in August 1851, a post office by that name was established there, being on the route between, Dalles and Salt Lake. A. F. Rogger was appointed postmaster. These were the only settlements in 1855 when the Indian war drove all Americans from the country east of the Cascades.

In common with scores of others, Dr. McKay visited the Colville mines in the summer of 1855. His property was left in charge of Jones E. Whitney, who had came with his wife in the emigration of 1854 and had lived with the Doctor for a year as his partner. In the fall he started on his return from Colville, accompanied by Victor Trevitt, now living at the Dalles, and two Hudson's Bay French. They were several times stopped by Indians, but Dr. McKay represented Trevitt as a clerk of the Hudson's Bay Co., and they were not interfered with. When they reached the settlement of Brooke, Bumford and Noble, at Wailatpu, it was deserted, and while wondering at it, Howlish Wampo head chief of the Cayuses, rode up and informed them that the Americans had all gone to the Dalles, but that some people were up the river. They proceeded up the river where they found a number of French settlers, among whom were Mr. Pambrun, Mr. McBean and a Catholic priest. Next morning the chief sent his brother with McKay and Trevitt as an escort, the two Frenchmen remaining at the camp. The Dr. found his place deserted by Whitney and his wife, the house door broken in, his property destroyed and his cattle gone. They remained there two days and had a big talk with the Cayuses, who were very sore about the sale of their land. They did not go to war as a tribe, but many of the young warriors joined the hostiles. Umhowlish, Stikas and others advised them to leave at once, as the feeling against Americans was so bad it was unsafe even for McKay to remain. They therefore departed for the Dalles as secretly as possible, passing the deserted agency as they went. McKay's place and the agency were both destroyed, and thus ended the second settlement of Umatilla County.

The Cayuse Indians were once masters of a vast homeland of more than six million acres in what is now Washington and Oregon. The first of the Northwest tribes to acquire horses, they were relatively few in number but outsized in influence, noted for their shrewd bargaining ability and much feared as warriors. Fur trader Alexander Ross (1783-1856) described them as "by far the most powerful and warlike" of the tribes on the Columbia Plateau in 1818. They were at the peak of their power in 1836, when they invited Marcus (1802-1847) and Narcissa (1808-1847) Whitman to establish a mission on Cayuse land near Walla Walla. What began as accommodation ended in disillusionment and resentment. A group of Cayuse attacked the mission in November 1847, killing the Whitmans and 11 others -- a brief flurry of violence that led to the first Indian war in the Northwest, the creation of Oregon Territory as a federal entity, and, eventually, a treaty that stripped the tribe of most of its land. But that was not the end of the story. As historian Clifford Trafzer has pointed out, "Their lives did not end in the last century, and their cultures did not fade away" (Trafzer, 7). The Cayuse survive as part of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla, with a 172,000-acre reservation near Pendleton, Oregon an annual operating budget of nearly $230 million and businesses ranging from a casino to a wind farm. In the words of a tribal brochure, "We are still here. We will continue to be here."

People of the Rye Grass

The people who became known as Cayuse were given that name by French-Canadian fur traders, who called them Cailloux, meaning "Rock People," because of the rocky nature of parts of their homeland. To the Scottish botanist David Douglas (1799-1834) they were the Kyeuuse or the Kyuuse. Early emigrants called them Cai-uses, Cayouses, Skyuse, Kaius, and other variants. Their own name for themselves may have been Liksiyu. To their Nez Perce neighbors, they were known as Weyiiletpuu or Waiilatpus: the People of the Rye Grass.

The Cayuses were originally river people, living along tributary streams in what is now northeastern Oregon. They fished, traded, and traveled by canoe or on foot. Like other Columbia Plateau peoples, their lives were governed by the "seasonal round." They moved with the seasons in a pattern based on available foods: toward the Columbia River in the spring, when the salmon began running to other locations when the berries were ripe or the camas roots -- a nutritious mainstay of the aboriginal diet -- were ready to be harvested. In the fall, the able-bodied moved into the mountains to hunt. Hunters used deer-head decoys or elk whistles to lure prey to come within range of bows and arrows. Sometimes teams of hunters would burn underbrush to drive deer, antelope, bear, and other game toward those waiting in stands. The people used dogs to help carry the load when they traveled.

Winters were spent in villages in the river valleys, where it was easier to find firewood and some shelter from the ever-present wind. Extended families lived together in rectangular longhouses, held up by wooden poles covered with tule mats. Tule (pronounced "too-lee") is a type of sedge that swells when wet. Winter rains would cause the tules to swell, closing gaps between them and providing a relatively waterproof structure. Dirt piled along the bottom provided more insulation. Openings along the roof allowed smoke from cooking fires to escape. Dried fish, roots, and other items were stored in subterranean pit houses, dug nearby.

Women were responsible for setting up and dismantling the lodges. In spring, when snow from the high country melted into the valleys, they took down the steep-roofed winter homes and replaced them with flat-roofed structures built on raised platforms. The platforms protected the houses from spring runoff and the flat roofs provided space to dry salmon. Wood was scarce, and the lodge poles and platform timbers were re-used year after year.

Intertribal boundaries were permeable. The Cayuses were closely entwined with the Nez Perces, the Walla Wallas, and the Umatillas. Combined parties from these groups camped together at fishing stations in Cayuse country on the Grand Ronde River or in Nez Perce country on the Wallowa they hunted together they intermarried spoke each other's languages and joined together in raids and war parties, particularly against the Shosonean tribes to the south.

Acquisition of the Horse

According to Cayuse oral tradition, the tribe acquired its first horses as a result of what had originally been a war party against the Shoshone (or Snake Indians). Approaching a group of Shoshones on a tributary of the Snake River, sometime in the early 1700s, Cayuse scouts were bewildered to see their enemies riding what appeared to be elk or large deer. Closer investigation revealed that the prints left by the hooves of the mysterious animals were not split, like those of elk or deer, but were solid and round. The Cayuse chief arranged a truce and asked to trade for some of the strange creatures. It is said that he and his warriors gave away all they had and returned home, nearly naked, with a mare and a stallion.

Acquisition of the horse led to what historian Theodore Stern has called "a revolution in perspective" for the Cayuses (Chiefs and Chief Traders, 42). No longer restricted to what they could carry or what their dogs could pull, they moved into new areas, traveling as far east as the Great Plains and as far west as California, to hunt, trade, fight, and capture slaves. Meanwhile, their herds multiplied rapidly, a combination of skillful breeding and periodic raids on other tribes. By the early 1800s, a Cayuse who owned only 15 to 20 horses was considered poor wealthy families controlled 2,000 or more.

Horses improved the range and effectiveness of war parties, making it possible for Cayuses to dominate their sedentary neighbors on the Columbia. They claimed ownership of The Dalles, the great fishery and trade emporium of the Columbia, forcing the weaker bands in that area to pay them tribute in the form of salmon and other goods. "For years to come," wrote historians Robert Ruby and John Brown, "they would not let its salmon eaters, teeth worn and eyes blinded by river sand, forget their inferiority" (17-18).

By making it easier to travel, horses also fostered social and political interaction between the Cayuse and other Indian peoples. They began to take on the role of middlemen in the increasingly extensive trade between the Indians of the Great Plains and those of the Pacific Coast. They incorporated elements of Plains culture into their own, adopting new styles of clothing and personal ornamentation, new methods of hunting, new ways of packing and transporting goods. They added conical teepees, covered with buffalo hides, to their housing options. The idea of choosing headmen on the basis of their skills as warriors came from associations with the peoples of the Plains.

By the time of first contact with the non-Indians approaching from the east, the Cayuses were the monarchs of the Columbia Plateau. Early explorers and traders almost universally described them as proud and haughty. Alexander Ross reported that the Cayuse "regulate all the movements of the others in peace and war, and as they stand well or ill disposed toward their traders, so do the others" (176). David Douglas, encountering a group of "Kyeuuse" at The Dalles in 1826, called them "the terror of all other tribes" (159). Thomas J. Farnham (1804-1848), a would-be colonizer who traveled through the region a decade later, gave them the label later used by many others: "the imperial tribe" of Old Oregon (151).

First Contact

The Corps of Discovery led by Meriwether Lewis (1774-1809) and William Clark (1770-1838) brought the first non-Indian people to pass through Cayuse country. The expedition camped at the mouth of the Walla Walla River in late October 1805, en route via the Columbia to the coast and returned in early June 1806 on its homeward journey. The captains recorded the name of the tribe as "Ye-E-al-po" (Moulton, Clark's Journal, June 6, 1806) and "Y-e-let-pos" and "Willetpos" (Moulton, Lewis' Journal, June 8, 1806) -- phonetic spellings of "Waiilatpus."

The Cayuses were curious about the explorers and particularly interested in their weapons, as Roberta Conner, director of the Tamástslikt Cultural Institute, operated by the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation at Pendleton, explained in 2009:

"We were looking for power. Power is very important in our culture. And so what happened is that white people have different kinds of power. They have power in their guns. They have the power of metal, which is a really interesting technological change" (Conner interview).

The Cayuse had several reasons for being receptive to these powerful strangers. Their herds had multiplied but they themselves had not. The population was stable but small: only an estimated 500 in the early 1800s. Mere accumulation of horses would not be enough to maintain their position of dominance on the Plateau they needed new sources of power. They had heard of the superiority of the Euro-American weapons, which far surpassed the power of their own bows and arrows. "Nor were guns the only magic white men had to offer," Ruby and Brown point out they also possessed "a world of marvelous goods ranging from beads to blankets -- admirable means of displaying the wealth and superiority of the Cayuses" (19).

Fur Trade Era

The Cayuse were both compliant and imperious in dealing with the fur traders who followed Lewis and Clark to the region. On one hand, they were among the few Indians on the Plateau who were willing to cooperate with the traders by hunting beaver themselves. Most of the local tribes regarded the work as beneath them: a task suited only for women and slaves. Theodore Stern put it this way: "In the scale of manly prowess, trapping a small fur-bearer like the beaver paled before driving deer, stalking elk, and the glory of the hard-riding buffalo hunt" (Chiefs and Change, xiii).

At the same time, the Cayuse were far from subservient in their relationship with the traders. For example, in 1814, a mounted party stopped a fur caravan near the confluence of the Snake and Columbia Rivers hauled the vessels ashore, and demanded tobacco and other goods from the crew before they would release them.

Alexander Ross and a contingent from the Montreal-based North West Company received permission to build a fur trading post near the mouth of the Walla Walla River in 1818 only after extended negotiations with Cayuse and Walla Walla chiefs. The chiefs demanded, first, that all the assembled Indians be given gifts before any kind of council could proceed. Next, they insisted that the traders pay for the timber they were gathering to build the post. Finally, they asked that the traders not provide weapons to their enemies. According to Ross's account, "the Cayouse great chief . got up and observed, 'Will the whites in opening a trade with our enemies promise not to give them guns or balls?' and others spoke to the same effect" (171).

Ross and his colleagues passed out tobacco and other gifts, paid for the timber, promised to trade guns only to the Cayuses' allies, and were allowed to proceed. Fort Nez Perces, renamed Fort Walla Walla when the North West Company merged with the Hudson's Bay Company in 1821, became one of the most important trading posts in the interior. Ross, its chief trader until 1821, grandly called it "the Gibraltar of the Columbia."

The shelves at Fort Nez Perces held an astonishing array of goods: "wool, flannel, calico, tobacco twists, tea bricks, sugar cones, mouth harps, thimbles, beads, nails, metal cups and kettles, guns, ball and powder, dice, needles, and hats" -- in addition to knives, axes, and guns (Karson, 46). The Cayuse initially traded beaver they had caught for these desirable commodities. As they trapped out the beaver in their own territory, they became middlemen, obtaining pelts from other Indians. They also found a lucrative market for their horses. In the days before a cattle industry was established in Oregon country, horses were an important source of meat. Records kept by the Hudson's Bay Company show that more than 700 were slaughtered to feed personnel at Fort Nez Perces between 1822 and 1825.

"White Man's Book of Heaven"

Indians were interested not only in guns but in the white man's "spirit power." Believing that "all power originated from the Creator," many reasoned that "the Creator had granted white men a special power which enabled them to make cloth, guns, kettles, powder, lead, and other goods" (Trafzer, 3). They wanted to know more about this power, a wish that made them receptive to the Christian missionaries who began arriving in the 1830s.

Fur traders had already introduced Indians on the Columbia Plateau to some elements of Christianity. Pierre Pambrun, the chief trader at Fort Walla Walla from 1832 until his death in 1841, was a devout Catholic who encouraged Indians living near the fort to gather for services every Sunday. Mingling old practices with new ceremonies, participants would dance in cadence to drums while a chief chanted the Lord's Prayer in Nez Perce (the most widely spoken language on the Plateau).

Protestant interest in missionary work among the Indians was inspired by a letter published in 1833 in the New York Christian Advocate and Journal and Zion's Herald. The letter reported that four "Flathead" Indians had traveled to St. Louis to ask William Clark, then Superintendent of Indians Affairs, to send them the "white man's Book of Heaven." Clark understood very little of their language, and they spoke none of his they communicated largely through sign language. But the message seemed to be that Indians in the West wanted missionaries to come and teach them about the Bible.

The first to respond were Methodist missionaries -- Jason Lee (1803-1845), his nephew Daniel, and three associates. Traveling west with an expedition led by Nathaniel J. Wyeth (1802-1856), a Boston merchant, they reached a Cayuse village on the Walla Walla in August 1834. The Cayuse greeted them warmly and urged them to stay. "The hospitality shown us was worthy of their pretensions as a governing tribe," Daniel Lee remembered (122). The Methodists, however, traveled on and eventually built a mission in the Willamette Valley.

The next year, Rev. Samuel Parker (1779-1866) passed through on reconnaissance for the Boston-based American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. Again, Cayuse headmen welcomed the stranger. He told them he had come to select a site for a mission, including a school and a "preaching house." He also said he did not intend to take the land for nothing -- that every year a ship loaded with trade goods would arrive and be divided among the Indians, as payment for the use of their land. This promise would prove to have serious repercussions in years to come, as the Indians waited for payments that never came.

Whitman Mission Established

Parker had been accompanied on part of his westward journey by Marcus Whitman, a missionary and physician from upstate New York. The two had traveled with the American Fur Company's annual caravan from St. Louis to a rendezvous with trappers and traders in present-day Wyoming. At the rendezvous, they agreed that Whitman would return to the East to organize a missionary party that would travel to Oregon the next year, while Parker went ahead to scout locations.

Whitman had hoped to bring a large party of missionaries with him. In the end, he found only three who were willing to go: Narcissa Prentiss, a Sunday-school teacher with romantic ideas about "saving the heathen" Henry Spalding (1803-1874), a Presbyterian minister with strong convictions and little patience for divergent opinions and his wife, Eliza (1807-1851), quiet, devout, and often ill. All three were from the same region of New York as Whitman: an area known as the Burned Over District because of the intensity of the religious revivals that periodically swept through it. Whitman, who had become engaged to Narcissa before his journey with Parker, married her on February 18, 1836, in her hometown of Angelica, New York. They left for Oregon the next day, joining the Spaldings en route.

By the time they reached Oregon, some seven months later, they were scarcely speaking to each other. Instead of establishing a joint mission, as the American Board had intended, they split up. The Spaldings went north, to settle among the Nez Perce at Lapwai in present-day Idaho. The Whitmans built their mission on Cayuse land, at Waiilatpu, "Place of the Rye Grass," near present-day Walla Walla.

There were three distinct bands within the Cayuse tribe at the time. Two were centered on the Umatilla River the third on the Walla Walla. Leaders of all three bands were initially supportive of the Whitmans, but the headman of the Walla Walla Cayuse -- Hiyumtipin (also spelled Umtippe) -- was particularly eager to have the missionaries locate in his territory. Stern speculates that he wanted an alternative source of trade goods, as a counterweight to the traders at Fort Walla Walla. In any case, the relationship between the Whitmans and their hosts began on a friendly footing.

The Indians helped the Whitmans celebrate the birth of their first (and only) child, Alice Clarissa, at Waiilatpu on March 14, 1837. "The little stranger is visited daily by the chiefs and principal men in camp, and the women throng the house continually waiting an opportunity to see her," Narcissa wrote in a letter to her parents. "Her whole appearance is so new to them. Her complexion, her size and dress, etc., all excite a great deal of wonder." Among the chiefs who paid homage to the baby was Tiloukaikt (d. 1850). Narcissa called him "a kind, friendly Indian" who told her Alice Clarissa was a "Cayuse te-mi (Cayuse girl), because she had been born on Cayuse wai-tis (Cayuse land)" (Letters of Narcissa Whitman, March 30, 1837).

The child drowned a little more than two years later when she toddled into the river behind the mission house. With her death, a bond between the missionaries and the Indians was lost. Tiloukaikt, who replaced Hiyumtipin as headman of the Walla Walla band in the winter of 1840, became one of the Whitmans' primary critics and eventual foes.

Increasing Tensions

The next few years were marked by increasing tensions between the Whitmans and the Walla Walla band. The missionaries believed that the Indians must first be "civilized" before their souls could be saved. They sought to transform every aspect of Cayuse culture, from diet to dress to shelter to work to worship. Instead of wild game and native plants, they promoted a diet based on domesticated animals and cultivated plants. Indians who dressed like white people were welcomed into the mission house those who wore traditional clothing were not. The Indians were encouraged to give up their nomadic lifestyle and become farmers and, above all, to abandon their traditional spiritual practices and practice only the white religion. The Cayuse accepted some of these teachings, but they rejected many of them.

Whitman was initially impressed by the Cayuses' willingness to experiment with agriculture. In a letter to the American Board in 1841, he commented on their eagerness to buy ploughs and hoes. A visitor in 1843 found that Cayuses were farming some 60 tracts around the mission, ranging from a quarter acre to three acres. Some had traded horses to acquire cattle. But these ventures into agriculture gave rise to new conflicts. "Seeing the success of Marcus Whitman's irrigated crops, his Indian neighbors tried at first to divert water from his ditches to their gardens," writes Stern. "Opposed, they dug their own channels but blocked his" (Chiefs and Change, 57).

Another issue was Whitman's refusal to compensate the Indians for the use of their land. In 1841, some Cayuses deliberately turned their horses into Whitman's cornfield. When he protested, Tiloukaikt confronted him. According to Whitman's account, Tiloukaikt "demanded of me what I had ever given him for the land. I answered 'Nothing,' and that . I never would pay him anything. He then made use of the word 'Shame,' which is used in Chinook the same as in English" (Letters, November 18, 1841).

Cultural misunderstandings on both sides contributed to the friction. The Whitmans refused to let Indians come and go as they pleased in the mission house. Narcissa, in particular, fought for the standards of privacy she had been accustomed to in her middle-class home in New York. Curtains, fences, and locked doors violated Indian ideas about community. Cayuse men also were disturbed by the way Marcus Whitman treated his wife. Tiloukaikt told Whitman he was setting a bad example when he allowed Narcissa to travel with him and when he deferred to her in public.

"The Indians Are Roused"

In 1842, the American Board -- impatient with the continued quarreling among the missionaries and with their lack of progress in converting Indians -- recalled Spalding and ordered Whitman to close the mission at Waiilatpu and relocate to a station at Tshimakain, near Spokane. Whitman hurried back to Boston to plead for a second chance. He convinced the board that his mission could become an important supply station for emigrants traveling to Oregon. He returned in September 1843 at the head of a wagon train of about 900 emigrants. After that, the Whitmans gave up all pretense of saving Indian souls and devoted themselves to helping white settlers. "I have no doubt our greatest work is to be to aid the white settlement of this country," Marcus wrote in a letter to Narcissa's parents. "The Indians have in no case obeyed the command to multiply and replenish the earth, and they cannot stand in the way of others doing so" (May 16, 1844).

The Cayuse watched with growing resentment as more and more emigrants traveled through their lands, using up scarce firewood, depleting the grasses on their grazing lands, and taking game without permission. "The Indians are roused a good deal at seeing so many emigrants," Narcissa wrote (May 20, 1844).

More than 4,000 settlers came into the Cayuse homeland with the wagon trains of 1847. Their arrival coincided with a virulent outbreak of measles among the Indians (who had no natural immunity to any of the infectious diseases introduced by Euro-Americans). The source of the outbreak is not clear: possibly the wagon trains possibly a joint Cayuse-Walla Walla expedition to trade for cattle at Sutter's Fort in California. In any case, the effects on the Cayuse were devastating. According to some estimates, nearly half the tribe died. Noting that Whitman's white patients usually recovered while his Indian patients died, some Indians began to suspect him of sorcery.

In Cayuse tradition, a medicine man ("te-wat," or shaman) who lost a patient could be subject to death himself, at the hands of the patient's family. Whitman received several warnings about this practice. Narcissa wrote about it in one of her letters home: "Last Saturday the war chief died at Walla Walla. He was a Cayuse, and a relative of Umtippe . employed the same te-wat Umtippe sent for but he died in his hands. The same day Ye-he-kis-kis, a younger brother of Umtippe, went to Walla Walla, arrived about twilight, and shot the te-wat dead. Thus they are avenged" (May 3, 1837).

Attack on the Mission

Long-simmering tensions erupted shortly after noon on November 29, 1847, when a group of Cayuses attacked the mission, killing Marcus, Narcissa, and nine others. Marcus was the first to be struck, with a tomahawk in the back of the head. Two more white men were killed a few days later, bringing the total number killed by Indians to 13. A fourteenth victim is believed to have drowned after escaping the initial attack.

More than 70 people were at the mission at the time, including the Whitmans, 10 children they had adopted, and eight emigrant families who had planned to spend the winter there. The survivors -- mostly women and children -- were held as captives for a month and then ransomed by Peter Skene Ogden (1780-1854), an official at the Hudson's Bay Company's Fort Vancouver. Shortly after Odgen and his men left with the survivors, the Indians learned that settlers in the Willamette Valley had destroyed Cayuse villages and property on the upper Deschutes River. Angered, they returned to the Whitman mission piled wagons and other property into the buildings, and set fire to them.

Estimates of the number of Cayuse who participated in the attack vary from 14 to more than 60. The entire tribe -- including the two bands on the Umatilla, who had had no direct involvement -- paid the price. Roberta Conner said, "It's a very sad thing that after we killed the Whitmans it sort of becomes open season on Indians for retaliation. Everybody paid. Rogue River Indians, all kinds of people paid for our Whitman killings" (Conner interview).

White settlers were inflamed by news of the attack. The editor of the Oregon Spectator demanded that "the barbarian murderers" be "pursued with unrelenting hostility, until their lifeblood has atoned for their infamous deeds let them be hunted as beasts of prey let their name and race be blotted from the face of the earth, and the places that once knew them, know them no more forever" (January 20, 1848). George Abernethy (1807-1877), a former Methodist missionary recently elected as provisional territorial governor, called for "immediate and prompt action" to punish the perpetrators. A volunteer militia of some 500 men, led by Colonel Cornelius Gilliam (1798-1848), set out to do that in January 1848.

"The Bloody Cayuses"

The so-called Cayuse War -- first Indian war in the Pacific Northwest -- amounted to little more than a series of skirmishes, most taking place between January and March 1848. There were relatively few deaths or injuries on either side. In one day-long battle, on February 24, 1848, a single Cayuse (Grey Eagle, a shaman who claimed the power to swallow bullets as they came) was killed and six other Indians wounded there were no casualties among Gilliam's troops. Three soldiers were killed on another occasion but one of them was shot accidentally by a guard. "Upward of four hundred men have been employed against the Interior Indians, with questionable success," Ogden wrote in a report to Hudson's Bay Company headquarters in Montreal on March 16, 1848 (cited in Stern, Chiefs and Change, 208).

Against the wishes of both Gilliam and Abernethy, a three-person "peace commission" accompanied the militia on a march from The Dalles to Waiilatpu. Its dual mission was to persuade other tribes to remain neutral and to pressure the Cayuse to turn over those responsible for the mission attack. Some 250 Cayuses and Nez Perce rode in to meet in council with the commission on March 7, 1848. During the proceedings, Commissioner Robert Newell (1807-1869), a former fur trapper who was married to a Nez Perce, told the Cayuse that if they did not give up "the murderers" and make restitution for property taken or destroyed, they would lose everything. They would have "only one thing left, that is a name, 'The Bloody Cayuses.' They never will lose that." He also warned that those who protected the outlaws would "become poor, no place will they find to hide their heads, no place on this earth nor a place in heaven, but down to hell shall they go . " (Oregon Spectator, April 6, 1848).

No real progress toward peace was made and the council disbanded. Gilliam rebuilt and fortified parts of the mission and renamed it Fort Waters, after one of his aides. He intended it to serve as a military base for further operations against the "hostiles." En route to The Dalles, for supplies, on March 28, 1848, he accidentally shot and killed himself.

The Cayuse found some support among their traditional allies, including the Umatillas and some Walla Wallas and Nez Perces but the Yakama held back. Tiloukaikt's band was forced into hiding in the Blue Mountains. The tribe as a whole was weakened not only by the measles epidemic but by the loss of access to traditional hunting, fishing, and gathering grounds, due to encroachment and harassment by whites. The Cayuse also suffered from the effects of a law, passed in the immediate aftermath of the attack, that prohibited the sale of powder and lead to all Indians in Oregon country. With only limited supplies of ammunition for hunting game, many of the fugitives went hungry.

The Cayuse Five

Meanwhile Joseph L. Meek (1810-1875), a former mountain man and member of the provisional legislature, made his way to Washington, D.C., with news of the attack and demands from the settlers for immediate political recognition and protection. Congress responded by passing a long-stalled bill to establish the Oregon Territory. The bill, approved in August 1848, extended federal protection to an area that included the present-day states of Washington, Idaho, and Oregon and parts of Montana and Wyoming. Meek was appointed U.S. Marshall. Joseph Lane (1801-1881), a Mexican War veteran from Indiana, was appointed Governor General and Superintendent of Indian Affairs. The news reached Oregon City, the provisional capital, when Lane arrived to take office on March 2, 1849.

Governor Lane moved quickly to put an end to the hostilities. In a meeting with tribal leaders at The Dalles in April, he offered peace and friendship if the guilty were given up. If not, he promised the Cayuse a war "which would lead to their total destruction," because "we could not discriminate between the innocent and guilty" (Lane). Still, the Indians held out for nearly another year. Finally, Tawatoy (sometimes spelled Tauitau or Tawatoe, also known as Young Chief), leader of a large group of neutral Cayuse on the Umatilla River, arranged a surrender, turning over five prisoners.

Among them was Tiloukaikt, the "kind, friendly Indian" who had welcomed the Whitmans' infant daughter as a "Cayuse te-mi" when she was born. As he and the others were being escorted to Oregon City for trial, one of the soldiers asked why they had surrendered. Tiloukaikt reportedly replied: "Did not your missionaries tell us that Christ died to save his people? So die we, to save our people" (Bancroft, 95).

How the Cayuses made the decision to turn in those five men is not known. There was some speculation, at the time and afterward, that they simply gave up five volunteers in order to appease the whites and end the persecution. "They may have had a series of tribal councils wherein it was finally determined that they would eventually be caught and that perhaps it would be better to surrender voluntarily. The real facts are unknown so we may only conjecture," concluded one historian, writing in 1953 (Glassley, 47). None of the territorial officials seemed concerned about the actual guilt or innocence of any of the prisoners. "The punishment of these Indians," Lane told the Territorial Legislature on May 7, 1850, "will remove the barrier to a peace with the Cayuse, and have a good effect upon all the tribes" (Lane).

In a trial that began two weeks later in Oregon City, the accused were found guilty and sentenced to hang. The sentence was carried out, on June 3, 1850, by Marshal Joseph Meek, whose mixed-race daughter, Helen Mar, had been at the mission on the day of the attack and died of measles while being held captive there.

Walla Walla Treaty Council

Any hopes that the Cayuses may have had for a return to their old way of life quickly faded. In 1851, Anson Dart (1797-1879), Superintendent of Indian Affairs for Oregon Territory, recommended that Congress buy their lands and open them up for settlement. Dart claimed that both the Cayuse and the Walla Walla tribes were "nearly extinct," with only 126 and 130 tribal members respectively. Stern points out that other sources at the time reported much higher figures. Undercounting the Indian population was a way of reinforcing the argument that their lands should be turned over to whites.

The pressure increased when part of Oregon Territory was sliced off to create a new one, Washington, in 1853. Isaac I. Stevens (1818-1862) was appointed Governor and Superintendent of Indian Affairs for Washington Territory. A former (and future) military officer, Stevens quickly set about organizing a series of treaty councils to divest the territory's Indians of title to most of their ancestral lands and move them to designated reservations.

In May and June 1855, Stevens and Joel Palmer (1810-1881), Superintendent of Indian Affairs for Oregon Territory, met with representatives of the Cayuse, Umatilla, Walla Walla, Nez Perce, and Yakama at Mill Creek near the Walla Walla River. The Palouse were invited but declined to participate. According to the official minutes, some 1,800 Indians attended. None of them wanted to surrender title to their lands. Tawatoy (Young Chief), who had tried an appeasement policy five years earlier by arranging the surrender of "the Cayuse Five," now led the opposition to the whites' demands. He said:

"[T]his land is afraid. I wonder if this ground has anything to say. I wonder if the ground is listening to what is said. I wonder if the ground would come to life . though I hear what this earth says. The earth says, God has placed me here. The earth says that God tells me to take care of the Indians on this earth" (Minutes, June 7, 1855).

Palmer told the Indians that they would not be able to prevent the whites from coming, any more than they could stop the wind from blowing or the rain from falling. "Like the grasshoppers on the plains, some years there will be more come than others, you cannot stop them," he said (Minutes, June 2, 1855). He urged the Indians to select a reservation where they could live in peace, while there was still time.

Shrinking Reservation

In the end, the Cayuses, Umatillas, and Walla Wallas agreed to cede 4,012,800 acres of land in return for $150,000, the creation of a 512,000-acre reservation, the promise of gifts in the future, and the retention of traditional hunting and fishing rights. Congress did not ratify the treaty until 1859. When government surveyors finally marked the boundaries of the reservation, they included only 245,000 acres -- half what had been promised in the treaty -- and the town of Pendleton sat on part of the land.

The reservation shrank even more in years to come. In 1874, the Oregon legislature asked the federal government to terminate the reservation and move the Indians somewhere else because they weren't putting the land to good use. They were hunting, fishing, and grazing horses instead of farming. "We favor their removal as it is a burning shame to keep this fine body of land for a few worthless Indians," the East Oregonian (Pendleton's newspaper) editorialized in December 1877 (Karson, 115). A decade later, Congress passed the Dawes Act, which divided reservations into allotments for individual tribal members and opened the rest of the land for sale to non-Indians. By the early 1930s, only about 160,000 acres remained in tribal hands.

In 1949, the three tribes voted, by a narrow majority, to establish a single tribal government, somewhat diminishing the role of traditional chiefs and headmen. The newly named Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation promptly sued the federal government, seeking compensation for the thousands of acres of land that had been illegally excluded from the reservation and for damages due to loss of fish and eel runs in the Umatilla. That suit was settled out of court. It was followed by another, in 1953, for loss of fishing sites that had been inundated by construction of The Dalles dam. The government paid the Confederated Tribes $4.2 million to settle that suit.

Meanwhile, tribal officials successfully lobbied for the return of some 14,000 acres of reservation lands in the Johnson Creek area southeast of Pilot Rock, Oregon. In 2013 the Umatilla Indian Reservation consists of 172,882 acres, 48 percent of which is owned by non-Indians.

Reclaiming a Heritage

In 2005, the tribes commemorated the 150th anniversary of the Walla Walla Treaty Council with what they called "a victory celebration of survival." It began with a ceremonial procession of 50 mounted horsemen, in an echo of the 2,000 Nez Perce and 500 Cayuse riders who had made a spectacular grand entry into the treaty grounds at Walla Walla in 1855. Antone Minthorn wrote, "It was a proud moment and wonderful to see Indians with the warbonnet headdresses on horseback singing and 'war whooping.' Our history is our strength. Our traditional cultures define us" (Karson, 86-87).

The Tamástslikt Cultural Institute, a museum and research center on the reservation, helps preserve that history. Opened in 1998, the 45,000-square-foot building is clad with varying widths of cedar siding to evoke the tule-mat walls of the tribes' traditional dwellings. It is the only interpretive center on the Oregon Trail that looks at the history of the trail from the Native American perspective. The name comes from a Shahaptian word meaning "interpreter."

As of early 2013, more than 2,900 people are enrolled as members of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR). Roughly half of them live on or near the reservation. About 300 Indians enrolled with other tribes and 1,500 non-Indians also live on reservation property. The CTUIR owns the Wildhorse Resort (which includes a casino, hotel, recreational vehicle park, and 18-hole golf course) and Cayuse Technologies (a software development and training enterprise), and is a partner in the Rattlesnake Road Wind Farm, near Arlington, Oregon, among other business interests. With some 1,600 employees and an annual payroll of about $50 million, it is one of the largest employers in northeastern Oregon.

Part of reclaiming the heritage has been reclaiming the pride. In 2009, Roberta Conner explained:

"There was once a stigma about being Cayuse. And so it's fascinating now when you ask people to raise their hands in a Long House of people, as has happened here a couple of times in the last ten years, and ask how many of you are Cayuse and a lot of people stand up. That never used to be the case" (Conner interview).

Cayuse woman in ceremonial dress, ca. 1910

Photo by Edward Curtis, Courtesy Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-109716)

Rye grass at Waiilatpu, Whitman Mission National Historic Site, near Walla Walla, November 29, 2008 photo by Glenn Drosendahl

Cayuse Chief Tiloukaikt, painted by Paul Kane, ca. 1847

Courtesy National Park Service

Marcus Whitman (1802-1847), illustration based on family recollections, ca. 1895

Courtesy How Marcus Whitman Saved Oregon

Narcissa Whitman (1808-1847), How Marcus Whitman Saved Oregon by Oliver Nixon, ca. 1895

X marks site of Whitman Mission House (prior to Walla Walla River course change), Waiilatpu, ca. 1915

Walla Walla River, Whitman National Historic Site, Waiilatpu, November 29, 2008 photo by Glenn Drosendahl

Oregon Territorial Governor Joseph Lane (1801-1881), ca. 1850

Courtesy Oregon Secretary of State

Isaac I. Stevens (1818-1862), ca. 1855

Courtesy UW Special Collections (POR0136)

Nez Perce, Walla Walla Council, May 18, 1855

Drawing by Gustavus Sohon, Courtesy Smithsonian Institution (NAA INV 08602900)

Governor Stevens with Indians, Walla Walla Council, May 1855

Detail, Illustration by Gustav Sohon, Courtesy Washington State Historical Society (1918.114.9.39)

Cayuse man identified as Cutmouth John, 1865

Courtesy UW Special Collections (573)

Mound of earth marking mass burial site of 1847 Whitman Massacre victims, ca. 1880, Waiilatpu, Walla Walla

Courtesy Shallow Grave At Waiilatpu: The Sagers' West

Cayuse twins Tax-a-Lax and Alompum (Emma and Edna Jones) in cradleboards, October 2, 1898

Photo by Lee Moorhouse, Courtesy Seattle Historical Society Collection (SHS 17,303)

Top Attractions in Pendleton Tamastslikt Cultural Institute. 211 reviews. Heritage Station Museum. 45 reviews. Pendleton Roundup & Happy Canyon Hall of Farme. 29 reviews. Wildhorse Resort and Casino. 319 reviews. Pendleton Center for the Arts. 28 reviews. Pioneer Park. Children’s Museum of Eastern Oregon. Aura Goodwin Raley.

Young Joseph and his father soon returned to their traditional ways in their Wallowa homeland in Oregon. When Joseph grew up and assumed the chieftanship, he was under increasing governmental pressure to abandon his Wallowa land and join the rest of the Nez Perce on their reservation near Lapwai, Idaho.

The Umatilla Indian Tribe - History

In this Culture Section you will be introduced to the world of the Umatilla, Walla Walla and Cayuse people. As you tour along you will learn about their world during the days before Europeans arrived and changed their age-old lifeway forever. You'll also learn about the lasting qualities that characterize these people of the south-central Plateau within the topics included under Culture - about family life and the life of all things through the seasons, about religion, and trade and travel - told through the stories that hold the culture together.

The many changes that accompanied the arrival of traders and trappers, are included within the section called U.S. Remember to think about the story from the point of view of these Columbia River people. How did they see their lives change after the arrival of traders, missionaries, treaty commissioners and agents, settlers, and the American military? Despite the devastation brought by these various groups, whether intentionally or due to uncontrollable circumstances, the Umatilla, Walla Walla, and Cayuse people have survived and will continue to do so. The stories told here will help you understand a very different perspective on history and culture from the one taught in schools. Keep your mind open, ask questions, and explore the world of these people through their eyes.

Contemporary culture, including artists, education, and issues of sovereignty are included with the section called Native American.

The Umatilla Indian Tribe - History

The tribal organization shall be called the "Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation", and shall include Indians of the Cayuse, Umatilla, and Walla Walla Tribes.

The purpose and powers of the Confederated Tribes shall be, within law, to exercise and protect all existing and future tribal rights arising from any source whether treaty, federal statute, state statute, common law, or otherwise to achieve a maximum degree of self-government in all tribal affairs and to protect and promote the interests of the Indians of the Umatilla Indian Reservation.

This Constitution and Bylaws, having been proposed and duly ratified by the adult voters of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, Oregon, on November 4, 1949, at a referendum called by the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, is herewith approved.

These ceremonial tribal chiefs are descendents of past tribal leaders (or headmen) of the Umatilla,Cayuse and Walla Walla people, representing the CTUIR in the historic style of dress, known as "regalia".

Visit our tribal government website:
This is the official page of the confederated tribes' tribal government.

"It is but fifty years since the first white man came among you, those were Lewis and Clark who came down the Big River &mdash the Columbia. Next came Mr. Hunt and his party, then came the Hudson Bay Co. who were traders. Next came missionaries these were followed by emigrants with wagons across the plains and now we have a good many settlers in the country below you.

"Who can say that this is mine and that is yours? The white man will come to enjoy these blessings with you what shall we do to protect you and preserve peace? There are but few whites here now, there will be many, let us like wise men, act so as to prevent trouble" (General Palmer: 1855 Treaty).

"As long as we are diligent in protecting our treaty rights and interests, we will survive and prosper" (Himéeqis Káa'awn -Antone Minthorn). We are adaptive to the forces of change. Since the formal establishment of our land base, a new political consciousness has emerged among our people.

"Now we are a sovereign nation. We have always sought to protect our treaty rights, homelands, and cultural lifeways. Throughout our history, our men and women leaders have always responded to the most vital questions of our time.

"By the 1940's, our leaders forged a clear path for our future by bringing into existence a new system of governance. Today, as in times past, our Tribal leaders are guiding us into the 21st century" (Tomastslikt Cultural Institute exhibit).

"What I'm saying is sovereignty, and I think as you look at history, you look at the development of that, is an esoteric word. It's abstract. Too often it's used just in rhetoric. I think of younger people who would have been children of mine need to understand what that is about. The word is empty when it's used in the rhetoric, in the halls and in the conflicts with non-Indians and the conflicting jurisdictions. Sovereignty is an exercise of tribal government and the related part of that is you are not part of that sovereignty unless you are a member of that tribe. It's not an individual attribute. An individual can't be sovereign" (Ron Halfmoon: Convocation 2000).

Today the Tribes attempt to rebuild the economy mostly through gambling and tourism. Places like Tamastslikt Cultural Institute help to carry on the culture and history of the Plateau Indians. The Three Confederated Tribes work to balance the demands of society with the need to maintain plants and animals in their homeland.

Now, after a 70 year absence, salmon populations have been revived in the Umatilla River in northeastern Oregon. For eight of the past eleven years, enough fish have bypassed the dams and returned to provide a salmon fishing season for both Indian and non-Indian residents. Even though the dams along the Columbia were responsible for the destruction of an Indian way of life (to people here, salmon are a cultural as well as a natural resource), the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation and local farmers and irrigators have successfully worked together to restore salmon and maintain the agricultural economy of the area.

Human Habitation

Like much of eastern Oregon, the drainage basin of the Umatilla River is sparsely populated. The census of 2016 counted 79,880 people in Umatilla County. The largest cities are Hermiston, Pendleton, and Umatilla. The river also flows through Morrow County, where the largest city is Boardman. The Umatilla flows through the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR), where about half of its 3,100 tribal members live. The Tribes have reserved fishing rights on the reservation and at usual and accustomed places in the region, established in an 1855 treaty with the United States government.

The Umatilla Indian Tribe - History

More than 3,000 people live on the Umatilla reservation. Tribal leaders are urging all residents to comply with Oregon Gov. Kate Brown's "stay at home" order.

Chuck Sams, who is acting as the incident commander for the reservation's response to the coronavirus pandemic, told OPB's "Think Out Loud" about the disastrous impact disease outbreaks have had on native people in the past.

"The tribes have faced pandemic before our last one ended in around 1860, but that cost us nearly 90% of our tribal membership — lost to the measles between 1780 and 1860. That memory still lives on in many of us."

Sams said that research he conducted at the Tamastslikt Cultural Institute turned up evidence that isolation, such as that being mandated by the state of Oregon to corral the coronavirus, is effective.

“It wasn’t because of genetics for the 10% that survived it wasn’t because they were smarter than anyone else. They had just isolated themselves. We had people who were away from this area, fishing at Willamette Falls. We had people who were at Buffalo during that time period, and then we had tribal members who had moved out of the larger encampment and isolated themselves. Those were the ones that survived. So we know isolation works. We’ve been explaining that to the tribal membership, that our history is repeating itself. And therefore, it’s imperative that you stay home, stay safe, stay healthy."

Sams noted that his tribal government put out stringent restrictions before the governor's Monday executive order. He said he's seen a high level of compliance with the directives among residents of the reservation.

Sams described modeling that his tribal government has done, showing that the coronavirus could affect more than 800 of the 3,100 who live on the reservation. Estimates show the number of afflicted could be cut to between 70 and 120, with the use of adequate supplies and isolation.

"Those are all just a guess," he said.

Sams related a personal tie to COVID-19. His own daughter, attending college in California, fell ill and showed all the symptoms of the novel coronavirus. She was quarantined by a local doctor and endured several "very tough" days. His daughter is feeling better now, Sams said, but it was painful not to be able to go to her.

On February 18, 2017, in a private ceremony attended by some 200 tribal members and staff, the Umatilla, Yakama, Colville, Wanapum, and Nez Perce tribes rebury the ancestor they honor as the Ancient One. The reburial, at an undisclosed location on the Columbia Plateau above the Columbia River, comes one day after the remains were turned over to tribal leaders at the Burke Museum in Seattle, where they had been since 1998, and more than 20 years after they were discovered along the river in Kennewick in Central Washington. The 1996 discovery of the nearly complete 8,500-year-old skeleton, quickly dubbed Kennewick Man, touched off a lengthy struggle between the tribes, who recognized the Ancient One as an ancestor and sought to rebury him, and eight anthropologists and archaeologists, who sued for and won the right to study the remains and said their research showed Kennewick Man was not related to Native Americans. But DNA testing in 2015 and 2016 determined the Ancient One to be Native American, leading to his repatriation to the tribes and reburial.

Contested Ancestry

Although it took cutting-edge science nearly 20 years to reach the same conclusion, members of tribes across the Columbia Plateau whose ancestral lands encompassed the discovery site recognized the Ancient One as an ancestor from the time two students on their way to watch hydroplane races found his skull in the shallows of the Columbia River in July 1996. At the time of the 2017 reburial, Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation board member Aaron Ashley said, "We always knew the Ancient One to be Indian . we have oral stories that tell of our history on this land and we knew, at the moment of his discovery, that he was our relation" (Sams).

The man had been intentionally buried (later studies determined) along the river bank following his death thousands of years earlier and his remains evidently had eroded out of the bank shortly before being found. Soon known as Kennewick Man, he became a center of attention and controversy following a dramatic news conference by forensic anthropologist James Chatters, who had been called in by the Benton County coroner because of the skull's apparent age. Chatters announced that the remains were some 9,000 years old (the age was later refined to around 8,500 years) -- and that the skull and bones more closely resembled those of Europeans than Native Americans. Chatters cautioned that he was not saying Europeans reached the Americas before the ancestors of Native Americans, but his caution was overlooked in much of the subsequent media coverage, and other scientists discussed theories suggesting that the earliest inhabitants of the Americas may have come from Europe.

Skeletal measurements and archeological theories notwithstanding, Columbia Plateau tribes recognized the Ancient One as their ancestor, whose remains should be respected and promptly reburied, not viewed and studied. As Vivian Harrison, an official of the Yakama Nation, explained years later on viewing images of the remains being studied, "Really, to me, it's sad. This is a human being and his journey has been interrupted by leaving the ground" (Mapes, "Treasured Skeleton . "). And the tribes believed they had the law on their side.

Congress had passed the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) in 1990 in response to the practices of many scientists, collectors, and curators through the nineteenth and well into the twentieth century who dug up Native American human remains and artifacts from burial sites and displayed them in museums. NAGPRA required that some remains and artifacts in museums be repatriated to Indian tribes, and further provided that Native American human remains discovered on federal land belong to the Indian tribe with the closest cultural affiliation. Because the Ancient One was found on land under the jurisdiction of the Army Corps of Engineers, and in their ancestral territory, the Umatilla Tribes formally requested that the Corps repatriate the remains. The request was joined by four other area tribes -- the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation, the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, the Wanapum Band of Indians, and the Nez Perce Tribe. In September 1996 the Corps agreed to turn the remains over to the five tribes.

But while many scientists viewed NAGPRA as necessary human-rights legislation, others saw it as improperly giving too much authority to tribes and hampering their research, especially into Paleo-Americans, as the earliest inhabitants of the Americas are often called. Even before his public announcement, Chatters had begun contacting anthropologists and archeologists who shared this view. Seizing the opportunity to challenge NAGPRA, eight scientists, led by physical anthropologist Douglas Owsley of the Smithsonian Institution, sued in federal court to prevent repatriation and get access to study the remains.

As it turned out Chatters, who touched off the controversy over whether the Ancient One was Native American, would eventually "change his mind about the skeleton's ancestry after working with remains of other so-called paleo-Americans from Mexico that look different but are clearly linked genetically to modern Native Americans" (Doughton, "Kennewick Man Is Ours . "). But the eight plaintiff scientists and others continued to argue that Kennewick Man was not related to Native Americans, and those arguments prevailed in the courts.

In 1998, the remains were transferred to the Burke Museum at the University of Washington in Seattle, deemed by the courts to be "the most suitable neutral place for the safekeeping of the Ancient One" ("Statement on the Repatriation . "). To provide evidence supporting repatriation, the federal government authorized studies that were conducted at the Burke by independent scientists. Their skeletal measurements showed that the Ancient One was no more "European" than "Native American," with some features commonly found in each of those populations and the strongest morphological resemblance to populations in Polynesia. Efforts to extract DNA for genetic testing proved unsuccessful, so there was no physical evidence of the Ancient One's connection to Native Americans. Nevertheless, the government relied on oral tradition to confirm his affiliation with the local tribes, but the courts reversed that decision, holding that the oral-tradition evidence was insufficient and ruling that the plaintiff scientists could study the remains.

The plaintiffs and colleagues made three sets of visits to the Burke Museum from 2004 through 2006 to plan and conduct studies. Those studies, like the earlier ones, relied largely on measurements of the bones and reached the same conclusion: Kennewick Man was most closely related to Polynesian and other Pacific populations, with no evidence of a relationship to Native Americans. The studies included isotope analysis and more refined estimates of the age of the remains, but not DNA analysis.

In 2012, two years before publication of a book he co-edited containing the results of the research, Owsley met privately with tribal leaders, who were still seeking reburial of the Ancient One, to present the findings. He said they showed conclusively that Kennewick Man was not Native American. Indeed, citing isotopes in the bones that he said indicated consumption of large quantities of marine mammals like seals, Owsley asserted that Kennewick Man was not even from the Columbia Plateau where his remains were found: "This is a man from the coast, not a man from here" (Mapes, "Treasured Skeleton . "). In response to pleas that the remains now be reburied, he insisted that more could be learned from further studies. Although described as respectful, the discussion did not change minds on either side, with tribal members standing by their belief that the Ancient One was an ancestor who should be reburied promptly. Ruth Jim of the Yakama Tribal Council said, "I don't disagree that the scientists want to do their job, but there should be a time limit. The only concern we have as tribal leaders is he needs to return to Mother Earth" (Mapes, "Treasured Skeleton . ").

"Bring the Ancient One Home"

When additional studies, specifically genetic analyses, did occur they conclusively refuted Owsley's assertion that Kennewick Man was not Native American and confirmed the tribal position that the Ancient One was closely related to Columbia Plateau tribes. The determinative genetic studies were made possible by dramatic advances in DNA technology since the unsuccessful attempts to obtain DNA from Kennewick Man at the turn of the century. Using that new technology, a team of geneticists from the University of Copenhagen in Denmark successfully extracted sufficient DNA from a finger bone, sequenced Kennewick Man's genome, and compared it to those of contemporary populations. The results, announced in June 2015, showed not only that the Ancient One was more closely related to Native Americans than any other modern population but also that he was more closely related to Columbia Plateau tribes than other Native American groups.

With genetic testing showing that the Ancient One was Native American, the remains were subject to NAGPRA, and the tribes could again seek repatriation. As a first step, the Corps of Engineers sought validation of the genetic analysis. This came in April 2016, when geneticists at the University of Chicago independently validated the findings of the Copenhagen team. With that the Corps officially declared Kennewick Man to be Native American.

Under NAGPRA claimant tribes still had to establish cultural affiliation with the Ancient One, but members of the state's congressional delegation were already working to ensure that the remains would be repatriated. Bills requiring the Corps to return the Ancient One to the tribes were introduced in the Senate by Senator Patty Murray (b. 1950) and in the House of Representatives by Representative Denny Heck (b. 1952). Murray and Heck were Democrats, but their legislation, initially titled the "Bring the Ancient One Home Act of 2015," received bipartisan support from both Republican and Democratic legislators, including Republican Representative Dan Newhouse (b. 1955), whose Fourth District in Central Washington included the site where the Ancient One had been found.

Murray and Newhouse worked to ensure passage of the repatriation requirement by attaching it to the high-priority Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act. As approved by Congress and signed into law by President Barack Obama (b. 1961) in December 2016, the infrastructure bill included a provision requiring that the Ancient One be returned within 90 days. The Corps was to transfer the remains to the Washington State Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation (DAHP), which would in turn hand them over to the tribes.

Repatriation and Reburial

Two months after the bill became law, and more than 20 years after the tribes first requested the remains, repatriation finally took place on February 17, 2017. Umatilla, Yakama, Colville, Wanapum, and Nez Perce tribal officers and religious leaders met that Friday at the Burke Museum with representatives of the Corps and DAHP and museum curators. For some tribal members it was the last of many visits to the Ancient One at the museum. From the time the remains arrived at the Burke in 1998, tribal members had visited regularly, conducting ceremonies to pay their respects to their displaced ancestor and "offer our prayers and our hopes for a safe journey back to the land again," as Umatilla spokesperson Chuck Sams explained (Mapes, "Kennewick Man Officially Declared . "). In a statement following the repatriation, the Burke stressed its "long-standing relationships with the tribes" as well as the Corps and DAHP, and said "the return of the Ancient One to the tribes is the right decision and was long overdue" ("Statement on the Repatriation . ").

On the day of the repatriation, Corps and DAHP officials carefully inventoried the remains, which included multiple vials of DNA samples in addition to the bones, and reviewed the inventory with tribal historic-preservation officers. Then came the paperwork officially transferring custody of the remains from the Corps to DAHP, followed by department officials turning the Ancient One over to the tribal representatives. With the remains finally in their possession the tribes did not delay in returning the Ancient One to the ground, reburying him less than 24 hours later. At the Burke religious leaders carefully bundled the remains and the tribal members caravanned from Seattle to Richland, where they and the remains stayed overnight.

Early on the cool, cloudy morning of February 18, the group returning from Seattle met additional tribal members and some non-Indian staff at the previously selected reburial site on the Columbia Plateau near the river along whose banks the Ancient One had originally been buried. In an effort to prevent the remains from being disturbed in the future, the site was not disclosed and the burial ceremonies were private.

"Religious leaders from each of the Tribes," all of which follow the Washat religion, "jointly conducted a ceremony ending the Ancient One's journey among the living" (Sams). While the ceremony may not have been the same as the rites held when the Ancient One was first buried by his people nearly 9,000 years earlier, tribal leaders noted that "the songs we sing are very close and have been sung throughout the Columbia Plateau for thousands of years" (Green).

Armand Minthorn, a board member and Longhouse leader of the Umatilla Tribes, was one of the first to call for the Ancient One's return in 1996 and remained active in the effort over the succeeding 20 years. With the Ancient One at last returned to the earth Minthorn said, "This is a big day and our People have come to witness and honor our ancestor . we continue to practice our beliefs and laws as our Creator has given us since time immemorial" (Sams).

Flag of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation

Clock Tower

The "Old Courthouse Clock", now the object of a major restoration effort, was "born" on August 6th, 1889, at the Seth Thomas Company factory in Thomaston, Connecticut. The Umatilla County Courthouse Clock Restoration Committee has worked diligently to restore the clock and to house it in a new clock tower on the northwest corner of Courthouse Block in Pendleton. They decided to have the old clock in fine running condition and atop its new tower in time to properly celebrate its 100th birthday in the fall of 1989.

When the 1888 Umatilla County Courthouse was torn down in 1954 to make way for the present building, the 4-faced clock was salvaged by a crane from its fancy French tower. The County donated the clock to the City of Pendleton, if they would install the old timepiece in a tower to be built atop City Hall. For whatever reasons, no doubt financial in nature, the City never made the necessary modifications to City Hall to accommodate the clock. So it sat in a warehouse at the City Shops, for nearly thirty years.

Roy Thurman, an employee of the County Road Department, had been keeping an eye on the clock all this time, having helped take it down from the old Courthouse. Seeing that it was being vandalized, especially the bell, and worried that it might just end up in the dump during some house-cleaning project, Roy "rescued" it once again. This time it came back to County property, finding a new home in the Road Department shops where Roy could make sure it was safe. With his retirement not too many years away, Roy approached the County Commissioners in early 1987, and the East Oregonian ran a news feature about the clock on the 31st of January. Roy told one and all that "I&rsquod like to see it restored before I retire because when I&rsquom gone some scrap dealer will probably get it." He hoped that the Commissioners would agree with him that the old clock was worthy of restoration. They did, and they proceeded to form a Clock Restoration Committee to oversee restoration and re-housing of the clock. This group has been in action since May 28th, 1987.

So why is this old clock so important? Well, it is a part of Umatilla County&rsquos heritage, the last major remnant of a beautiful old courthouse that symbolized the growth and prosperity of the 1880&rsquos. Also, it is a living example of the still workable technology of a past era, now long ago eclipsed by electronics and today&rsquos "digital computer age." Truly it is a special cultural symbol selected by our grandparents to pass on to us, and which we can now share with our children and grandchildren and pass on to theirs.

The story of the old courthouse and clock is, as one would expect, colorful and interesting. However, since this is the story of the clock, not the courthouse, we will only digress a bit to relate some pertinent facts. Umatilla County&rsquos first "golden era" began appropriately, in 1862, with a Gold Rush to the newly-discovered mines of Baker County and the Boise Basin in Idaho. As with most gold rushes, the intense activity lasted for only a few years, and with its demise, the foundling County entered on a phase of quiet, but steady agricultural growth based on raising horses, cattle and sheep. Then in the mid-1870&rsquos, it was discovered that wheat, the staff of life, could be grown on the dry, rolling plains of the county, and quite successfully at that. Then too, there were plans for a northern transcontinental railroad, including one route that would pass right through the county, following the general route of the Oregon Trail. These and other factors added together to create a "land rush" into the northern and eastern parts of the county that reminded one of Oklahoma. Within a few short years, much of this rich wheat-growing district was homesteaded. At the same time, the sheep industry was rapidly expanding in the mountains and dry rangelands. When the Oregon Railway & Navigation Company arrived in 1881, the county boomed: its second "golden era," this time based on grain and wool.

Pendleton, the new county seat, centrally-located, and astride the new railroad, boomed as well, becoming the trade and service center for Umatilla County. With all this growth in population and economic activity, County government soon outgrew the little, two-story frame courthouse built in 1869 in the square in downtown Pendleton. So, in February 1888, the County Judge T.J. Lucy, and Commissioners Clark Walters and John Luhrs decided to build a new courthouse and jail. They held a design competition for the new building, and devised a unique scheme of financing its estimated cost of $70,000. The Court decided to sell the courthouse block, lucratively located in the midst of the downtown commercial district, and construct the new courthouse on a former school site four blocks to the east. You see, the taxpayers of Umatilla County were mainly young farmers and businessmen just getting started and therefore not willing or able to pay for the much-needed new building. So these were the circumstances surrounding construction of the 1888 Courthouse, which included a clock.

No doubt feeling that this raw, new corner of the Western world, was in desperate need of some real, civilizing culture, Dr. Fred W. Vincent, a prominent County physician, lobbied the County Court long and hard to include a clock and clock tower in the plans for the "new" county courthouse. In later interviews he claimed inspiration for this idea from a clock tower at the University of Michigan campus. Accordingly, architect George W. Babcock of Walla Walla, included a central clock tower and three smaller surrounding towers in his ornate and competition winning design. The architecture was highest Victorian in the elegant style of the French 2nd Empire. A photo of the courthouse under construction clearly shows the high, steep Mansard roof atop the tower, and the arched dormers with their big black "eyes", the future homes of the four faces of the Seth Thomas clock.

The clockworks were to be housed just below, in a large square room lighted by four pairs of tall windows. Louvers above the clock faces would let the sound of the bell carry out wide and far to help keep the citizenry on time. A lacy wrought iron fence and tall flagpole crowned the tower.

The courthouse construction began in July of 1888, under the direction of contractor E.R. Parks of Pendleton, and with the hands of a team of French masons who stayed to become part of the community. In April, 1889, the County ordered a clock from the Seth Thomas office in San Francisco. It was to be a model #17 tower clock, developed by A.S. Hotchkiss, a Seth Thomas design engineer. The clock would have four dials and a bell that was to be rung to mark the hour. The faces were 6 feet in diameters consisting of a large sheet of zinc-backed glass, with gilded numerals and a hole bored in the middle for the gilded, cedar hands. The faces were lighted from behind at night. The bases of all the numerals pointed toward the center, so the hours from 4 to 8 were actually read upside down. Another curiosity is that the numeral 4 was shown as four I&rsquos instead of today&rsquos normal use of a I and a V. This was for visual, aesthetic balance with the VIII on the other side of the dial.


The openings for design illustrated above should be made in the multiple of six inches. The frame, numerals and minute marks are made of iron or bronze. The dial is divided into sections, which are rebated in the back to received the glass. The glass is held in place with brass clamps. The joints of the frame arc fastened together with iron bolts and filled with lead, making the dial, when installed, absolutely watertight.

The clock mechanism itself consisted of a cast-iron, brass and machined steel "engine" that was situated one-story below the dials. A drive shaft extended up to a set of gears atop a small derrick-like frame. Smaller shafts extended out from the gears through the hole in the middle of each face to drive the minute and hour hands.

On page 30 of the 1890 Seth Thomas catalogue, "THE CLOCK IN - Court House, Pendleton, Oregon" was included in the list of the company&rsquos varied clock installations around the nation, and indeed the world. Other Seth Thomas clocks, but different models, were installed in the clock towers of nearby Baker City Hall and Baker County Courthouse, as well as the Wasco County Courthouse at The Dalles.

The bell Seth Thomas provided weighs 1000 lbs (half a ton) and was cast by the McShane Bell Foundry in Baltimore, Maryland, being charged out in June, 1889. The bell was rung mechanically, powered by 1200 pounds of weights dangling at the end of 70 feet of cable. The weights and cable that ran the time-keeping mechanism were of much more modest dimensions, weighing only 170 lbs. The clock was designed to be wound twice a week, a procedure that took about ten minutes. The drums for the bell and timing cable were part of the clock engine, and from them the weights hung down in a shaft through the middle of the courthouse.

The fabrication of the clock in Thomaston, Connecticut, was completed on August 6th, 1889, as engraved on a brass plate on the clock. The company&rsquos records indicate it was shipped out by rail on August 13th, to a W. Wilkinson, arriving on the Northern Pacific Railroad. William Wilkinson was a watch and clock maker and repairer with a shop on Main Street in Pendleton. The clock cost $884.10, roughly 1% the total cost of the new courthouse, which when furnished, ended up costing nearly $100,000. The original "1 % for art" program!

There seems to have been some controversy about financing the purchase of the clock, as noted in a poem entitled "The County Clock," which appeared in the July 16th, 1891, issue of the Pendleton Tribune. The author of the poem, which appears in its entirety as an appendix to this history, implies that certain Pendleton citizens had agreed to help pay for the clock. However, after it was purchased and installed, a written agreement that set out these arrangements came up missing. In the end the taxpayers bore the full cost, and left the author wondering "But what&rsquos its use to farmers having it up there?" He concluded "Yet oft they think of the big clock, of pledges made and broke, which on the farmers no benefit did the taxes yoke." Hopefully, further research can be conducted to enlighten we moderns on this curious episode.

The clock apparently functioned well. However, it was not without tribulations. The Seth Thomas records show that two new dials were shipped out on November 17, 1897. Evidently the great fire that consumed the neighboring Byers Mill that year also blew out two of the clock faces. The new dials were sturdier affairs, with cast-iron frames to hold and support milk-glass panels. The cast-iron frames fit together in a sort of puzzle to form two rings with the numerals, in Roman type, extending between. Then, some fifty years later, another fire at the rebuilt mill threatened the old courthouse, and this time blew out three of the faces. This time they were replaced with much inferior plywood versions, but at least one cast-iron and glass dial remained to provide a pattern for modern reconstruction of the other three. Toward its later days, the clock evidently developed a mind of its own with regard to what time it actually was. Reliable witnesses recall that each face told a slightly different time, a fact put to good use as an alibi for tardy jurors.

But the greatest threat to the 1888 Courthouse and its clock proved not to be the great and fiery accidents next door, but the march of "progress." The 1950&rsquos brought new prosperity to Umatilla County, and with that prosperity came a growth in government as well. New county office facilities were needed, as was a sanitary, modern jail. A new courthouse had been proposed and even designed as early as 1938, and levies had been approved in 1945 and 1948, so by the 50&rsquos the needs had reached a critical point. In that era of "out with the old, in with the new", it was decided to rebuild right on the site of the old courthouse, in spite of suggestions to retain the old building as an "Eastern Oregon State Museum". Public opinion seems to have been divided, but apparently a majority felt that the old should be removed. And so it was. In 1953, the Building Committee officially decided on locating the new courthouse on the site of the old. They selected the firm of Roald, Schmeer, and Harrington of Portland, to design the new building. This firm had just finished the Harney and Hood River County courthouses, so were familiar with Eastern Oregon.

In November 1954, demolition of the 1888 Courthouse began. At the suggestion of Ray Gilham, the building committee decided to save the clock. On the 17th, the old clock was carefully removed from the tower by crane. Lee Drake, who had been the caretaker of the clock since restoring it following the Byers Mill incident, supervised the whole process and was pleased that nothing was damaged. Through the efforts of Judge James Sturgis, a new home was found for the clock, or so it was thought at the time.

It was reported that the City of Pendleton had accepted the clock and would install it atop City Hall the following year. Since some construction would be necessary, it would be stored in the meantime.

Razing of the solid brick walls continued, and soon the site was ready for construction of the current Umatilla County Courthouse, which was completed in 1955. Meanwhile, the clock sat in storage, awaiting its new home. It sat there a long time. It now has found that new home at last, to again serve the community of Umatilla County, an operating artifact of our rich and lively history.

Steve Randolph, Secretary
Umatilla County Courthouse Clock Restoration Committee
30 October 1987 (revised 1 September 1989)


Searcey, Mildred WE REMEMBER East Oregonian Publishing Company, Pendleton, Oregon, 1973.

EAST OREGONIAN issues of 16 September 1938, 5 April 1947, 29 March 1949, 29 July 1954, 31 July 1954, 17 November 1954, 29 November 1954, Anniversary Edition, 31 January 1987.


Letter from American Clock and Watch Museum, Bristol, Connecticut, dated 17 September 1987, Chris H. Bailey, former Managing Director detailing records of the former Seth Thomas Company, of Thomaston, Connecticut.

Letter from Ray Gilham, dated 30 August 1989. 1890 Umatilla County Directory Conversation with Andrew DuBoise, Queensbury, New York.

SPECIAL THANKS TO: The Late Mildred Searcey and the Pendleton Public Library

OLD COURTHOUSE 1888-1954 THE COUNTY CLOCK Pendleton Tribune Thursday, July 16, 1891

"Wife, I&rsquom going to the city tomorrow to take a load of wheat,
And if you&rsquoll go along there&rsquos room upon the seat
So in the morning early while breakfast you&rsquore getting,
I&rsquoll have the load already so there&rsquoll be no fretting.

I&rsquoll have the mares all curried down and fed their oats and hay,
For you know it&rsquoll take us the better part of the day.
Yes, I&rsquoll drive the two gray mares, you know they&rsquore true and stout,
For the road is rough and hilly all along the route.

Wife, put on your very best, that grand old silken gown,
The one that you were married in, the best there was in town
For when we&rsquove sold the load of wheat and bought our every want,
It&rsquos then around the city we&rsquoll take a little jaunt.

The day that we were married you looked so bright and merry,
And so you&rsquove always looked so happy and so cheery,
I know that I ye often been quite snappish and so cross,
And wondered how that you kept your beauty and such gloss.

Father, not cross and snappish in all your life,
I&rsquove been a happy woman ever since I&rsquove been your wife.
We&rsquove never had word though married forty year
I&rsquove never had occasion to shed a single tear.

Let&rsquos see &lsquotis five long years since to the city I went,
For the butter and eggs with you I have always sent,
Yes, father, I&rsquoll go with you and have a pleasant ride,
Enjoying the scenes and sights in sitting by your side.

And we&rsquoll take the butter, I&rsquove a hundred pound or more
And eggs there&rsquos fifty dozen, they&rsquoll help us at the store.
Then when we&rsquove done our trading we&rsquoll go to see the sights,
for you know I never saw the great electric lights.

You say the city&rsquos grown, that there&rsquos houses grand and neat,
A brand new court house, too, built at the county seat&rsquo
And that upon the roof two iron women stand,
Proclaiming liberty and justice to all within the land.

You say upon the roof there is a great high steeple
From it the time of day is seen by all the people.
You say the steeple upon the roof is called by all a tower,
And that inside a great big clock that strikes every hour.

You say there are little towers, one over each big door,
A big bell in one which weighs a thousand pounds or more
And for this clock and bell which has cost so much, you say
The county paid it all, though others promised some to pay.

But when the clock was up and running all right,
The paper that they had signed could not be brought to light
And the people in their taxes paid the full amount,
And the signers of the paper were glad on that account.

Yet the city gets the praise as enterprising folk,
But they never paid a cent and think it quite a joke.
Now the county owns the clock and keeps it in repair,
But what&rsquos the use to farmers in having it up there?

The morning came, &lsquotwas bright and fair they had a pleasant ride
The good old farmer happy was, his wife was by his side.
They saw the sights - court house, iron women, towers and clock.
The electric lights, bridges, and many fine new blocks.

Then home they went, with ideas new, with farmer&rsquos life content,
The happiest life is a farmer&rsquos life, in joy and peace well spent
Yet oft they think of the big clock, of pledges made and broke,
Which on the farmers no benefit did the taxes yoke.

From WE REMEMBER, by Mildred Searcey.


It is reported that clocks mounted in towers and public buildings were among the very first mechanical clocks ever built. The first authenticated clock in the modern sense, was built in 1360 by Henry de Vick for King Charles V of France. This was definitely a tower clock, and is now mounted in the Palais de Justice in Paris. Many early clocks had no faces, but only rang out the hours on bells, so one can see a close connection between bell towers and tower clocks. In 1685, the pendulum was introduced, vastly improving accuracy, and in 1851, an improved escapement was invented by E.B. Denison and put into general use in tower clocks. This again improved timekeeping. From 1400 until the early 20th century, tower clocks became increasingly popular, until most communities possessed at least one such clock, often called "the town clock" and generally located in church steeples or town halls.

The first recorded account of a tower clock installation in the United States was in the church ("Meeting House") in Ipswich, Massachusetts, in 1704. By 1750, only a few tower clocks existed, in Newbury, Massachusetts, New Haven and Norwich, Connecticut, and at the Dutch Reformed Church in Schenectedy, New York. By the mid-1800&rsquos American companies, among them Seth Thomas, were manufacturing tower clocks, and during the Victorian era they became very popular in America. In our region, several tower clock installations were made around the turn-of-the-century, including Baker City Hall, Whitman College, and the Morrow County Courthouse.

The cutaway drawing of a typical tower clock installation was provided by the Seth Thomas Company. This shows the clock "engine" sitting one floor below the faces, with the bell mounted above in a room with louvered openings to let the sound out. The weights are suspended on pulleys and run down the inside of the tower. They drive the timing and bell-striking mechanisms in the clock engine. The engine, in turn, transmits this power to a central gear cluster that drives the motion gears which make the hands on the faces go around and to the hammer which strikes the hours on the bell. A drawing is also provided of the Model 17 clock engine. It was noted that a good tower clock should be accurate to within 5 to 6 seconds per week, at least when new!

Source of information above and for more detailed explanations of clocks in general and tower clocks in particular: "Time and Timekeepers", by Willis I. Milham, 1923, McMillan & Co., New York, reprinted in 1975 by Michael W. Daggett, Portland, Oregon.

No. 17, 8 Day, Strike. Width, 53 inches Depth, 39 inches Height, 65 inches. Pendulum, 8 feet Pendulum, Ball, 200 lbs.
Made also with 14 foot Pendulum and 300 lb. Ball. For one Dial up to 11 feet, or four Dials at 9 feet or less. For Bell up to 3.500 lbs. Weighs, boxed, about 2,800 lbs. Drawing of clock engine.


The name &lsquo&lsquoSeth Thomas" is one of the most—respected by clock collectors around the world. Seth Thomas founded a clock-manufacturing company in Plymouth Hollow, Connecticut, that is representative of the best of American industry. Design, engineering and craftsmanship were superb, and the company was also known for its generous assistance with the installation and timing of its large public clocks. But large clocks were only part of the Seth Thomas line, which ranged from pocket watches, through mantle clocks, to "grandfather" and ship clocks, and also included fancy marble and brass designs. Tower clocks were introduced by the company about 1869, and were sold around the world. The Model 17 clock purchased by the Umatilla County Court in 1889 was one of several models of tower clocks then in production.

Seth Thomas was born 19 August 1785 in Woolcott, Connecticut. From a family of small businessmen and farmers, he inherited the honest, hard-working demeanor typical of New England. After serving apprenticeship as a carpenter, he became involved in clock making in 1807, at age 22. In 1813, he bought his own clock factory, and founded his own company, which in 1853 became the Seth Thomas Clock Company, a joint stock corporation. He first manufactured clocks with brass movements., At a bout this time spring driven clocks were also introduced.

In January 1859, at the age of 73, Seth Thomas died, but his son became President of the Company, and the family remained in leadership roles until 1932. This represented a family company history of 119 years. In 1931, the Company became a division of General Time Instruments Corporation, and in 1970, General Time became a division of Talley Industries. In 1982, the plant at Thomaston, Connecticut, was closed, and the operations were moved to Georgia. Thomaston was the old Plymouth Hollow, which the townspeople renamed in 1865 in honor of the marl who had made their town the center of a world-renowned industry. The Umatilla County Court ordered a Model #17 tower clock from the Seth Thomas Company in April of 1889, through the San Francisco office of the company. According to a silver plate on the side of the clock, it was completed at Thomaston on the 6th of August 1889. The name A.S. Hotchkiss, which is also shown on the plate and on the timing dial, refers to the company&rsquos design engineer, responsible for all the tower clockwork designs. The purchase price at that time was $884.10. Today, according to knowledgeable sources, the clock, even before it was restored, is worth about $70,000. That&rsquos quite a rate of return on the investment!

Source: "Seth Thomas Clock & Movements: A Guide to Identification and Prices", by Tran Duy Ly, Arlington Book Company, 1985.


On the 27th of September, 1862, the Legislature of the 3-year old State of Oregon carved out Baker and Umatilla Counties from Wasco County, which at that time encompassed all of Oregon east of the Cascades. This was in response to the "gold rush" to the Powder River and North Fork John Day mining districts and the associated growth in settlement in northeastern Oregon. However, at that time, there were no "towns", as such, in the area of the new Umatilla County, which included all of what is now Morrow County, the north half of Grant County, and a part of Gilliam County. There were mining camps on the upper John Day and trading posts along the roads from the Columbia River to the mines, in particular at Upper Umatilla, Grande Ronde Landing, and at Ireland&rsquos, which later developed into the towns of Pendleton, Irrigon, and Milton, respectively. The legislature selected Marshall&rsquos Station in the Upper Umatilla district, located approximately ¼ mile west of Eastern Oregon Correctional Institute, as the interim County seat.

The governing body of the newly-created county took awhile to get organized, and it was not until the 6th of April 1863, that the first term of the County Court was held, Judge Jasper W. Johnson presiding. The County Court sessions were held upstairs in the roadhouse and trading post of Swift & Martin&rsquos, who had bought out Marshall. There was also a blacksmith shop, stage station, and post office at this little settlement on the north bank of the Umatilla River, which by 1865 was crossed at this point by a bridge.

The first minutes in County Commissioners Journal "A" are dated 27 May 1863, and indicate that the first item of business was the letting of a contract to build a 12&rsquo x 20&rsquo, two-room, log jail with clapboard or shingle roof. At the second session, on July 7th, the first liquor licenses were issued for the Meacham Brothers, 4 Mile House (north of Hermiston), and two saloons each in Umatilla Landing and Lower Umatilla, which was the Meadows area west of Echo and Stanfield.

By 1864, the location of the county seat had become an issue, particularly since Umatilla Landing, founded only the year before, had grown to a sizable town of some 1000-1500 permanent inhabitants, and many more during the winter months. In June of 1864, new officers were elected, with R.B. Morford presiding as County Judge. At the July 8th session, former Judge Johnson requested the County Court to formally select a site for county buildings at "the county seat", namely Swift & Martin&rsquos Station, which was now being touted as a new town site called "Middleton". However, the new Court tabled the issue as they were in the process of counting the "write-in" comments many folks had included on their June ballots. Commissioner Ninevah Ford protested this action, however, noting that the county seat location issue had never been officially presented on the ballots for a vote of the people.

In January 1865, the town of Middleton was formally platted by Welcome Mitchell, one of the new County Commissioners, as surveyed by Capt. D.P. Thompson, U.S. Deputy Surveyor. Rueben Baskett, the County Clerk, taking matters into his own hands, bought Lot 2 in Block 7 of the new town site, and built a house to serve his residence and as the County Clerk's Office as well. This site was located only two lots west of the hotel where the County Court met, and was situated on the south side of the Oregon Trail, which passed through the middle of town. On February 6, 1865, the County Court paid Baskett $403.50 for the County Clerk&rsquos Office and property. Thus the first "courthouse" of Umatilla County was the upstairs of Swift & Martin&rsquos Hotel and the home of Rueben Baskett, County Clerk, next door, all located in what is now a grove of trees on the north bank of an old oxbow of the Umatilla River west of Pendleton.

On the 3rd of April 1865, the minutes first clearly indicate that "the County Court of Umatilla County met at Umatilla City." They had rented space for this purpose, and the next day they requested that proposals be submitted for "the selection of house and offices." On April 7th, lots 4 and 7 of Block the Umatilla Town site were purchased from B.R. Biddle for $2100. This second "courthouse" for Umatilla County was undoubtedly a storefront or hotel building, and it faced directly out onto Front Street, the bustling Columbia River waterfront area. On the 8th of April, the Court disposed of the old Clerk&rsquos Office at Middleton to Archie Vermason, who ran the saloon there.

Umatilla City&rsquos boom times lasted but 5 years. Her function as transshipment point for the Boise and Baker mining districts began to dwindle as early as 1866, and by 1868, the extension of the transcontinental railroad into Nevada, seriously undermined this trade. With loss of trade came loss of population. Meanwhile, settlement had progressed rapidly in the central and eastern parts of the county, and residents there resented the long distances they had to travel to conduct official business. So, advocates for relocating the County Seat effectively petitioned the State Legislature, which on 13 October 1868, passed an Act authorizing a vote on the location of the County Seat at the November 3rd election. The choice would be between Umatilla City, and "Upper Umatilla, some where between the mouth of Wild Horse and Birch Creeks."

The vote was cast, 394 for Upper Umatilla, 345 for Umatilla City. Therefore, the County Court, on November 16th appointed a committee of J .S. Vinson, James Thompson, and Samuel Johnson to locate and name the exact site for the new County Seat. They met on the 23rd at Swift & Martin&rsquos Station, and on the 24th, accepted the offer of Moses E. and Aura Goodwin for the donation of a site for the courthouse at Goodwin&rsquos Station. This trading post, also occupied by Lot Livermore&rsquos Hotel, was a rival to Swift & Martin&rsquos, and was located on what is now the southwest corner of S. Main Street and S.W. Byers. Goodwin had obtained a license from the County in 1866 to build a toll bridge at what is now the Main Street bridge. He relocated his trading post there from a site near the 10th Street bridge where he had settled two years prior. Evidently, Goodwin provided effective competition for Swift & Martin&rsquos, and it was said that he actually diverted most of the traffic to his place.

Accordingly, Goodwin filed a plat for the new town, on December 18th, and accepted the committee&rsquos recommendation that the town be named "Pendleton" in honor of George Hunt Pendleton, of Ohio, a national leader of the Democratic Party. During the winter, the Goodwins paid for the construction of a 2-story courthouse on the Courthouse Square they had donated in the middle of the new town. On April 7th, 1869, the County Court accepted the deed for the property, which had been signed on December 1st, 1868, and ordered the County Officials to move their offices. The next day, April 8th of 1869, the Umatilla County Court convened at the new town of Pendleton, Oregon. The 3rd Courthouse of Umatilla County was thus established, in a new town that was created to be a centrally located county seat, at the direction of the voters.

However, the citizens of Umatilla City were not going to let the county seat get away from them without a fight. The very first business that the relocated Circuit Court took up at their 3rd of May, 1869, session was a suit by David Simpson and others to prevent the removal of the county seat. This case went clear to the Oregon Supreme Court and involved the ablest attorneys from Portland and Walla Walla. At contest was the indebtedness the County would incur over the $5000 limitation in the Oregon Constitution, as well as the vagueness of the language stating where the alternate county seat site would be located. The Supreme Court sustained the ruling of Judge Wilson, and the county seat remained at the new town of Pendleton.

An oft-quoted story relates that Pendleton "stole" the County records from Umatilla City. The late Mrs. Oscar F. Thompson, wife of the Sheriff at that time, related a slightly different story. She reported that one evening, three representatives of the new town brought teams and wagons to Umatilla City to move the County records. They stayed at her home, spent the rest of the night, rising at 3 o&rsquoclock the next morning. She cooked them breakfast, and with the help of her husband, they loaded the safes on the wagons and took the records back to Pendleton. However, there was yet no suitable building for the courthouse, so citizens of Umatilla City obtained an injunction for the records to be returned. Soon, she recalled, a proper courthouse was built and the records were moved once again.

The fact that Pendleton used to have a Courthouse Square, right on Main Street between S.E. Court and Dorian streets, comes as a big surprise to many folks. The photographs of the late 1800&rsquos reveal that it was a lovely place indeed with picket fence all around, shade trees on all sides, and a bandstand in the northwest corner providing a proper town square for citizens to gather. However, the Courthouse itself was far from suitable for the rapidly-growing county. Vivid recollections note that jurors were confined overnight in the hot, upstairs Court Room, forced to sleep on hard benches placed in a sea of sawdust. Nevertheless, the building functioned for 20 years, together with the jailhouse that was built behind.

The 4th Courthouse, built during 1888-89 is recounted elsewhere in this booklet, as was the novel funding mechanism for its construction. It was in that effort to save the taxpayers money that Pendleton lost its original downtown green space. In the long run, was it worth the "savings"? In any case, the 1889 Courthouse was a dandy, fully embellished in the height of Victorian fashion. But, progress dictated that in time its useful life also was surpassed. So, in 1955, Umatilla County occupied its 5th Courthouse, built on the same site as the 4th and now in 1989, joined by an elegant clock tower to house the 100-year old clock that formerly graced the high tower of its predecessor.

Sources:"Reminisences of Oregon Pioneers", Women&rsquos Pioneer Club of Pendleton, 1937 Articles by Mrs. O.F. Thompson & Col. Raley. "Historic Sketches of Walla Walla, Whitman, Columbia and Garfield Counties, Washington Territory, and Umatilla County, Oregon", FrankT. Gilbert, Portland, Oregon, 1882. Umatilla County Commissioners Journal "A" (1863-66)


A resurgence of interest in the old Courthouse clock followed the publishing of the interview with Roy Thurman in the East Oregonian in January of 1987. Several interested citizens and club representatives contacted the County Board of Commissioners suggesting that the clock be restored and housed appropriately. Therefore, by May, Jeanne Hughes, Bill Hansell, and Glenn Youngman had appointed the "Umatilla County Courthouse Clock Restoration Committee" and had arranged for the Umatilla County Historical Society to act as sponsor. The new Committee first met on Thursday, 28 May 1987, at 7:30 PM in Room 114 of the Courthouse, under the leadership of Rudy Rada, with LaFrance Grubbs appointed as Vice-Chairman, and Steve Randolph, as Secretary. Frances Bartron agreed to serve as Treasurer.

The Committee didn&rsquot waste any time getting started. Advised that the clock was in relatively good condition and that it was most feasible to restore it to working operation, the Committee voted to proceed with restoration of the clock and rehousing it in a new clock tower. That evening they toured the Courthouse grounds and voted to build the new tower on the northwest corner of the block, at the site of the flagpole, on the corner of SE Court and SE 4th. Also, they asked Lynch, Fitzgerald & Associates, of Pendleton, to serve as architects of the project. It was suggested at this meeting that the sale of name-inscribed bricks be a primary fund-raising effort, and a tentative dedication date was selected, 6 August 1989, the 100th birthday of the clock. Thus began a two and one half year project that eventually led to restoration of the clockworks and the construction of a new clock tower on the Courthouse block in Pendleton.

Preliminary Design of Clock tower
Roy Thurman had done a good job as unofficial keeper of the clock, and in spite of its having been stored for 33 years at the City Shops, very few parts were missing. The clock parts were removed from the County Shops to the old Union Pacific depot, the new home of the Historical Society. There, in the old freight room, the clock was reassembled to demonstrate that after all these years, it still could tick!

Meanwhile, Jim Lynch, one of the principals at Lynch, Fitzgerald, sponsored an in-house design competition and presented the results to the Design Sub-committee. They, in turn, brought two different schemes to the full Committee for final choice, one was rectilinear in format, the same as the Courthouse. The second was an open, arched design, to be built in brick, with the clockworks suspended in a glass house at the top of the tower. This design was chosen by the Committee, because it blended with the Courthouse architecture, yet the arches were reminiscent of the Victorian clock tower on the old, 1889 Courthouse. Both designs also called for a courtyard and brick-paved pathway at the base.

The architects then prepared cost estimates, and the actual cost of such a construction project and pathway beneath it were forecast at about $140,000, while the courtyard, sidewalk improvements at the front of the Courthouse, and relandscaping of this corner of the block, brought the total project estimate in at $200,000. This news cast a shadow over the Committee, but soon the members rallied round unanimously voted to proceed. After all, it was discovered that the new Willamette University clock tower in Salem had cost $225,000. However, all agreed to raise funds for only the $140,000 Phase I, the actual clock tower and pathway. Phase II and III might come later or if more than enough money was raised.

With the clock tower design selected and the restoration of the clockworks underway, the Committee turned towards fund-raising efforts. Two major projects were proposed. First, it was decided to market name-inscribed bricks to pave the pathway and courtyard at the base of the tower. The basic brick would cost $25 per name. Second, the Committee began the "sale" of the clock tower legs, for $10,000 each, in $1000 increments. Kickoff of the fund-raising campaign began on 30 November 1987 with a media blitz, and a personal solicitation to some 250 families and businesses. Marsh&rsquos Mens Wear on Main Street in downtown Pendleton, donated space in their storefront for the Committee to use as a sales table for the bricks and promotional items.

Within days, the first major donation was announced, the purchase by Smith Food Sales of an entire clock tower leg. Also sales of bricks went briskly, especially during the holiday season. Many bricks were purchased in memory of persons, as well as for gifts, so memorial and gift cards were produced for use by the purchasers. Mugs with the Committee logo were also for sale, and within months, two additional designs were added. Also, a limited edition porcelain plate, featuring a drawing of the 1889 Courthouse, arrived in late spring 1988. Hats and visors, key rings, and balloons rounded out the assortment of wares available.

On Thursday evening, 2 June 1988, the restored clockworks were unveiled. The dirty, grimy, gray clockworks that the Committee had first witnessed in operation that November evening, had been transformed into the green, black, and polished brass finery of Victorian machinery used for display. So impressed were they with the restored clockworks, that it was agreed to send it around the County that summer for display. Accordingly, the Clock went to Ukiah, won a trophy in Athena&rsquos Caledonian Days parade, attended the County Fair in Hermiston, and was present at several other events. Then it was placed in the Historical Society&rsquos new museum in the old depot, until the new clock tower was ready for it.

The beauty of the restored clockworks together with the fascination of watching a mechanical clock at work led to the only major design change in the project. In November of 1988, the Committee voted to move the clockworks from the top of the tower to the base, where it could be displayed in a bullet-proof glass or lexan box. This would allow close observation of the workings of a 100-year old mechanical clock.

During the summer of 1988, several new fund-raising efforts were made. The Clock Restoration Auction was held on June 11 and 12, at the old Helen McCune Junior High School in downtown Pendleton. Items from garage sale wares to a weekend for two at the Imperial Hotel in Portland were auctioned off, raising a total of more than $10,000. Also, a special crew of volunteers from Fred Meyer Inc. were flown up from Portland by the company to help with the auction. (Fred Meyer opened a store in Pendleton that summer.) Committee members took tables of wares and brick order forms around to most of the community festivals held in the County that summer and staffed a booth at the County Fair. At the end of the summer a series of four gourmet dinners were prepared, charging $25 per person. Committee members and friends served as staff.

In June 1988, the Pendleton Foundation donated $10,000 for a clock tower leg, thereby putting the Committee past the halfway mark in the fund-raising drive. Then later that year came the biggest donation of all, a $50,000 matching grant from the Fred Meyer Charitable Trust. $25,000 was given outright, while the remaining $25,000 was to be matched by outright funds or donations in kind. Moreover, the Trust wanted to see the entire project built, including the courtyard and re-landscaping, phases which in 1987 the Committee had decided would have to wait. With the improvements around the Courthouse now part of the package, the Umatilla County Board of Commissioners voted to donate $10,000 to the project.

No problem was experienced in meeting the Trust&rsquos $25,000 match as funds continued to come in throughout the fall of 1988 and winter of 1989. In fact, all the legs were "sold" by the fall, so the Committee decided to "sell" the faces of the clock for $3000 each, or in $1000 increments. Brick sales continued to be brisk, averaging over $1000 per month, and increasing during the holidays. January 1st was set as the deadline for brick sales.

When the bids were actually received in February of 1989, they were much higher than anticipated. Though many businesses in town had already donated in-kind services there was not a significant amount of in-kind donations reflected in the bids. Various individuals worked long, hard hours scaling down aspects of the project, working with sub-contractors for reducing bids, etc., and ended up with a contract bid total of $197,000, exclusive of architects fees, costs of restoring the clock, and plaques, which all together resulted in a total project cost of about $235,000.

The Committee took another deep breath, reopened brick sales, scheduled more gourmet dinners, planned a large garage sale, and announced another major donor project. The courtyard was to be provided with 6 benches and another two were proposed on the opposite side of the tower for close viewing of the clockworks. These benches were marketed at $3000 a piece, again in $1000 shares, and by 1 September 1989, all seven of the eight had been "sold" thus topping out the fund-raising program just a little over the revised goal.

Ground-breaking was held at the Courthouse grounds on Tuesday, 25 April 1989, and construction was substantially completed only 3½ months later, in mid-August. The restored clockworks, name-inscribed bricks and landscaping were installed in early September. So, by the dedication day of Sunday, 24 September 1989, the Clock Restoration Project had produced a landmark piece of architecture, housing a valuable, 100-year old restored Seth Thomas clock.

The clockworks, in its glass house at the base of the tower, is driven by 1370 lbs of weights that hang down the side of two of the tower legs and are connected via cable lines and pulleys. The engine, in turn, powers the motion gears that move the minute and hour hands on each face via a complex of gears and drive shaft extending to the top of the tower. The 57&rsquo high tower is crowned with an antique horse and carriage weather vane which symbolizes Frank Frazer and his prize-winning harness racehorse "Chehalis", bred here in Umatilla County. The three new steel clock faces have joined the 1897 original cast-iron face, and the great bronze bell, now cracked, will again ring out the hours. All in all, this tower is a monument to our pioneer ancestors, and to Victorian mechanical design. And yet, its beauty and inspiration are a celebration of today

Native Languages of the Americas: Cayuse Legends, Myths, and Stories

This is our collection of links to Cayuse folktales and traditional stories that can be read online. We have indexed our Native American legends section by tribe to make them easier to locate however, variants on the same story are often told by American Indians from different tribes, especially if those tribes are kinfolk or neighbors to each other. In particular, though these legends come from the Cayuse tribe, the traditional stories of related tribes like the Nez Perce and Umatilla tribes are very similar.

Enjoy the stories! If you would like to recommend a Cayuse legend for this page or think one of the ones on here should be removed, please let us know.

Coyote (Ispilyay): Coyote is the trickster figure of the Cayuse tribe. As in other Plateau Indian mythology, Cayuse Indian stories about Coyote range from light-hearted tales of mischief and buffoonery to more serious legends about the nature of the world.

Watch the video: Oldest Native American footage ever (July 2022).


  1. Tito

    Just the right amount.

  2. Govannon

    good luck in business with such a blog :)

  3. Vandyke

    Until what time?

  4. Garton

    At all personal messages send today?

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