Sunday, May 11, 2008

Echoes of Oregon History Learning Guide

The Oregon State Archives has a neat set of primary documents for teachers: the Echoes of Oregon History Learning Guide. The focus here is on short, exciting primary documents from the early history of Oregon. We get the text of each document, a high-quality scan, a paragraph or two putting the source in context and some questions relating to the document. For classroom teachers these are ready to go. Among the goodies are an 1858 Divorce petition, an 1857 Request to open Indian lands, and the 1854 Petition for Thomas family to stay in Oregon (they were a black family threatened with expulsion by Oregon's racist exclusion laws). My favorite document here is this 1851 Defendant's request, Whitman massacre trial:

The United States vs Telokite et al

Telokite one of the defendants makes oath that a certain Indian named Quishem now in the Cayuse country he thinks will be a material witness for the defendants in this case. That the materiality of said witness was not known in time to have him in attendance at this term of the court. He expects & believes that said witness will prove that the late Dr Whitman administered medi-cines to may of the Cayuse Indians and that afterwards a large number of them died, including amongst them the wives and children of some of these defendants. He expects further to prove by said witness that a certain Joseph Lewis, who resided at Waiilatpu informed these defendants a few days before the 29 November 1847 that the Cayuse Indians were dying in consequence of poison being administered to them by the late Marcus Whitman and he had heard Dr. Whitman say that he would kill off all of the Cayuse Indians by the coming of the ensuing spring-that he would then have their horses and lands. Witness will also prove it is the law of the Cayuse Indians to kill bad medicine men.

This is a rare glimpse into the legal system of the native inhabitants of the region and how they understood the Whitman tragedy. Of course it hardly need to be said that the request was denied. Here is the trial verdict.

No comments: