Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Charles Kuralt on the Road to the Whitman Killings

Here is an interesting piece of video that came my way--a four-minute segment from Kuralt's "On the Road" series:

1976 Charles Kuralt "On the Road" Segment on the Whitmans. from Larry Cebula on Vimeo.

Charles Kuralt criss-crossed the nation for twenty-five years, producing his gentle homey On the Road segments for CBS News from forgotten towns far from the interstate. "Before there was Ira Glass, there was Charles Kuralt," wrote Seth Stevenson in Slate recently, and that is exactly right. As a boy I was always entranced by the far-flung places that Kuralt brought into our living room. Little did I know that he had his reasons for staying on the road so much--two separate families, each unaware of the other.

The segment seems to be from 1975 or 76 and was converted to video by the Washington State Archives in 2005. Kuralt tells the story the way it was traditionally told in that era--as a tragedy for the white missionaries who were savagely killed by the Indians. There is not much attempt to understand native motivations or the suffering and death that were experiencing at the time. And it propagates the idea that measles were spread to the Cayuse via white emigrants on the Oregon Trail--recent research shows that the Cayuse themselves brought the disease back from a cattle raid in California. Still it is a charming little piece.

Bonus: Hunter S. Thompson reading a letter to Charles Kuralt, after the jump:

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