Wednesday, September 22, 2010

With Marcus and Narcissa to Pensacola

I just got word that my proposal has been accepted for the 2011 Annual Meeting of the National Council on Public History Conference in Pensacola this April. I am excited because the NCPH is by miles the most interesting history conference and Pensacola sounds pretty nice as well. Here is the proposal I submitted:

The Many Deaths of Marcus and Narcissa Whitman
The killings of Marcus and Narcissa Whitman cast a long shadow in the Pacific Northwest. Since the American missionaries died at the hands of their Cayuse charges in 1847, their deaths have been reinterpreted with each new generation according to its own needs and preconceptions. Today the landscape of south-central Washington and north-central Oregon hosts numerous and contradictory interpretations of the deaths of Marcus and Narcissa Whitman--morality plays with different moral lessons.

My presentation will look at some of the different ways that this controversial historical event is and has been presented in monuments, museums, and other public places. In particular I will focus on three locales: Whitman Mission National Historic Site, established in 1936 and (despite considerable updating in recent years) devoted to the “heroic” interpretation of the missionary encounter; Tam├ístslikt Cultural Institute, established by the Cayuse, Umatilla and Walla Walla tribes and where the Whitmans are presented as dangerous invaders and cultural imperialists; and Nez Perce National Historical Park, established in 1965 in a partnership between the National Park Service and the Nez Perce and other native peoples where the death of the Whitmans is presented in a more even-handed manner. I will briefly examine other public monuments to the Whitmans including sites such as Whitman College and the Marcus Whitman Hotel.

The presentation will be incorporate many images, sound clips, and video from the sites examined.

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