History, as reconsidertion of Whitman shows, is complicated

As usually happens in history, the victors get to write it. Reading the article today about Marcus Whitman caused lots of thought (“Scrutiny mounts of pioneering Northwest missionary’s legacy,” The Herald, June 1). My ancestors, James Howard and his family, came west in a wagon train from Missouri in 1844. They spent the winter at Whitman’s camp in 1844. Some children in the family learned to speak the language of the Cayuse tribe while there.

Family lore says that when they left in the spring they were led by Chief Kaiulotte across the Cascades into the Willamette Valley. While crossing the raging Deschutes River, Kaiulotte (spelling very questionable) strapped the Howards’ daughter Martha to his back and carried her across. She was about 5 or 6 at this time. I have no proof that this happened, but in her obituary published in The Oregonian in 1903 it is mentioned. The chief was hanged for his involvement in the Whitman massacre.

All I am saying is these people were kind and helpful in the beginning and history ignores that. All of our history is a web of truths, semi-truths and fiction. We all would benefit from a little more deep diving into what was really happening, from all viewpoints.

Ann Distefano


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