Antone Minthorn: “Stuck to Their Vision of Their Own Home and They Won.”

In this excerpt, Antone Minthorn (Umatilla) talks about the Whitman mission, the coming of settlers, and the Cayuse War, as well as treaty negotiations with Issac Stevens.

Bio: Antone Minthorn has served for more than twenty years with the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR) in various roles, from chief planner to chair of the board of trustees. He is a founding board member of Confluence.


I think that in their earlier history of the tribe, particularly Cayuse, that they were living in the Walla Walla Valley when the settlers began to come. The – what do you call them, the religion people? Marcus Whitman and them came and then set up the mission. But the mission was failing and they were going to close it. And Marcus Whitman did not want it closed and went back east to keep it open. When he came back he brought a lot more settlers with him.

But he was told by the Cayuse leadership to stop bringing people over to the Walla Walla Valley and taking land and bringing disease and death, and they told him to stop, but they refused — Marcus Whitman refused to tell them, so they killed him. And that was called the Whitman massacre. That was the Cayuse War, 1847. And then later there was a treaty in 1855. But the Cayuses were always very concerned about losing the land to the immigrants. And that’s why they protected it with the violence, they just did not want to lose land. And during that Treaty of 1855, it’s evident that they were very concerned about the way the treaties were going at that time with Isaac Stevens. And for several days, they didn’t speak up at the treaty, they didn’t say anything as a discussion was going on.

And they were asked why they weren’t making any remarks. And later they said, we know that you are concerned about us not saying anything, but we listen. But what it is, we do not understand what you are proposing for us to do. You want us to go to Nez Perce, you want us to go to Yakima. We have no interest there. We have our own lands, our own property– and then they named them off. Umatilla River region being one of them. But they had a definite concern about keeping their land and they were concerned that the Nez Perce were giving away too much. So they stuck to their vision of their own home and they won.

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