Marcus‟s fault, but back then, 1840s, there was no germ theory of disease widespread, and the Indians of course, even if some whites had heard of this germ theory of disease that might have started f loating around, the Indians certainly hadn‟t, and they believed there must have been other causes for the death of all these Indians. And so they began to actually blame Marcus for the deaths of the Indian children and the adults that were dying from measles too. One rumor went around that he was actually poisoning people; that he would give good medicine to the whites who came in for treatment, and they would get better, and that he pretended to give medicine to the Indians, but was actually giving poison to them and killing them. So amongst the Cayuse, here was eleven years of conflict with these people, and then this disease epidemic that came in was killing everybody. And all the Indians that Marcus treated were dying, and so that was pretty much the final act that precipitated the murder itself. Now we need to ask ourselves – the event itself is not nearly as important as a consideration of the reasons for the conflict that led up to the event. How do we understand this massacre? What were the causes of this clash that led up to this famous murder? And what‟s the significance of the event overall, in the grand scheme of northwest history? Well Carlos Schwantes, in the profile of the Whitman tragedy, gives you a number of answers to this question – what were the causes of the conflict? Julie Roy Jeffrey‟s article also talks about the causes of conflict. And let‟s briefly run through those right now for you. First, cultural misunderstanding. And we might actually say cultural chauvinism on the part of the Whitmans themselves. The Whitmans wanted to Christianize and civilize the Indians. They came out with this idea that they had a superior form of civilization; the only true religion; superior political institutions; a better way of life; and that they were doing the Indians a favor, these beknighted races living in darkness; doing them a favor by coming out and teaching them how to be more like whites. And this cultural chauvinism was a very serious source of conflict. Julie Roy Jeffrey, in her article that you read for this lesson, refers to a style of interaction between the Whitmans and the Indians that was a serious source of conflict. She talks about the Whitmans, and particularly Marcus himself being very judgmental and inflexible. The se Protestant missionaries came to the Indians with, what at the time might be called “The Doctrine of Human Depravity;” that is the religious view that human beings are awful, sinful things; that they‟re born in sin, and that they live in sin, and that th e only way they can ever achieve salvation and go to heaven is by accepting and acknowledging their sinful depraved nature and asking God for forgiveness. Now bringing this idea about human nature with them
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- Fall '19
- The Bible, Native Americans in the United States, Oregon Trail, Narcissa Whitman, Marcus Whitman, Cayuse