Marcus and Narcissa Whitman, a married Upstate New York couple, set up a mission within the Cayuse Indian territory in the Walla Walla valley. Whitman tended to the sick whites and indians alike. In 1847, an outbreak of measles hit the community and many of the Cayuse blamed the doctor who could not cure them. On Nov. 29, 1847, a faction of Cayuse Indians seized the Whitman Mission, killing 13 people and taking 46 others captive for a month until they were ransomed for blankets, guns and tobacco.

It was a pivotal event in Northwest history. Known as the Whitman Massacre, it provoked anger and fear among white settlers, who clamored for the recognition of the Northwest as U.S. territory (originally the Oregon Territory) and the posting of federal troops to the region. Ensuing battles between white settlers and Indians eventually led to treaties that stripped the natives of much of their land and confined them to reservations.

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