Fort Walla Walla Days honors area's rich history with a variety of events

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Fort Walla Walla Days will be 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday and Saturday at Fort Walla Walla Museum, 755 Myra Road.

For more than a decade, Fort Walla Walla Museum has commemorated the region's military and American Indian heritage with this two-day event.

Re-enactors will portray military encampments from the early 1800s through World War I, with Civil War skirmish re-enactments each day. American Indians will offer opportunity to learn more about their culture. Other demonstrations will include small arms and cannon firings.

A new horse regalia and modern art prints exhibit through Crow's Shadow Institute of the Arts will have associated demonstrations each afternoon in the new entry hall and exhibit galleries.

The museum also features a major exhibit funded in part by the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services in the Entry Hall. The exhibit, titled "Through War and Peace: American Military and the People of the Homeland Tribes," is alongside a Lewis and Clark diorama and other displays related to regional heritage.

There is a play fort for young visitors. Food will be available throughout the event.

The Lewis and Clark expedition was primarily a military venture into lands unknown to Euro-Americans. A significant event occurred just 30 miles from the museum when Capt. Clark exchanged gifts with Yellept, a leader of the Walla Walla people.

Lewis and Clark's Northwest Corps of Discovery may have been the first contact Americans had in the new West, but would not be the last. Soon after came the men of the fur trade era, who built trading forts throughout the region, including Fort Walla Walla (originally known as Fort Nez Perces) at the mouth of the Walla Walla River, across the Columbia River from Yellept's camp. The fur trade era, represented by the Hudson's Bay Company in the Walla Walla region, lasted into the 1850s.

Beginning with the Cayuse War in the aftermath of the incident at Whitman Mission in 1847, armed conflict became a common theme of the 1850s. At first, men of the Oregon Volunteer Militia attempted to settle the situation, but the settlers of the region clamored for an official army presence. U.S. military Fort Walla Walla was first occupied in 1858 on the grounds of today's Jonathan M. Wainwright Memorial Veterans Medical Center in Walla Walla. Allotted a square mile "reservation," some of the post's original buildings remain in place. The museum occupies land that was once part of that fort.

A number of the region's early pioneers were veterans of the Mexican War of 1846-1848. During the 1860s, Fort Walla Walla soldiers were diverted to the eastern states during the Civil War. While the post was manned by militias from Oregon, California and Washington, it is likely those people remaining in the region were eager for news of acquaintances or loved ones in the war.

Admission is free to members and children under 6, $3 for children ages 6-12, $6 for seniors 62 and older and students, and $7 general admission. Membership includes free admission to more than 40 Living History performances and other benefits, beginning at $25. For more information, call Fort Walla Walla Museum, 525-7703, e-mail info@fortwallawallamuseum.org or online see fortwallawallamuseum.org.

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