Living History Co. to discuss events of 1850s

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Sarah Civay painted Steptoe's post near Mill Creek at the second Walla Walla Treaty Council in 1856. It is on display in the military gallery at Fort Walla Walla Museum.

WALLA WALLA - Things were different in this region 155 years ago. In 1856, there was no community of Walla Walla, missionaries Marcus and Narcissa Whitman lay in their graves for nearly nine years and while pioneers were already populating the region, the regional inhabitants of long standing were still forces to be reckoned with.

Fort Walla Walla Museum's Living History Company will revisit those days at 2 p.m. Sunday.

Members of the Living History Company including Sam Pambrun as interpreter Andrew Dominique Pambrun, Dan Clark as E.B. Whitman, and others will discuss the events and their significance.

In 1855, territorial governor Isaac Stevens signed treaties with a number of Indian groups throughout the Pacific Northwest, including the Nez Perce, Umatilla and Yakama.

Within months, hostilities broke out, now known as the Battle of Frenchtown (also known as the Battle of Walla Walla), as resentments boiled over from perceived treaty violations.

Stevens likely thought that control of the Walla Walla Valley was key to ending warfare in the region. With this in mind, he obtained a military escort from Fort Vancouver and accompanied by Lt. Col. E.J Steptoe with four companies of soldiers, arrived in this region on August 23.

Shortly thereafter, various Indian groups arrived, invited to participate in a new round of treaty negotiations. By September 11, all was ready for the council to begin.

The region's Indian people were in no mood for niceties. Stevens, fearing that trouble was brewing, requested Steptoe to come from his camp a few miles further up Mill Creek with at least one company of soldiers.

Steptoe declined, saying that if trouble was imminent, he had too few soldiers to protect both Stevens' camp and his own; Stevens should come to him.

By the 18th, any pretense at negotiating was given up and Stevens elected to depart for The Dalles.

Early that afternoon, his party was attacked by the Indians and the battle lasted throughout the day and evening.

During the night, Stevens sent a message to Steptoe seeking his aid. Steptoe provided an escort and Stevens' party was able to return to the lieutenant colonel's camp.

The Indians attacked again in the morning but were repulsed with howitzer fire and a charge by Steptoe's men. Stevens urged that a blockhouse be put up immediately to keep safe all the stores brought for the council and to leave a company for its defense. He further counseled a winter campaign "to whip the Indians into submission."

Visitors are encouraged to question the performers about their lives and times.

The Fort Walla Walla Museum Living History Company will hold a Town Meeting, 2 p.m. Sunday. The company of historical re-enactors will commemorate the anniversaries of the second Walla Walla Treaty Council and Stevens Skirmish.

Members of the Living History Company, including Sam Pambrun protraying interpreter Andrew Dominique Pambrun and Dan Clark as E.B. Whitman, and others will discuss the events and their significance.

The program will be in the shade of the Museum's pioneer settlement. Popular 19th century music performed by the Oregon Trail Band precedes the presentation at 1:30 p.m.

Museum hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily through October. 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. For more information, call 509-525-7703, email info@fortwallawallamuseum.org or visit fortwallawallamuseum.org.

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