Seeing the Umatilla Tribal members in their traditional dress at the Pendleton Round-Up last week through the eyes of out-of-town guests served as a reminder of our area’s unique and colorful history.
Raised in the Northwest, from grade school on I was taught about the Whitmans, Hudson Bay Company, Lewis and Clark, Oregon Trail etc.
Unfortunately, I’ve also become aware of how much was omitted from those history lessons!
It took moving to a property along the Walla Walla River (on ground where the longest military conflict in state history took place) for me to learn of the series of events that occurred in the 1800s responsible for the tapestry of cultures that can be found in this Valley today.
Well before wheat and wineries, French Canadian fur trappers, Cayuse, Nez Percé and Walla Walla Indians, Protestant and Catholic missionaries and the interesting Métis people made their homes along this tributary (just west of College Place) known as Frenchtown.
The Battle of Walla Walla, the 1885 Treaty of Washington, the contributions of early Catholic missions, coupled with a strong French Canadian influence resulted in family names familiar throughout the region — Gregoire, Raymond, Bergevin, Allard, Bonifer, Reymond (to name a few).
It is because of the efforts of a small group of individuals dedicated to preserving a past others elected to overlook, those in the Frenchtown Historical Foundation, I now know about the triumphs and tragedies that occurred along the Walla Walla River long ago.
Each year FHF celebrates this confluence of cultures through at its annual traditional Rendezvous, held Sept. 28 from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Frenchtown Hall in Lowden. If you are interested in delving deeper into Eastern Washington/Oregon history, plan on attending this afternoon of delicious food, adult beverages, French Canadian fur trapper music, Métis dancing and a lively discussion of the past.
All proceeds from the event are dedicated toward maintaining the Frenchtown Historic Site located on Old Highway 12 about eight miles west of Walla Walla. If you can’t make the Rendezvous, do take time for a beautiful fall walk along the interpretive trail at the Historic Site overlooking the Battle of Walla Walla (considered sacred ground by Confederated Tribes of Umatilla) for a poignant history lesson.