Unsettled Ground

Unsettled Ground

The Whitman Massacre and Its Shifting Legacy in the American West
by Cassandra Tate

“A highly readable, myth-busting, fact-based story. [A] tale for all who love the West, its history and its truths.”
—The Inlander

Historian and journalist Cassandra Tate takes a fresh look at the personalities, dynamics, disputes, social pressures, and shifting legacy of the Whitman Massacre—a pivotal event in the history of the American West—including the often-missing Indian point of view.

In 1836, Marcus and Narcissa Whitman, devout missionaries from upstate New York, established a Presbyterian mission on Cayuse Indian land near what is now the fashionable wine capital of Walla Walla, Washington. Eleven years later, a group of Cayuses killed the Whitmans and eleven others in what became known as the Whitman Massacre. The attack led to a war of retaliation against the Cayuse; the extension of federal control over the present-day states of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and parts of Montana and Wyoming; and martyrdom for the Whitmans. Today, however, the Whitmans are more likely to be demonized as colonizers than revered as heroes. 

“[A] gripping adventure story…Tate’s account is a prism that allows us to see the multiple dimensions of a classic frontier conflict.”
—Peter Stark, author of Astoria: John Jacob Astor and Thomas Jefferson’s Lost Pacific Empire

[Tate] tells the Cayuse’s side of the story with empathy and clarity…She writes with a flair and transparency unusual in such a meticulously researched book.”–The Seattle Times


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