As an area administered by the National Park Service, a bureau within the U. S Department of the Interior, Whitman Mission is affected by directives from Washington, D. C., and the regional office. Government-wide and service-wide goals determine the programs, the resources, and the funds with which administrators work. Superintendent Amdor recognized this when he stated, "The Park Service, like every other organization in government, reacts to various thrusts." [1] The following examines some of the government thrusts that have affected Whitman Mission National Historic Site.


Mission 66

The Mission 66 program, instituted in 1956 to revitalize National Park Service facilities, had the most important long-term impact on Whitman Mission. As a result of Director Wirth's development program, Whitman Mission acquired all the modern facilities in use today: the visitor center, maintenance building, employee residence, the parking and picnic facilities, and the trails.


Environmental Awareness

Midway through Mission 66 the decade of the 1960s opened, with a new concern for environmental problems evident. As the destruction of the American landscape and the pollution of its air and waters moved to front-page prominence, the new Secretary of the Interior, Stewart L. Udall, became the articulate voice of environmental preservation. [2] An early promoter of environmental education, the National Park Service initiated the Environmental Study Area in 1968. Introduced by Director Hartzog, the study areas were located on National Park Service property and designed to educate school children about their environment. [3] This program preceded the National Environmental Education Development (NEED) program, also sponsored by the National Park Service in cooperation with the National Park Foundation and Silver Burdette Company. [4]

Environmental awareness trickled down to Whitman Mission by 1969 when Superintendent Stickler actively promoted the new programs through newspaper and radio. Superintendent Stickler explained Whitman Mission's responsibility to promote conservation in a radio interview in 1969:

The National Park Service has embarked on this program we call Environmental Awareness and since historical areas such as Whitman Mission are an integral part of the system, we are departing a little from our usual program of interpreting the historical story of the Whitmans. [5]

Several environmental films including "The Litterbug," "Troubled Waters," and "Our Living Heritage" were added to the interpretive program and shown throughout the week and on weekends. [6] As a result, Superintendent Stickler reported, "during the summer of 1969, wildlife and other conservation films were shown 85 times to approximately 3,000 people." [7]

Focus on the environment continued into the 1970s. Superintendent Stickler's management objectives for 1971 included broadening "the basic interpretive program to stimulate environmental awareness to the average Park visitor." [8] During the following years, rangers presented talks entitled "Agriculture at Whitman Mission" and "Wildlife, Then and Now." [9] Seasonal Ranger Jack Winchell participated in the local school district's three-week-long environmental workshops. He presented his talk "Pond and Stream Life" to approximately 500 students in 1973 and in 1974. [10] Although Environmental Education was at its height during the mid-1970s, the park interpretive staff currently shows these same films on weekends year-round; evidence of Environmental Education's long-term impact on Whitman Mission.


Equal Employment Opportunity

Superintendent Kowalkowski's administration was the first to implement affirmative action. The Federal government instituted Equal Employment Opportunity programs and offices in the early 1970s; the Pacific Northwest Regional Equal Employment Office was established in 1973.

The Interior Department was quick to employ American Indians in their effort to comply with the new law. In 1972, Secretary of the Interior Rogers C. B. Morton encouraged heads of bureaus to recruit Indians; moreover, he implied it was their obligation: ". . . our efforts in Equal Employment Opportunity should reflect our particular moral and program responsibilities toward the Indians." [11]

Whitman Mission had just introduced its Native American cultural weekend and its "Conflict of Cultures" theme when Secretary Morton's directive was issued. However, the park contracted with Native Americans for cultural demonstrations rather than hiring them seasonally or permanently. [12] The park was more successful in recruiting women and Hispanics for the seasonal ranger and maintenance positions. The seasonal employment summaries from 1974-1977 indicate that while the park was making strides hiring women seasonals (three in 1974, eight in 1975, four in 1976, three in 1977) and minority seasonals (one in 1974, four in 1975, two in 1976, and two in 1977), Native Americans were not hired. These results reflect Superintendent Kowalkowski's goals to "make more personal contacts with organizations and educational institutions that may be sources of recruiting minorities and women," [13] and the belief that the increasingly two-sided interpretive program satisfied Native American Equal Opportunity requirements.

Although Whitman Mission was providing Indians an opportunity to share their culture, in 1978 the adoption of the National Park Service's first comprehensive Native American policy, Special Directive 78-1, provided a mandate to move aggressively to hire Native Americans. [14] Responding to the Native American Freedom of Religion Act, this policy was important to Equal Employment Opportunity because it encouraged "participation of Native Americans . . . as park interpreters." [15] Whitman Mission's Chief Park Interpreter, Dave McGinnis, took this responsibility seriously and set goals to hire Native Americans. [16] He accomplished this goal in 1980 by hiring Marjorie Williams and Maynard Lavadour as cultural demonstrators full-time during the summer and intermittently during the fall and winter. [17]

Just as it was difficult for ranger McGinnis to recruit knowledgeable Native Americans, [18] the new seasonals--the first Native Americans to wear the Park Service uniform at Whitman Mission--were faced with considerable challenges. Ranger Marjorie Williams remembers that reaction from the reservation and the public was "half and half." [19] Some tribal members "complained that we were too young and didn't know what we were doing," [20] while others like Ms. Williams' grandmother, Susie Williams, were supportive. Similarly, some visitors were positive while the reaction of others seemed to say, "What are you doing here?" [21] In addition, Ranger McGinnis expected the new seasonals to be more than cultural demonstrators:

He wanted us balanced. He wanted us to know what happened to the pioneers . . . . We had to read all the books we had on the Whitman story to learn about the Umatilla reservation . . . . It taught us that we didn't know as much as we thought we did. [22]

Ranger McGinnis received an Equal Employment Opportunity award that year for his successful outreach efforts with the Umatilla Indian Reservation. [23]

After 1980, the park employed Native Americans regularly. In fact, Superintendent Amdor inserted a new goal into the 1981 Annual Report: ". . . continued employment of a person knowledgeable of Cayuse culture will be necessary to insure compliance with the N.A.F.R. Act . . . ." [24] The park's first permanent Indian employee was Cecelia Bearchum, hired as a park ranger in 1985. [25] Implementation of Equal Employment Opportunity through seasonal appointments and Youth Conservation Corps enrollees continues each year. In addition, in 1987 several permanent positions were filled with minorities and women. Diana Elder filled the permanent maintenance worker position; Gloria La France is the new administrative assistant; Marjorie Williams, after all her seasons with the park, accepted a full-time park ranger position; while Dave Herrera, of Hispanic descent, is the park's new superintendent. [26]


Energy Conservation

Whitman Mission was not greatly affected by the energy crunch of the late 1970s. However, because of the new energy conservation awareness, monitoring energy consumption became a new management responsibility as of 1977. That year, management's goal was to "achieve a 15 percent reduction in energy consumption in park buildings." [27] This reduction was achieved by turning down thermostats and turning off lights in the museum and audiovisual room when not in use. Several energy conservation programs were instituted in 1979 including recycling paper and displaying an energy consumption chart to awaken visitors to conservation. Reducing high voltage fixtures and limiting use of gas-powered equipment were additional energy-reducing changes. [28] In 1981 care was taken to reduce heat loss through the visitor center windows, to insulate hot water lines, and install an inter-burner for the furnace to make it more energy efficient. [29] As recently as 1985, the wood-burning stove in the maintenance shop achieved a 53 percent reduction of heating oil in comparison with 1975 use. [30] Operations were never seriously hampered by energy reduction; instead this program curtailed unnecessary energy use and increased energy conservation awareness among the staff.



The most obvious way in which the larger Federal government affects Whitman Mission is through the operating budget. Although this broad subject warrants indepth examination, a brief overview illustrates the fluctuating constraints within which Whitman Mission operates. During the park's early years, funds were scarce because of the excessive drain of World War II. Both Custodian Garth and Superintendent Weldon were always scraping money together for supplies. Weldon spent two years simply trying to get a fan. [31] Characteristically, he placed his predicament in historic and humorous perspective:

It reminds me of a letter Dr. Whitman wrote back to the Mission Board about 1839 saying they needed 220 additional missionaries and all supplies for them to help several scattered missions then established. The most he ever got from the Board was 13! [32]

Lack of funds was a major reason the park was not substantially improved or developed during the 1950s. However, Director Wirth's Mission 66 program provided funds for completing this development in 1964.

Associate Director William Everhart wrote in 1972, "The end of the Mission 66 program, in 1966, coincided with the escalation of the Vietnam war, and since that time nondefense agencies have taken budget cuts." [33] It was not unusual for Whitman Mission to operate under budget constraints; it operated under these cuts during the 1970s. Superintendent Kowalkowski wrote in 1978, "We struggled through the Zero Base Budget proposals for FY80." [34] Superintendent Amdor also faced inflationary budget cuts. In 1982 he compiled a long list of curtailed programs and cyclic maintenance to cope with "this year's double whammy of budget cuts and unfunded pay increases." [35] The staff presumably coped with the cuts because Superintendent Amdor wrote in 1985:

For the last two years we have intentionally not asked for any operating increases, but have gotten along quite well by using our own operating efficiency and improvements to make up the shortfall. We do not wish to be martyrs; in the future we hope the money saving effort does not backfire on the park or on resource preservation. [36]

Beginning in FY88, it appears that the park will operate under the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Deficit Reduction Act or a comparable package approved by Congress and the President. In anticipation of funding cuts the staff reduced its Equal Employment Opportunity recruitment trips, focusing on supporting local hiring instead. [37] The new entrance fee, authorized by Congress in 1986 and initiated at the park in September 1987, should reduce the impact of impending budget cuts. Despite the reduction, Superintendent Herrera is optimistic and foresees being able "to carry out all of the programs that we want to." [38]


Last updated: March 1, 2015

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