Whitman Mission National Historic Site was established to focus on the continuing relevance of the history and impacts of Marcus and Narcissa Whitman's religious mission to the Cayuse Nation in the early nineteenth century. This Cayuse mission was sponsored by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM), a Boston group responsible for Protestant mission operations around the world. The ABCFM has historically been involved in leading the nation in recognition of Native American sovereignty, the repeal of slavery, and restoration of indigenous rights in South Africa. Today the society is fighting for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender rights.
Despite honorable intentions, ABCFM missions in Old Oregon ended in disaster. Measles and other epidemics resulted in widespread death among Native Americans. Each year brought more immigrants on the Oregon Trail who would want native land. The Whitman's mission was at the center of these tragic changes. In 1847, a group of Cayuse attacked the mission, hoping to remove the source of their devastation. Fourteen people died including Marcus and Narcissa. As a result of the Cayuse attack, the United States government had an excuse to set up reservations and restrict the movement of Native Americans.
This history of the Whitman Mission in the early 1800's marks a turning point for Native Americans living on the Columbia Plateau. Through partnering with the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, the National Park Service seeks to present the continuing story of the Cayuse Nation and the impact of this early interaction with foreign immigrants.