Whitman College Students Call for Statue of Missionary Marcus Whitman to Be Removed from Campus

  • Amanda Casanova ChristianHeadlines.com Contributor
  • Published Jun 04, 2021
Whitman College Students Call for Statue of Missionary Marcus Whitman to Be Removed from Campus

Students at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington, are demanding that a statue of Marcus Whitman be removed from the campus.

According to Christianity Today, in April, Washington state lawmakers decided to approve the replacement of another Whitman statue at the U.S. Capitol’s Statuary Hall. The statue is set to be replaced by one of the late tribal treaty rights activists, Billy Frank Jr.

Whitman was a Protestant missionary who was among 13 people killed by the Cayuse tribe in 1847. Whitman led a small group of missionaries in 1836 into what was then Oregon Country. Whitman was a strict Calvinist who tried to convert members of the Cayuse tribe. According to a newly published book, Murder at the Mission, author and journalist Blaine Harden said Whitman only converted two members of the tribe in more than 10 years.

“Whitman was a mediocre missionary,” Harden told The Associated Press.

Then in 1847, a measles outbreak killed half the local Cayuse tribe, and Whitman was blamed for the illness. The Cayuse attacked the mission and killed Whitman, his wife and 11 others.

Later, delegates pointed to the massacre as a reason why Congress should make Oregon County an official part of the United States.

“The killing of Whitman was the trigger that made Walla Walla part of the United States,” he said.

Another story arose out of the event, however. A missionary, Henry Spalding, said Whitman had traveled to Washington, D.C. to “persuade President (John) Tyler to stop the British plot to steal the Oregon Territory from the United States.” The story was eventually debunked.

Whitman College has already moved its statue to a remote part of campus, and last year, some activists proposed moving the statue again— this time to the Fort Walla Walla Museum, where the statue could be presented in context.

The campus statue is owned by the city of Walla Walla.

The other Whitman statue was first placed in 1953 in Statuary Hall in Washington, DC. He is standing, wearing buckskin clothing, and holding a Bible.

Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Simone Rozio

Amanda Casanova is a writer living in Dallas, Texas. She has covered news for ChristianHeadlines.com since 2014. She has also contributed to The Houston Chronicle, U.S. News and World Report and IBelieve.com. She blogs at The Migraine Runner.