Auntie's and Northwest Passages present Murder at the Mission by Blaine Harden
Join us for this free virtual event on Thursday, May 6 at 7 p.m. Blaine Harden will discuss his new book, Murder at the Mission, with Professor Larry Cebula
Visit Northwest Passages livestream page here to attend: https://www.spokesman.com/bookclub/livestream/
Purchase Murder at the Mission from Auntie's and you'll receive at 15% book club discount!
About Murder at the Mission:
From New York Times bestselling author of Escape From Camp 14, a riveting and revealing account of one of the most persistent alternative facts in American history: the story of a missionary, a tribe, a massacre, and a myth that shaped the American West
In 1836, two missionaries and their wives were among the first Americans to cross the Rockies by covered wagon on what would become the Oregon Trail. Dr. Marcus Whitman and Reverend Henry Spalding were headed to present-day Washington state and Idaho, where they aimed to convert members of the Cayuse and Nez Perce tribes. Both would fail spectacularly as missionaries. But Spalding would succeed as a propagandist, inventing a story that recast his friend as a hero, and helped to fuel the massive westward migration that would eventually lead to the devastation of those they had purportedly set out to save.
As Spalding told it, after uncovering a British and Catholic plot to steal the Oregon Territory from the United States, Whitman undertook a heroic solo ride across the country to alert the President. In fact, he had traveled to Washington to save his own job. Soon after his return, Whitman, his wife, and eleven others were massacred by a group of Cayuse. Though they had ample reason - Whitman supported the explosion of white migration that was encroaching on their territory, and seemed to blame for a deadly measles outbreak - the Cayuse were portrayed as murderous savages. Five were executed.
This fascinating, impeccably researched narrative traces the ripple effect of these events across the century that followed. While the Cayuse eventually lost the vast majority of their territory, thanks to the efforts of Spalding and others who turned the story to their own purposes, Whitman was celebrated well into the middle of the 20th century for having saved Oregon. Accounts of his heroic exploits appeared in congressional documents, The New York Times, and Life magazine, and became a central founding myth of the Pacific Northwest.
Exposing the hucksterism and self-interest at the root of American myth-making, Murder at the Mission reminds us of the cost of American expansion, and of the problems that can arise when history is told only by the victors.
About the author:
Blaine Harden is a contributor to The Economist, PBS Frontline, and Foreign Policy and has formerly served as The Washington Post’s bureau chief in East Asia and Africa as well as a local and national correspondent for The New York Times and as a writer for the Times Magazine. He was also bureau chief in Warsaw, during the collapse of Communism and the breakup of Yugoslavia (1989-1993), and in Nairobi, where he covered sub-Saharan Africa (1985-1989). He is the author of four previous books: The Great Leader and the Fighter Pilot (Viking, 2015), Africa: Dispatches from a Fragile Continent (Norton, 1990), A River Lost: The Life and Death of the Columbia (Norton, 1996) and Escape From Camp 14 (Viking, 2012). Africa won a Pen American Center citation for first book of non-fiction. Escape From Camp 14 enjoyed a number of weeks on various New York Times bestseller lists, and was an international bestseller published in 27 languages. He lives in Seattle with his family.
“Terrific.” –Timothy Egan, The New York Times
“A riveting investigation of both American myth-making and the real history that lies beneath.” –Claudio Saunt, author of Unworthy Republic