The Whitman Massacre Trial: An Indictment is Issued

Whitman mission

n 1850, twenty-nine months after the murders, Joseph Lane, the newly appointed Governor of Oregon Territory, secured the surrender of five members of the Cayuse tribe. The defendants were brought more than two hundred miles from their homes east of the Cascades to Oregon City where they were tried in U.S. District Court. The trial records illustrate one of the earliest and most extensively documented murder trials in the Oregon Territory.

Text of the indictment:

The Jurors of the United States, within and for said District, on their oath present: That on the twenty ninth day of November in the year of our Lord on thousand eight hundred and forty seven, at Wai-it-at-pu in said county, the said place being then and there in the Indian country certain Indians named Telakite, Tomahas, otherwise called the murder, Clokomas, Isiaasheluckas, Isholhot, and Kiamasumkin, Indictmentwith certain other Indians whose names to the Jurors are unknown, with force and arms , in and upon one Narcissa Whitman, she not then and there being an Indian, feloniously, wilfully, and of their malice aforethought, did make an assault, and that the said Indians, certain guns, muskets, and pistols, each of the same then and there being loaded and charged with gunpowder and bullets, which guns, muskets, and pistols, they the said Indians in their hands then and there had and held to, against, and upon the body of the said Naricissa Whitman, then and there feloniously, wilfully, and of their malice aforethought did shoot and discharge, and that the said Indians with the bullets aforesaid, out of the muskets, guns and pistols aforesaid, then and there by force of the gunpowder shot and sent forth as aforesaid, the said Narcissa Whitman, in and upon the body of her the said Narcissa Whitman, then and there wilfully, feloniously, and of their malice aforethought, did strike, penetrate and wound, giving to the said Narcissa Whitman then and there with bullets aforesaid so as aforesaid, shot, discharged an sent forth out of the muskets, guns, and pistols aforesaid, by the said Indians in and upon the body of the said Narcissa Whitman, several mortal wounds. of which said mortal wounds, the said Narcissa Whitman then and there died. And so the jurors aforesaid upon their oath aforesaid do say that the said Telakite, Tomahas, otherwise called the murderer, Clokomas, Isiaasheluckas, Isholhot, and Kiamasumkin, with certain Indians whose names to the said Jurors are unknown, her the said Narcissa Whitman did then and there in manner and form aforesaid feloniusly, wilfully and of their malice aforethought,kill and murder, and then and there in and upon the body of said Narcissa Whitman, did commit the crime of wilful murder, in manner and form aforesaid, against the peace and dignity of the said United States, and contrary to the fore of the statute in such case made and provided. And the Jurors aforesaid, on their oath aforesaid, do further present, that on the twenty ninth day of November in the year of our Lord on thousand eight hundred and forty seven, at Wai-it-at-pu in said county and district , the said place being then and there in the Indian country, certain Indians named Telakite, Tomahas, otherwise called the murder, Clokomas, Isiaasheluckas, Isholhot, and Kiamasumkin, with certain other Indians whose names to the said Jurors are unknown, with force and arms, in and upon one Narcissa Whitman, she not then and there being an Indian, feloniously, wilfully, and of their malice aforethought, did make an assault, and that the said Indians, with certain knives, tomahawks, and other weapons as yet unknown to said Jurors, which said knives, tomahawks, and weapons, the said Indians then and there in their hands had and held, her the said Narcissa Whitman, in and upon her head, neck, shoulders, breast, and back, then and there feloniously, wilfully and of their malice aforesaid did strike, cut, and thrust, giving to the said Narcissa Whitman then and there with the knives, tomahawks and weapons aforesaid, in and upon the body of her the said Narcissa Whitman, several mortal wounds, of which said mortal wounds the said Narcissa Whitman then and there died: and so the Jurors aforesaid upon their oath aforesaid, do say that the said Telakite, Tomahas otherwise called the murderer, Clokomas, Isiaasheluckas, Isholhot, and Kiamasumkin, with certain other Indians whose names to said Jurors are unknown, her the said Narcissa Whitman , in manner and form aforesaid , then and there feloniously wilfully and of their malice aforethought did kill and murder, and did then and there, upon the body of the said Narcissa Whitman, in manner and form aforesaid, commit the crime of wilful murder,

Against the Peace and Dignity of the said United States, and contrary to the form of the Statute in such case made and provided.

A true Bill.

F.W. Pettygrove Foreman

Amory Holbrook U.S. Attorney, for District of Oregon


Text of demurrer challenging the court's authority

As preparations for a trial proceeded, summons to testify were issued. The defendants' legal counsel filed a motion challenging the court's authority to hear the case, since the crime had been committed in "Indian Territory" and before Oregon Territory had been created. The defense attorneys based their arguments on the traditional Cayuse practice of killing ineffective medicine men.

Text of demurrer challenging the court's authority:

District Court of the United States of America, for the District of Oregon, County of Clackamas

Teloquit

Tamohas

Clokomas

Isiaasheluckas

Kiamasumkim

And the said Teloquoit, Tomahas, otherwise called the murderer, Clokomas, Isiaasheluckas and Kiamasumkin in their own proper persons cometh into court and having heard the Indictment read saith that the said District Court of America, here ought not to take further cognizance of the felony in the several count of the Indictment above specified because protesting that they are not guilty of the felony charged in said Indictment aforesaid nevertheless the defendents Teloquoit, Tomahas, otherwise called the murderer, clokomas, Isiaasheluckas, and Kiamasumkim sayeth that at the time of the alledged commission of the so called felony, if committed to wit, on the twenty ninth day of November One thousand eight hundred and forty seen, they were native born Indians belonging to the Cayuse nation whose territory lyeth west of the summit of the Stoney or Rocky Mountains, and without the limits of the Indian Country as defined by the Congress of the United States in legislative enactments previus to the time of the alleged commission

 

Text of demurrer challenging the court's authority (Page 2)

(page two)

of the so called felony, if committed and therefore not under or in anywise subject to the jurisdiction of the courts of the United States.

And the defendent Teloquoit, Tomahas otherwise called the murderer, Clokomas, Isiaaskiluckas, and Kiamasumkin further sayeth that, Wai-et-at-pu the place where the alledged felony is supposed to have been committed, was part and parcel of the country known as claimed and possessed by the said Cayuse nation, aforesaid and without the jurisdiction and laws of the United State at the time aforesaid, and subject to the laws and ways of the said Cayuse nation of Indians they being free and independent and of this they are (?) to verify; Wherefore the Defendents aforesaid, say that this courth that no jurisdiction to cause the defendents aforesaid to make a further or other answer to said Bill of indictment for said supposed crime alledged in the bill of indictment. And the Defendents aforesaid pray judgement whether they shall be held bound to further answer said indictment

Teloquoit X his mark

Tomahas X his mark

Clokomas X his mark

Isiaaskiluckas X his mark

Kiamasumki X his mark

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