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<v Host>And now the conclusion of in search of the Oregon Trail, major funding for this program has been provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the annual financial support from viewers like you, the Meyer Memorial Trust of Portland, Oregon, and the Bureau of Land Management, the United States Department of the Interior, with additional funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the child's foundation, the Hilman Foundation and the Templeton Foundation. <v Narrator>In the mid 19th century, a great migration took place across the American continent to the far west. Beginning in the 1840s, an estimated 250000 to a half million people made the journey west on what later became known as the Oregon Trail. There have been other migrations in American history, but this migration of two thousand miles across the plains and mountains captured the American imagination and became one of the most powerful and enduring symbols in American history. The Oregon Trail is really several different stories. It's families uprooting everything in search of a better life in the northwest. It's also the story of men seeking wealth in the gold fields of California.
<v Narrator>And it's the story of religious outcasts in search of tolerance and freedom in Utah's desert. But just as importantly, the Oregon Trail is the story of the Native American tribes the overlanders encountered on their path. And the people they found when they arrived at their destinations. Like those across the plains and mountains before, as we continue our search for the Oregon Trail. And what it tells us about our country and ourselves. <v Narrator>After three months of walking across the plains and into the mountains, the immigrants arrive at the halfway point in their journey to the South pass through the Rocky Mountains. It is a symbolic as well as physical boundary. Here as they cross over the Continental Divide, although they are still months from their goal, the overlanders have by definition entered the Oregon country. Before them lies a vast and difficult region of mountains and desert, unlike anything they have ever seen or experienced.
<v Marcus Whitman>Travel, travel, travel, nothing else will take you to the end of your journey. Nothing is wise that does not help you along. Nothing is good for you that causes a moment's delay. <v Narrator>Virtually every day is a grueling march from before sun up to dark. There is tension, tedium and anxiety, but the immigrants also are eager because their goals seem so promising. They hope Oregon will be a sort of paradise, an escape from disease and economic hardship. But for the first and perhaps the most famous overlanders, the Journey West was an answer to a call from God to bring Christianity to the Native American tribes of the far west. Here at the South Pass, a marker commemorates the first two white women to make the Oregon journey. In 1836, Eliza Spaulding and Narcissa Whitman crossed the Rockies with their missionary husband, Henry Spalding and Dr. Marcus Whitman. Later, when Marcus and Narcissa Whitman's diaries and letters are published back east, they become inspirational heroes to many of the immigrants.
<v Richard White>Narcissa Whitman and Marcus Whitman are products of the evangelical Great Awakening in upstate New York. They are people with a fundamentally religious motivation. There are people who see themselves as doing good in a world they really have very little knowledge about. And it's not at all surprising that their lives would end intragedy. <v Narrator>Narcissa Whitman, Krause's, the South pass, knowing that she is pregnant with her first child. This new life and the success of her journey West become symbols of Oregon's possibilities. <v Narcissa Whitman>Do not think I regret coming, no, far from it. I would not go back for a world. I am contented and happy notwithstanding, I get very hungry and weary, have six weeks steady, journeying before us, will the Lord give me patience to endure it? <v Patricia Limerick>What you have is an icon of a white woman who crosses the Rockies, reaches Oregon and represents the principle that Oregon is in, is within reach of white middle class families, agrarian families, because as long as it's just for trapper's over the Rockies, then it's then it's out of the reach of the United States. And it's not really ever going to be incorporated into American life, society, politics and so on. But when that iconic first white woman crosses the Rockies and settles in Oregon, the doors open. That's symbolically the most powerful statement you can make, that Oregon is fair game, Oregon will fit in the United States, Oregon can support standard American sentiment in society.
<v Narrator>Although a few Americans had settled in the Northwest as early as the eighteen thirties, Oregon can't simply be declared a part of the United States. The territory is also claimed by Great Britain after the War of 1812. The two nations signed an agreement of joint occupation, but the ultimate disposition of the land is still in question. Many Americans believe it might take another war to push the British out. <v Richard White>The American attitude towards the British and in the early 19th century is still very much a legacy of the Revolutionary War in the War of 1812. The British were the enemy. The British stood for oppression in American past. <v Anonymous>And hip hurrah for the prairie life hip, hurrah for the mountains trife and if rifles must crack, if swords, we must draw our country forever. Hurrah! Hurrah!
<v Narrator>In the 1820s, the Hudson's Bay Company undercharge from the British crown had taken control of the fur trade in the Northwest. The trappers are under the leadership of Dr. John McLaughlin. Based in Fort Vancouver on the Columbia River, McLaughlins word is law. <v Terence O'Donnell>He was a combination of things he was quite capable of administering the last. And he was also could hold up a glass of port to the sunlight to to relish its color. He was under instructions from the company to discourage American settlement. There's an old saying that when the settlers acts is heard, the trapper disappears. And there was that concern that, first of all, with the American trappers, that they would be competing, of course, with the Hudson Bay trappers.
<v Narrator>In the 1830's, McLaughlin is ordered to implement a scorched earth policy, Hudson's Bay Company will trap every beaver possible until there are too few left to attract the Americans. But as a nation, Americans are more interested in turf than Pelt's, the British hadn't counted on America's powerful land laws in the 1930s. One of those most fascinated by Oregon is a slightly mad Boston schoolteacher and surveyor, Hall Jackson Kelley. Kelley is obsessed with the idea of recreating New England in the Northwest by colonizing it with Yankee farmers and shopkeepers. <v Patricia Limerick>How Kelley went wild for Pacific Northwest and he began writing about it and what is just wonderful and improbable is that he wrote heartily about it, wrote authoritatively about it. He never seen it. <v Hall Jackson Kelley>The uniform testimony of an intelligent multitude have established the fact that the country in question is the most valuable of all the unoccupied parts of the Earth. Providence has designed this last reach of enlightened immigration to be the residence of a people whose singular advantages will give them unexampled power and prosperity.
<v Narrator>Eventually, Kelley makes an ocean voyage to Oregon. He arrived sick, is nursed back to health by Dr. McLaughlin. And promptly returns to Boston. Despite Kelly's bad experience, his proselytizing keeps interest in Oregon keen into the early 40s, even with the land still in dispute, members of Congress are clamoring for American annexation. When economic depression hits in 1837, there is increased pressure to open the West and create new opportunities. That expansionists sentiment is summed up by New York newspaper editor John O'Sullivan in two famous words, Manifest Destiny. <v John L. O'Sullivan>The American claim is by right of our manifest destiny to overspread and to possess the whole of the continent allotted by Providence for the free development of our yearly multiplying millions.
<v Narrator>By the time O'Sullivan declares Manifest Destiny, the migration to Oregon is well underway, Americans moving west are confident that the government is with them in this spirit, if not the body of law. But then, as today, America was a nation of conflicting ideas, <v Richard White>The irony of Manifest Destiny, which again most people don't really think about, is here supposedly is a doctrine which says that the United States is a single nation, is supposed to dominate the entire continent. But within 10 years, 15 years of the announcing of the manifest destiny of the United States, in fact, the old United States is splitting in two. Clearly, this nationalism couldn't have been that deeply rooted if it ends up involved in a civil war in a very short period of time.
<v Narrator>For most immigrants, fulfilling America's Manifest Destiny plays a minor role in the decision to move west. <v Richard White>We have to put ourselves back into a very different world. This is a world of local communities. This is a world without a national media. This is a world in which you don't particularly trust with strangers to tell you, you depend on. Can you depend on old neighbors hearing somebody like Marcus Whitman or reading stuff by Hal Jackson? Kelly, all of that might make you aware of Oregon, but it's not going to persuade you to go unless you're a fool. What's going to persuade you to go as somebody who's been to Oregon, who you know. <v Terence O'Donnell>One fellow said he was going out so he could burn down Fort Vancouver and kicked the British out. Another old man said he was going because he'd heard that the fishing was good. I mean, they went really for all sorts of [inaudible] you know, went mainly partly because they were restless and partly because they wanted a healthier place in which to live. Those river valleys where all we're pesthouse is they really awful. And also that area, according to the 1840 census, was the poorest in the United States.
<v Narrator>Even down to earth, people like Abraham Lincoln and philosopher Henry David Thoreau feel the pull. In 1849, Lincoln considers accepting an appointment as secretary of Oregon territory. But at the insistence of Mary Todd Lincoln, he sticks with his Illinois law practice. Thoreau sees Oregon as metaphore. <v Henry David Thoreau>Eastward, I go only by force, but Westword, I go free, something like this is the prevailing tendency of my countrymen. I must walk towards Oregon. <v Narrator>For many immigrants, it is here in what is now western Wyoming that the enormity of their undertaking finally hits home.
<v Narrator>The overlanders even have a name for it, seeing the elephant. That phrase comes to stand for anything unusual, dangerous or even extremely difficult. If they haven't seen the elephant before entering this desert, chances are they will soon. <v Terence O'Donnell>Now, after having been on the trail for months, their wagons were tired, their cattle and oxen were tired, their clothes were tired. They were growing short of food, the corn meal and beans and dried fruit they'd brought along also the whiskey was growing short and they were entering into a very difficult terrain. They were great shortages of grass. They had lots of rivers to cross, sometimes many times. And then there was, I think, apprehension and fear.
<v Patricia Limerick>I can't think of many episodes in American history where we'd have a better glimpse of the private experience, but even there, it's a rare person who really will will let terror come onto the page. If that's what they're feeling, though, I must say I've always been impressed at how frequently people in the 19th century in those experiences did use the word anxiety. <v Lavinia Porter>I would make a brave effort to be cheerful and patient until the camp work was done, then starting out ahead of the team and my menfolk when I thought I had gone beyond hearing distance. I would throw myself down on the unfriendly desert and give away like a child to sobs and tears, wishing myself home with my friends and chiding myself for consenting to take this wild goose chase. <v Narrator>Pregnancy and childbirth are subjects that the diarists almost never mentioned.
<v Susan Armitage>There are a lot of silences in the diaries, most famous of which is all these babies that sort of suddenly appear along the way because the 19th century convention is that women don't write about say, well, I think I'm pregnant. I'm not quite sure yet. So all of a sudden, there's this brief announcement in a diary stop for two days and we now have a son or something like that. And so you try and count back and and figure out how pregnant she was when the trip began and and and realized that somehow if she complains about ill health in the early months, maybe it's because she's having morning sickness or something, but they never say so. And that's a 19th century convention. <v Narrator>Amelia Stewart Knight is a good example. Along the last part of her family's passage with no prior mentioned. She gives birth.
<v Narrator>Even several days later, as she catches up with her diary entries, Amelia Stewart Knight is vague about the details. <v Amelia Stewart Knight>Friday, September 17th. It is cleared off and we are all ready for a start again. Or someplace we don't know where a few days later, my eighth child was born. <v Narrator>Something like a quarter of the women who made the trip on the Oregon Trail were pregnant at the time, and a percentage of those obviously gave birth on the trail, which means that pregnancy was not a reason not to travel to Oregon. Now, today, I think we regard that with some state of shock, it seems is a tremendous risk to take. But obviously in 19th century terms, women didn't feel that way about it. Perhaps it's because so many women were pregnant so often that had they decided to wait when they were either not pregnant or not recovering from pregnancy, maybe they never would have gone to Oregon at all.
<v Patricia Limerick>Without quite realizing we adopted the notion of women as frail and we interpreted that frailness back into Western history. Well, there are too many stories, especially on the overland trail of women being not frail, of women being in some cases very pregnant, but but working long hours and hard hours and walking along side. And that's not frailty, whatever. It may not be happiness on their part, but it is. But it's, I think, a mistake on our part to think, oh, these poor delicate creatures, my lord, what a terrible experience for for them. We may have turned effete and frail at her time. And I don't think there's any question that most of those women were a lot tougher than than I am. If these women are frail, they should all have been buried on the plains.
<v Narrator>This is the place known as Parting of the Ways. One of several points along the trail where immigrants make important choices, some opt for cutoff routes, shortcuts that could take days off their journey. The sublet cut off. Fifty dry, waterless miles across the sagebrush flats of western Wyoming, it is dangerous, but it can save the immigrants three days of travel. Most decide not to take the cut offs. They seem too risky. They choose the relative safety of travel along the streams and rivers. Beginning in the late 1840s, the majority of the immigrants go west to destinations other than Oregon. These migrations to California and Utah out of a very different nature. In 1847, 150 members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints, the Mormons, cross this desert to begin new lives near the Great Salt Lake. The Mormon trail saga was commemorated in a series of paintings by C.C.A. Kristiansen, a Norwegian Mormon convert who made the trek in 1857.
<v Narrator>Since the church's founding in 1830, the Mormons had been hounded from place to place throughout the east. They were resented for their economic prosperity, their unusual religious convictions, and whispered rumors of polygamy. From upstate New York to Ohio to Missouri to Illinois, the Mormons were beaten, tarred and feathered and killed. In 1844, church founder Joseph Smith and his brother were murdered by Illinois militiamen. Smith's successor, Brigham Young, determines that the Mormons will flee one last time and then run no more. Leaving Illinois, they make their way to the banks of the Missouri near present day Omaha. They spend a miserable winter, many die from disease and malnutrition. The next spring, they start west traveling on the north bank of the planet, keeping their distance from the overlanders on the south side. Guided by their faith in God and John C. Freemont's trailblazing report, Brigham Young leads his followers to an isolated arid sanctuary here. He found Salt Lake City safe from the attacks of less tolerant Americans. Soon, these Mormons are joined by immigrants from all over America and Europe.
<v Richard White>The Mormons come not like Oregon migrants to recreate a familiar world, but in fact to create a new world, that they're going to create a better world, that this really is a utopian settlement. They have far and away the best organized transportation system of any of the migrants. Things are planned, they're carefully planned on. They wrecked ferries. They charge others for moving across these ferries and even the great disasters of the Mormon trail are disasters of organization. The Handcarts Brigades, which are really one of the stupidest attempts to cross the Rocky Mountains, are a highly organized piece of stupidity. <v Narrator>1856, the Mormon Church is helping to bring immigrants to Salt Lake City. Many are converts from Europe's crowded cities, people with no experience living outdoors short of funds for oxen. Brigham Young decides the faithful will pack their belongings in small handcarts to push or pull along the trail. Five handcart brigades set out. Three arrived safely. The final two are snowbound here in the mountains near the South Pass.
<v John Chislett>Many got their feet so badly frozen that they could not walk and had to be lifted from place to place, some had gotten their fingers frozen, others their ears. One woman lost her sight by the frost. Our old and infirm people began to droop and they had no sooner lost spirit and courage than death, stamp could be traced upon their features. Life went out as smoothly as a lamp ceases to burn when the oil is gone. <v Narrator>Brigham Young sends out rescue parties, but it is too late for more than 200 of the Mormons. More immigrants lose their lives in the handcart disaster than in any other single event in the trial's history. Even today, this valley is one of the most isolated and inaccessible stretches of the trail. A bronze plaque erected by modern day Mormans list the names of a small number of the handcart disaster victims. The rest are unknown. Over the coming decades, an estimated 50000 Mormons make the trip safely through their efforts. They transform the desert into a haven and a place to turn a profit.
<v Richard White>The Mormons do become the great entrepreneurs of the trail that the Mormons are the ones who go out and erect many of the ferries, many of the bridges that they make, Salt Lake City is stopping place on the way to California, where they can refurbish their wagons, where they can renew their supplies, where the sick can recover. The Mormons also send out caravans to travel the trail backward to pick up things that are useful for the Mormons that have been thrown out. This creates a great deal of antagonism. But with the Mormons set out to do is to make a profit from the people who they saw as having persecuted the. And as one migrant said of Salt Lake City, he said, it costs you nothing to get in but a great deal to get out.
<v Narrator>Most of the immigrants are headed to places other than Utah. The next section of trail leads north following the Bear River through today's southwestern Wyoming and into Idaho. In many places, U.S. Route 30 is built directly over the original trail runs. <v Narrator>A little west of Fort Hall on the Snake River, the trail splits once more. Here, a majority of the overlanders make the choice to be yourself. Their destination is California. The lure? gold. <v Terence O'Donnell>It was at Fort hall, or a few miles out of Fort Hall that the trail divided and it is said that the trail to California was marked by a pile of gold quartz. And the other trail had a sign which read to Oregon and those who could read came here.
<v Narrator>1848, the discovery of gold at Sutter's Mill near Sacramento sets off a mad people, sailors jump ship, merchants abandon their stores, farmers leave their crops. At the end of four years, the non-Indian population of California explodes from 14000 to nearly a quarter of a million. <v Richard White>From a distance, it's hard to tell the California and Oregon migration apart because what you'd see is wagon trains moving west. All you need to do, however, is move a little closer and you'll see that they're really very significant divisions between the two streams of migration, even though they're traveling along the same trail. The Oregon migration is overwhelmingly a family migration. The migration to California is not only much larger, but it's overwhelmingly male. That they intend to do is go to California quickly, make a fortune and return home. And because women are in the trains, this means that the California migration, that the whole social interaction is going to be very much the California migrants complaint costs, that the men have to do women's work.
<v Patricia Limerick>They consider the doing of the laundry sort of the peak of misery of the trip, I mean, the desert crossings are tough, but the laundry is really the the worst. I think at that moment you have one of the world's greatest case studies in how deeply implanted gender roles can be in our heads. White American males of the mid 19th century really thought that laundry was wrong for them to do, that was not what the Lord had placed them on the planet to do. <v Peter Decker>Did my first washin' except socks last evening and concluded that the washer woman earns all and more than she gets. <v Narrator>Few achieve their dreams of wealth, panning and mining for gold is hard, awful work. The 49ers fight over claims and crowd into filthy, dangerous camps. In that prime gold rush of 1849, amateur artist Jay Goldsborough brought documents the harsh day to day reality along the California Trail. Oxen die of thirst in the Nevada desert. The path is strewn with the abandoned belongings of travelers desperate to lighten their loads. So many people and animals travel the trail, it becomes clogged with trash and excrement. The gold rush years are also the time of cholera on the trail. A person could wake up healthy and show their first symptoms before noon and be dead by dusk. In 1849 and '50 20 thousand immigrants, as well as untold thousands of Native Americans, succumbed to this plague. In California, the tribal people face even greater hardships, prospectors forced them out of their homes any place there might be gold. Many are forced to work in the mines like slaves. Others are hunted down with dog. Army Adjutant General E.D. Townsend writes in his journal.
<v E.D. Townsend>If the tale of the poor wretches could be impartially related, it would exhibit a picture of cruelty, injustice and horror scarcely to be surpassed by that of the Peruvians in the time of Pizarro. <v Richard White>It's not that great cruelties aren't going to be performed in Oregon, but it's nothing compared to what the miners do with Indian peoples in California. It is also probably the only place in the in the country where I would feel comfortable using the word genocide to describe what happens to the Indian peoples who are confronted by whites. <v Narrator>From the time of the gold rush to the turn of the century, 80 percent of California's Indian population disappeared. By 1900, only seventeen thousand Native Americans survived their. Hi, I'm. Although many more people went to California and Utah, it is the Oregon migration that strikes the deepest and most resonant chords in our national mythology.
<v Patricia Limerick>I think that's a family values story here, that Oregon is a family migration story and California is a disrupted family story and just puts such a spotlight on greed, the gold rush doesn't have any softening touches to it that these people are trying to make a new life for themselves. Well, no, it was a matter of fact, they're planning to rip something out of California and go home. And Utah is hard to assimilate because the Mormons have the most clearly originating from American conditions of any religion. And yet they are, by the judgment of many mainstream Americans, quite weird. Americans love families. I think families are the building block of society. Mormons think so, too. And in the 19th century, they believed so deeply in families that they had several wives. So it's not a good basis for a national mythology. I think it might be a more accurate and honest. Well, it is a more accurate and honest one in some some ways. But I think there's every reason to choose the families on the way to Oregon over those other options.
<v Narrator>For those traveling to Oregon, the worst part of the journey is just ahead, the Snake River. In this harsh and unforgiving environment, character, fortitude and endurance are stretched to the limit. Late summer here is fiery hot and bone dry. Thirst is a constant. In places, the trail hugs the rim of the canyon, several hundred tantalizing feet above the water. <v Narrator>For the next few weeks, the immigrants follow the snake west. <v E.S. McComas>The country all the way down the Snake River is one of the most desolate and dreary wastes in the world. Light soft ground with no soil on top, looking like an ash heap, dust six inch deep and light as flower. When a man travels all day in it, he looks like a miller.
<v Elizabeth Dixon Smith Geer>You in the States know nothing about dust. It will fly so that you can hardly see the horns of your tongue yoke of oxen. It often seems that the cattle must die for the want of breath. And then in our wagons, such a spectacle. Beds, clothes, vittles and children all completely covered. <v Amelia Stewart Knight>We could not walk for dung and could not breathe for the smell of dead oxen. <v Esther McMillan Hanna>I do not think that I shall ever forget the sight of so many dead animals along the trail. It's like something out of Dante's Inferno, this barren waste of lava peopled with the skeletons of animals. <v Narrator>Weeks have elapsed since young Rebecca Ketchum wrote so enthusiastically of crossing the South Pass. Now, exhausted, hungry and thirsty. She finds the journey has become a threat to civility.
<v Rebecca Ketchum>The company are either cross or in the lowest possible spirits. If I get there, I think I shall do well, but it's not a very pleasant prospect to look forward to two or three months longer of such treatment all around. But I hope it will do us all good. We must have needed the trial. <v S.H. Taylor>If there is anything in this world that will bring to the surface a man's bad traits, it is a trip across the continent with an ox team. <v Narrator>Conditions are so bad that many diarists give up making entries. There is often dissension, quarrels, even a murder from time to time, fist fights flared over campsites, wood, food, water. <v William Cornell>In a train that was camped near us, a case of assault and battery took place last night. One man had beaten another with a fire brand across the face. We assessed twenty seven dollars damage. He turned out a cow. We considered the value about equal to the damage. The injured man took the cow. They parted and both went on their way, but perhaps not rejoicing.
<v Narrator>Death. One trail diary calls it the ruthless monster. It is all too easy to make a fatal mistake. <v Elizabeth Dixon Smith Geer>Today, when our hunters came in, they brought one dead man he had shot himself last night accidentally. He left a wife and six small children. The distress of his wife. I cannot describe. He was an excellent man and very much missed. His name was Smith Dunlap from Chicago, Illinois. <v Narrator>Seven months later, Elizabeth Dickson Smith Geer's own husband, dies in Oregon. There is always danger with the endless flooding of rivers and streams, tragedy can hit in the blink of an eye.
<v Elizabeth Stewart Warner>A boat struck a snag and drowned seven men. A woman was standing on the bank. She said to her mother, Do you see that man with the red one on? Well, that's my husband. And while she spoke, the boat struck and went down and she had to stand with and see him drive. And my heart was sore for that women. <v Narrator>Farewell Bend. A place that inspires mixed reactions here. The trail finally leaves the brutal Snake River Valley. But just ahead of the rugged Blue Mountains.
<v Terence O'Donnell>The Blue Mountains in northeastern Oregon, very precipitous ascent, descent, often the wagons had to be taken down by block and tackle. And also now winter was approaching. This is September, October, and it wouldn't do to be caught in the Blue Mountains in the winter. <v George N. Taylor>In the evening, one of the wagons upset with three persons in the wagon, no person badly injured, somewhat frightened, Miss Warford lost one tooth and fall. One young lady concluded she was killed. But after walking about for a while, she concluded she was mistaken. <v Narrator>From Farewell bend to the Columbia River. This section of the trail stands out in dramatic contrast to everything which has come before. For the first time in months, the immigrants, he stands of trees and forested hillsides. But supplies are running short, the Cayuse and other tribes, including the Nez Perce and the Umatilla, sell food and act as guides.
<v Marjorie Williams Waheneke>The Indians expected some kind of trade to get over those Blue Mountains and even coming up to Colombia, they expected a price. Tobacco was one of the things that they that they wanted. And guns. <v Harriet Loughary>Indians brought a salmon for sale, but we having never seen salmon refused it because of its color, believing it to be soiled. They tried to tell us in their language that the fish was good, but we were as ignorant of their language as of the salmon. <v Narrator>To the Cayuse, it seems strange to find people going hungry in what to them is a land of plenty. <v Marjorie Williams Waheneke>Everything that was provided to us came from the Earth, everything, whatever you take from the mountains are from the rivers anywhere. You always give thanks, you always say a prayer and you think the creator for giving you that. That's a law what they called the native title man with the Indian law that you always give thanks. You always make sure you take care of it, because if you don't take care of it, you're going to lose it.
<v Narrator>In the early trail years after crossing the blues, most Oregon immigrants veer north toward the Cayuse Indian mission. And while he. The mission was established by Marcus and Narcissa Whitman in 1836, in the decade that followed the Whitman's and their mission became living symbols of the westward progression of Christianity and America's manifest destiny. Today, the mission grounds are a national historic site. Nothing remains of the original buildings. The Cayuse had at first welcomed the Whitman's and seemed eager to learn from them, but after a decade, the missionaries have succeeded at converting only a few of the Indians. <v Terence O'Donnell>The Whitman's were a tragic couple. They were not really meant for the kind of life that they were obliged to lead here. Whitman was a man very much without humor, and he was very authoritarian. You know, it was his duty to to love the Indians, but he really it must have been a very difficult duty for him to follow.
<v Patricia Limerick>Before you can bring people into the light and give them salvation, you have to convince them of the darkness and terribleness of their sin. And if you imagine Dr. Whitman and Narcissa Whitman spending their time trying to persuade people to feel terrible, to feel awful about themselves before they can convert and have the relief of salvation, who knows what the case we're hearing by the time it had made English through the interpreters to their language. But if they heard this message that they must feel horrible that the Wittman's had come to make them feel horrible, I think you get a sense of why the Cayuse were inclined to say, oh, no, thank you. <v Richard White>Marcus Whitman becomes harsher and harsher with Indians. He doesn't appreciate their unwillingness to change, though. In fact, when you look at it from the outside, Indians are undergoing remarkable changes. But for Marcus Whitman, it's never enough. He begins to think that the only way really to change Indians is surround them with white people to give them no choice. And if Indians don't change, then he says they have nobody to blame but themselves.
<v Marcus Whitman>The white settlers will demand the soil and seek the removal of the Indians and the mission, it is useless to oppose or desire it otherwise. <v Narrator>Then in 1847, a crisis erupts. Wagons bound for the mission bring an epidemic of measles. Marcus Whitman has been trained in medicine, but his skills cannot help the Cayuse, scores die. The Cayuse begin to suspect Whitman of witchcraft. <v Patricia Limerick>When measles goes through the Whitman site, Dr. Whitman treats the whites and treats whites and treats the Cayuse, the whites recover the Cayuse die. Now we can look back and say, well, that's a difference in immune systems. And measles was a different biological event and a white body than an Indian body well, for the Cayuse, that's not an argument understanding available. So they have to begin wondering what's Whitman doing?
<v Marjorie Williams Waheneke>And it was the wagon train that came through in 1847 with the diseases. And then that's kind of the straw that broke the camel's back because the Indians didn't have any immunity to it, and then a very small group of people from the from the wild band of Cayuse people attacked the mission and they killed 11 people. Mrs. Whitman being the only woman of the group to be killed. <v Narrator>After the killings, the Cayuse burned the mission to the ground in an attempt to rid themselves of whatever is causing their people to sicken and die. <v Richard White>As the Cayuse and others see it, this is not a war against whites, it's a war against a particular group doing particular things. But of course, they have now played into these larger stories, which they have no idea what this is, is an Indian assault. It's an Indian assault on helpless women and children. This is something which for settlers can only bring back those memories of things they'd heard from their parents and grandparents. And they know the massacre, as they call it. There's only one thing that that that can provoke and that's retaliatory massacre.
<v Narrator>The attack on the Whitman mission rouses a volunteer army determined to seek revenge. The Cayuse fear they will be hunted into extinction. <v Marjorie Williams Waheneke>It was just one small group of people that did the actual killings, but yet they blamed all the Indians. You know, and that was the reason why to that. Tellicite and Thomahas and the three gave themselves up because it was the teachings of the Bible that made them realize that they couldn't have their people running forever, that they decided to turn themselves in so their people could be free once again instead of running and fear. So they turn themselves in and then they were brought to Oregon City and had the trial and then all five were hung. <v Narrator>The 1847 killings at the Whitman mission and the execution of the five Cayuse men marked the beginning of an era of mistrust and sporadic violence that soon expands throughout the northwest.
<v Patricia Limerick>There's no point of rest in your mind. It's really, I think, a great experience for any historian or any person interested in history to realize how much one can feel for Narcissa, but also how much one can feel for the cause. And I don't think you're supposed to reach resolution. I think that's something you're supposed to live the rest of your life unsettled by. And and anybody who reaches resolution is cheating. <v Narrator>The immigrants are now on the last stretch of their journey, northeastern Oregon is a high desert plateau. In the 1840s and 50s, much of this was grassland. Today, it's some of the finest wheat country in the world. Here, the trail parallels the Columbia River. As the overlanders draw nearer to the deep Columbia Gorge, crossing that river's tributaries is next to impossible. Ben, with Mount Hood in the Cascade Range looming on the horizon, there's one more burst of cross-country effort. Finally, they reached their first view of the intimidating, massive Columbia River. Here with a Columbia enters the Cascade Mountains, the rugged geography creates one last formidable challenge. A single day's travel brings them to the Dows. Near here, the Columbia River enters an impassable canyon
<v Terence O'Donnell>At the Dows, they have a choice of drowning or freezing drowning in the sense that they could go down the Columbia on rafts with their wagons, possessions and some of their livestock. The Columbia then was not the river that it is today, today. It's really a series of lakes. But then it was a wild river. And these rafts were like like matchsticks and it's torrents. And indeed, there were a number of drownings. In 1845, our a trail was pioneered over the Cascades. But that was tricky as well, because high in the Cascades in October, there was again the danger of the winter snows. So it was a rather difficult choice and in either case, arduous indeed. <v Narrator>After 1845, most immigrants choose the overland route. This trail has been blazed by Samuel Barlow an overlander, incensed at having to pay too much for a raft trip down the Columbia. No sooner has he cleared the trail than he turns it into a toll road. Immigrants are charged five dollars a wagon to experience some of the roughest road of the entire trip.
<v Amelia Stewart Knight>Traveled over 14 miles over the worst road that was ever made up and down, very steep, rough and rocky hills. These mountains are a dense forest. Many of the trees are 300 feet high and so dense to almost exclude the light of heaven. I dare not look at the top of them for fear of breaking my neck. <v Narrator>Climbing higher and higher into the mountains, they finally push through the rugged Barlowe paths on the shoulder of Mount Hood. One more extremely difficult grade and Laurel Hill, and then it's relatively easy terrain cross country to Oregon City, the entrance to the fabled Willamette Valley after several months of travel. The arrival is uneventful weather by raft or cross-country. The Oregon Trail ends here where this paper mill now stands on the banks of the Willamette. The immigrants are threadbare, filthy and dead tired, but they have made it.
<v Esther McMillan Hanna>Here we are at last in Oregon City, that long looked for a place, but we are alive and although depleted in strength from scarcity of food and exhaustive travel, we offer prayers to the good lord who has watched over us. <v Susan Armitage>Well, first of all, they're going to stop moving, and that would be very nice, really. I mean, it sounds trivial to say it, but being constantly on the move when you're trying to do repetitive things like feeding your family is a nuisance. The trip in its day by day reality was really not at all heroic, those first settlers really were stripped down to sort of their basic core of endurance when they got here. <v Terence O'Donnell>And fortunately, we have a description of them from a wonderfully literate man named Peter Bernhardt, who came here in 1843. He later went on to California and became the first governor of California. He said that when they arrived, they looked lean, lange, tough and hungry. And then he went on to say that they bred famine wherever they went. What he was referring to was the fact they got here in the autumn and then they had to go up the valley to find land to claim. And it was a terrible time of year to do it. The rains had started lots of mud and they were, of course, no hotels. So they had to impose on the settlers who were already here.
<v Narrator>Although they have reached the end of their journey, it will be months before the immigrants have new homes and anything resembling the way of life they left behind. <v Elizabeth Dixon Smith Geer>If I could tell you how we suffer, you would not believe it. You will think it's strange that we do not leave the starved place. The reason is this, the road from here to the country is impassable in the winter and because our cattle are yet very weak. <v Narrator>As soon as they are above the new arrivals set out to claim land for months, they have driven themselves forward with fantasies about what they'll find at the end of the trail. <v Terence O'Donnell>What they found was indeed a very beautiful and very fertile valley. The Willamette is about 100 miles long. It had its river, which could be used for transport and very fertile land, and it was clear the Indians had burned it over the centuries. And it is still in some of the most fertile land in the world
<v Richard White>As white settlers arrive in the Willamette with what they think they're coming into is a need and what they think they're coming into in their terms is a virgin territory and think that, in fact, when they start plowing it, that they are the first time creating a human landscape. But in fact, this is a place that has long been shaped by human hands. It's just in many of those hands of varnish that the people are dead. They're dead in the face of European epidemics. <v Narrator>That original Indian world had been replaced by a complex culture serving the needs of the fur trade. There are fringe Catholics, British traders, retired mountain men. Even Hawaiian Islanders who signed up with Hudson's Bay Company's ships. All of them have intermingled and intermarried. Even that symbol of British authority, John McLaughlin, is married to a Cree Indian woman named Marguerite. The new American arrivals find all of this shocking.
<v Susan Armitage>You have a population in which makes blood and native women play an important part politically in the relationship that the Hudson's Bay Company has with surrounding tribal groups, and it's always interested me about that is the extent of the mixed bloodedness of practically everybody in sight, it sometimes seems, and how perfectly all right that was. <v Richard White>They are not going to know what to make of it. It's a world that's neither Indian nor why. It's a world which is not clearly British, but at the same time has close ties to the Hudson's Bay Company. And it's a world that they're going to largely push aside when Americans are going to be after is creating really what amounts to a sort of racially pure white community which will replicate what they see as being the communities of the Midwest. <v Susan Armitage>Of course, I'm sort of uncomfortable with the notion that it somehow is when the white women arrive that this great change occurs. But it is true. That's what happens when the white women arrive. Things change once you get permanent settlements, then you care about who the land gets passed down to. You care about the politics of who the country belongs to. White women become the symbol of a totally different intention of the way in which the land will be used and the native peoples regarded.
<v Narrator>The land question is settled early in the Oregon Trail years. The big surprise is the role played by John and Margaret McLaughlin. Although Hudson's Bay Company policy as opposed to American settlement, the McLaughlins open the doors of Fort Vancouver to help those in distress, sending rescue parties, providing food and balancing loans to pay for supplies. <v Susan Armitage>John McLoughlin had some hard choices to make. In the early eighteen forties, the Hudson's Bay Company told him not to help these invading Americans, and yet he did. He put himself in between, I think, for genuine reasons of sympathy as well as for reasons of practicality. But he suffered from it. His career suffered, and he ended up distrusted, really by both sides. <v Narrator>As early as eighteen forty five, the small but growing colony of Americans is posing a serious threat to the British at Fort Vancouver. And that year, an expansionist candidate for president, James K. Polk, wins office demanding a border to 54 degrees 40 minutes north latitude. Sensing the resolve behind POCs aggressive campaign slogan 54 40 or fight, the British agree to a compromise. In 1846, the United States ratified the treaty with Great Britain. The Hudson's Bay Company retreats into Canada, and the northern boundary of the United States is finally and firmly established. At the forty ninth parallel.
<v Patricia Limerick>the United States held on to Oregon because Britain had so few reasons to maintain that claim. The Hudson's Bay Company was not a very productive part of the British Empire. That far, far distant post out on the Pacific Coast was so irrelevant finally to British policymakers that that's, I think with one Oregon for the United States. <v Narrator>Eventually, that symbol of British power, Dr. John McLaughlin, becomes an American citizen, ending his days in this house in Oregon City. Scorned first by the British for having helped and scorned by the Americans for being British, McLaughlin dies a bitter man. I might better have been shot 40 years ago, he wrote, than to have lived here. In 1848, spurred on by the Whitman killings, the year before, Congress grants Oregon territorial status. Now, the settlers are entitled to the protection of federal troops, although British claims to Oregon are extinguished. There remains one serious problem, because many Oregon pioneers arrived well in advance of U.S. government control titles of their farms and homes is not secure. The immigrants petitioned the government repeatedly. In 1850, Congress passes the Oregon Donation Land Act. This is the first time the government gives away land. It predates the famous Homestead Act by 14 years.
<v Richard White>Before that, American settlers bought land, you didn't get land for free from the United States government, one of the major exceptions to that generalization is going to be the Oregon donation land claim law, which not only gives away land, it gives away an incredible quantity of land. It'll give away three hundred and twenty acres to a settler who only wants to live on it and improve it for four years. And if that settler is married, it will give three hundred and twenty acres to his wife. <v Narrator>The land act that solves the immigrants title problems, but it creates other difficulties. <v Richard White>U.S. law and U.S. Indian policy is very clear. An area should not be opened up for white settlement until there have been treaties acquiring the land from the Indians. Whites arrived before there had been treaties taking the land from the Indians. And to make it even worse, the government gave them land grants, grants on land that the government itself did not own and did not have any title to.
<v Narrator>At first, because there are so few tribal people left alive in the Willamette Valley, whites encounter little resistance. But a settlement moves eastward into well-established tribal lands, hostility is inevitable. Land hungry settlers and eventually the U.S. Army fight wars with the chaos, Umatilla, Nez Perce, Walla Walla and other tribes of the Northwest. <v Antone Minthorn>There was a lot of fighting starting in 1848, about 30 years of fighting that went on because of the Oregon Trail and immigration coming in to Oregon. However, the same issue, the land. <v Patricia Limerick>General John Walk, who was the Pacific Division came into that situation and concluded that the wars had been provoked by the settlers and worse, in some ways, General Wolk thought that a number of Oregonian's white Oregonian's were promoting the wars because they were marketing opportunities, because they brought in the army and the army provided a market. And the one thing Oregon had a terrible time getting was a market for its products
<v Narrator>In 1855 on what today is the campus of Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington. The United States holds a treaty council with the tribes of the Interior Northwest to terminate Indian title to the land. Through the watercolors and sketches of army artist Gustafsson, we are allowed a rare glimpse into the personalities of the tribal leaders who are negotiating for their people's future. <v Antone Minthorn>The argument that the government negotiators used was that this immigration is coming and there are a lot of people, white people, that are going to come in when Indians and white people get together. There is a fight, always is a fight, and the- the Indians end up losing. <v Narrator>In exchange for a new way of life on reservations, the tribes are being asked to give up their traditional homelands, hunting territories and burial grounds, places which hold deep religious and cultural significance.
<v Antone Minthorn>The Indians did not want to sign any treaty. They resisted, particularly in the interior northwest, the treaty there took about two weeks of intensive negotiating and at times of almost going to war right there. There was this thing called Manifest Destiny that white people were ordained to develop these resources and they had this vision that they were going to use all these new resources, this water, the timber, the land to build this empire. There was a real basic conflict there. The Indian philosophy is that the land is made by the creator and only the creator can make decisions about what to do with it. <v Stikus of the Cayuse>If your mother were here in this country, who gave you birth and suckled you, and while you were suckling, some person came and sold your mother. How would you feel then? This is our mother, this country.
<v Narrator>After two weeks of intense pressure, Looking-Glass of the Nez Perzw one of the most outspoken treaty opponents, agrees to sign. <v Antone Minthorn>Looking-Glass ended up signing the Treaty of 1855 in the Cayuse's and followed suit, as did other tribes, but I think that they were coerced into signing that there are so many immigrants come in and there was a threat of military action if they did not sign. <v Narrator>At the 1855 treaty signing, forty five thousand square miles of Indian land passes into the hands of the United States government, but the signing of treaties does not mean an end to the hostilities. <v Patricia Limerick>It is a very common pattern in American history to think of the Plains wars as the real wars, and that Sue is the people who really fought for their territory. But the Pacific Northwest would seem to me just as important. It's just that they're not going to have as clear a chronology and as dramatic a plot as the Plains Wars.
<v Antone Minthorn>There were pitched battles that were fought with the United States Army, the women, the children, the old people, the warriors that died at that time, they did make a valiant effort, a sacrifice to save the homeland. I recognize that the United States is. A great world power and that that this nation was built. Uh. On these homelands of these people. I think that all people, not just the Indian nations, but the United States as a whole, needs to recognize that. <v Narrator>By the end of the 19th century, all of the tribes of the Northwest have been forced onto reservations and Oregon's Indian population has fallen to less than 5000.
<v Narrator>In the early years, once they overcome the difficulties of establishing themselves in a new place, most pioneers settle in and begin to prosper. The letters home help attract new immigrants. <v Nathaniel Ford>We're in the best country I have ever seen for farming and stock raising. My family are healthier than they ever were before. My wife has fine health and weighs heavier than she has for some 15 years. I have got entirely clear of the dyspepsia and can do more labor than I have for 15 years. <v Narrator>The immigration to Oregon reaches its peak in the late 1840s. By the eighteen fifties, it begins to fall off due to the Indian wars and the stronger appeal of California. In 1853, Oregon territory is divided, the area north of the Columbia becomes Washington territory. In 1859, Oregon achieved statehood, but the immigrant struggles are not over yet.
<v Susan Armitage>Most of them had fine farming experiences, the land was all that they expected it to be, and so they did grow fine crops. The main problem was who were they going to sell them to? And so long as settlers were coming in at a good rate and then when the California gold rush occurred, there was a market. But the bad years were the civil war years when the rest of the nation was preoccupied with things far away. And here was this little colony of people way out in the West cut off from any continuing migration of new people. And that's the point of worst economic circumstance. <v Narrator>After the Civil War and through the rest of the century, the Northwest experiences a period of economic growth with the coming of the railroad, fortunes are made and agriculture, timber and mining.
<v Narrator>But at some of the early pioneers reached the end of their lives, many Oregonians realized that their state's history is being lost. The Oregon Pioneer Association is founded in 1873. <v Terence O'Donnell>They would meet every year at the state fairgrounds. And it was a great event, it was in the morning, there was a parade and then there were prayers and there was an enormous you farm type noon dinner. And in the evening they built a great bonfire and sit around and relate their experiences. And they did, to some extent, human nature being what it is, romanticize the experience. <v Susan Armitage>Now, if there was ever an occasion in which one might be tempted to add a few more dramatic details to what might have been a very tedious, long trip, surely swapping stories over the campfire and then maybe writing them down for the association's record would have been an almost irresistible occasion.
<v Richard White>Now, no matter how good things turned out in Oregon, for most of them, it was not going to be probably as good as they imagined it might have been. So in the end, the way to recapture the freshness, that moment when everything might still seem possible was to go back to the journey itself. <v Susan Armitage>And I think that's where a lot of the Indian attacks come from. Drama that everybody can understand, not the drama or the I suppose you'd have to say, the lack of drama of the simple endurance of getting up and doing your 10 or 15 miles every day. <v Richard White>If you go back to what you actually accomplished, it becomes a much more mixed story. It becomes a story in which all the hardships, in fact, didn't pay off. But on the journey itself, the hardships are all worthwhile because around the corner, over the mountains, lies, Eden lies a new opportunity. <v Susan Armitage>In one of the early campfires of the Oregon Pioneers Association, the wife of one pioneer spoke up and she started talking about how difficult the first few years were in Oregon, that the women wore buckskins just like the Indian women. And until they got crops really established, they didn't have much food. She started to say how it really was, and the men shut her up and said, no, we don't want it. I want to talk about the bad years we want to talk about. Let's talk about the good things. Let's not talk about the bad things.
<v Narrator>The completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1869 signals the end of the Overland Trail as the primary route to the far west. Although immigration by wagon continues well into the 20th century, the nation is increasingly infatuated with the speed and power of the machine age. The image of pioneer families in ox drawn wagons was quickly fading from view. Then in 1996, former Overlander Ezra Meeker sets out to retrace the route eastward. Michael had gone west with his young wife and infant son in 1852, now at the age of 76. He is on a mission to raise funds to commemorate the old Oregon Trail. Through Meeker's efforts, monuments are erected, local histories are written and national interest revives.
<v Ezra Meeker>Here was a classic heroic men and women who fought a veritable battle, a battle that rested half a continent from its native race and from a mighty nation contending for mastery in the unknown regions of the West, whose fame was scantily acknowledged and whose name was already almost forgotten and whose track the battleground of peace was on the verge of impending oblivion. Shall let's become an accomplished fact. The answer to this is this expedition to perpetuate the memory of the old Oregon Trail. <v Narrator>Ezra Meeker is a myth maker, his Oregon Trail story, written in bold strokes, ignores the complex realities of the trail experience. But his version quickly becomes fact in the minds of his audience for the next two decades. Meeker crisscrosses the continent, continuing his efforts to memorialize the immigrants and to preserve the route of the trail. In 1923, the Oregon Trail inspired Hollywood film director James Kruse to create a prototype epic Western. The covered wagon features all of the cliches that are beginning to crystallize into the modern myth of the trail. There are intrepid pioneer families, the struggle against nature and battles with treacherous Indians. For the next half century, Americans learn about the Oregon Trail primarily through Hollywood's dramatic fantasy's.
<v Patricia Limerick>The pattern seems to be quite clearly that whites injured themselves more than they were injured by the Indians, encounters of violence were quite rare. And yet that's what got passed on to the movie makers and novel writers of the 20th century. What we got were films upon, films of wagons circled and Indians riding in circles around that, brutally attacking. My sense of why that happened is that there is such a tremendous American need to feel justified in the conquest to make it look that the Indians attacked us. We're not the invaders. We're not the conquerors. The Indians were so cruel and so mean that we had to defend ourselves. <v Narrator>During the 20th century, popular understanding of the Oregon Trail has been based largely on a fiction. A fiction designed to leave those who identify with the hero's feeling good about themselves and their history. But for those cast in the role of villains, the perpetuation of that fiction has been harmful.
<v Antone Minthorn>When Indians find out what happened to their ancestors, the taking of the land and the killing of the Indians, the hangings, the wars, these things bother the Indians very much. In my case, when I when I begin to understand what had happened, when I was when I was very young, I think the first thing that that comes to you is just this anger, this this rage, and that anger and frustration stays within you for a long time, maybe forever. <v Patricia Limerick>The timing is right for rethinking and has been for the last 10, 15 years, I think, because the consequences of 19th century actions are so clear and so much a dilemma that we still live with, Indian people did not disappear. We still have to reckon with our relationship to the invaded and conquered people. And there's no way to say, well, it was certainly unfortunate and tragic, but it's it's over. It's not over. There's every day's newspaper has some way of telling us it's not over. What they started up in the 19th century. We are still trying to figure out.
<v Antone Minthorn>I hear people, particularly in high levels of government, say, well, you've got to educate us, the senators, the Congress, the president, the United States. Well, that's a hard chore because of the changing of administration every four years or every eight years, you've always got to go through the same thing. So why don't the education system of the United States educate the children as to what the situation is so we don't have to educate them when they become the leaders of this country. They've got to be taught that and then a real healing process will take place. <v Richard White>It's not so much that we have to erase all the heroics, all of the accomplishments of people who came west. But we have to, in effect, put it into this larger context. That for all the things that they carried with them, that could be ennobling, all of the things that were admirable, they also carried with the seeds of some things which still trouble our society a great deal. And it doesn't do us a service by pretending that they're not there, by romanticizing this kind of a past. In the end, we have to tell stories about ourselves, but we have to tell stories that affect help us to live in a modern world and shape a better world. Those stories we can't just make up. They have to be as complete as possible. They have to show the shadows as well as the light.
In Search of the Oregon Trail
Part 2
Producing Organization
Oregon Public Broadcasting
Nebraska Educational Television Network
Contributing Organization
The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia (Athens, Georgia)
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Program Description
"IN SEARCH OF THE OREGON TRAIL is a 3-hour documentary film created for national prime time release through the Public Broadcasting Service and accompanied with extensive educational outreach. Native American scholars, noted historians of the American West, emigrants' journals, breathtaking photography and historical reenactments combine to tell the real story of the migration of hundreds of thousands of Americans along the route known as the Oregon Trail. Actor Stacy Keach narrates this compelling story. The documentary is an effort to challenge the myths about this period of America's history, to tell the story more completely, including the Native American point of view, and to focus on the reality of the westward migrations as it was lived by the emigrants. While the popular story of the Oregon Trail is well known from Hollywood films and television, the story of the actual experience is much more compelling and complex--perspectives that are rarely communicated in grade school history. "In-school videotape rights accompanied the broadcast, and teachers had access to detailed teaching materials through the PBS Internet Website, PBS ONLINE. Since the April broadcast, thousands of visitors have accessed the OREGON TRAIL Site, and have utilized the teacher's section. 28,000 printed teacher's guides were distributed to Oregon and Washington teachers directly. The program received well above average national audience ratings and positive press coverage."--1996 Peabody Awards entry form.The documentary is split into two parts. Part one of the program begins by introducing the people that emigrated along the Oregon Trail and the Native American tribes who encountered them. The program strives to tell the true, complex story of the Oregon Trail, rather than the myth of it that has been solidified by popular culture. The narrator discusses the Oregon Trail's significance to American culture, and the impact it had on Native Americans. The program follows the physical route of the trail, and it uses actual emigrants' journals and drawings in order to describe what the experience was like for the travelers. Historians detail the types of people that made the journey and what the beginning of the journey was like, and why settlers chose Oregon. They also discuss the disregard for Native American rights and agency. The next segment covers the leg of the journey across the prairie, the challenges and dangers it presented, and the day to day routine, and the following portion describes the hunting of the buffalo and the impact it had on Native American communities, specifically, the Pawnee, and the conflicts between settlers and Indians. Next the program discusses the settlers' relationships with other Native American tribes they encountered, like the Lakota Sioux, also covering the Treaty of 1851, and the increasing violence between Indians and the U.S. military. The program details the new challenges settlers faced as they reached the Rocky Mountains. Native American scholars discuss the continuing impact the Oregon Trail has on Native American people. Part two of the program explores the second half of the journey west and how the myth of the Oregon Trail was created. The first segment focuses on the first two white women to make the journey, and the next segment discusses conflicts between American settlers and British fur traders and the concept of Manifest Destiny. Another segment discusses pregnancy and childbirth on the trail. The narrator talks about trails to destinations other than Oregon, like California and Utah. Another segment focuses on the migration of the Mormon people, the communities they formed, and the disaster of the Handcart Brigades. Next, the historians discuss the trail to California, the Gold Rush, cholera outbreaks, and genocide against Native Americans in California. The program covers the harsh conditions of the journey along the Snake River Valley. The program discusses violent conflicts between Christian missionaries and the Calliou tribe. The program covers the final leg of the journey, until the settlers arrive in Oregon City, and the process of claiming land and starting their new lives. Historians discuss how permanent settlements changed the culture in Oregon and the extension of United States territory to include Oregon. Native American scholars discuss the hostility between white settlers and Native Americans and the treaties that took land away from native people. The narrator discusses Oregon achieving statehood, and how the settlers tended to romanticize their journey when telling stories. Historians discuss efforts to record history of the trail and how public interest was revitalized, and the program details the early Hollywood depictions of the Oregon Trail, solidifying the myth of the trail. Finally, Native American scholars discuss the legacy of the trail and striving to fight harmful misconceptions.
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Producing Organization: Oregon Public Broadcasting
Producing Organization: Nebraska Educational Television Network
AAPB Contributor Holdings
The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia
Identifier: cpb-aacip-ef866c7c5e0 (Filename)
Format: U-matic
Duration: 2:00:00
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Chicago: “In Search of the Oregon Trail; Part 2,” 1996-04-29, The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 27, 2022,
MLA: “In Search of the Oregon Trail; Part 2.” 1996-04-29. The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 27, 2022. <>.
APA: In Search of the Oregon Trail; Part 2. Boston, MA: The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from