Tribal peoples lived in this area for thousands of years before the coming of Lewis and Clark in 1805-06. This site was part of the Walla Walla and Cayuse peoples’ traditional hunting, fishing, and gathering grounds. The Walla Walla Valley is part of the ceded area of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, which is comprised of Cayuse, Umatilla, and Walla Walla peoples. These tribes reserved inherent rights in the valley under the provisions of the Walla Walla Treaty of 1855.
Historically, the Cayuse and Walla Walla annually migrated from winter villages to other seasonal villages, beginning with fishing and root gathering in the spring, berry gathering in the summer, and fishing and big game hunts in the fall, along with occasional treks across the Rockies for buffalo.
A Cayuse village was located about three miles east of here along the Walla Walla River just above the Whitman Mission at Waiilatpu. Walla Walla village sites were on the lower Walla Walla River, nearer the Columbia and along the Touchet River.
For thousands of years, local tribes traveled, traded, and intermarried with neighboring tribes. Starting in the 1700’s, the acquisition of fine horses enabled a wider range of travel. With the arrival of the trappers and traders at Fort Nez Perces, intermarriage with non-Indians began.
The lower portion of the Frenchtown Historic Site consisting of approximately 30 acres lying between Old Highway 12 and the Walla Walla River will be administered by the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation under an agreement with the Frenchtown Historical Foundation. The Saint Rose of Lima Mission Church was erected there in 1876, and its partial restoration is planned.
THE GROUND SPEAKS
I wonder if the ground has anything to say? I wonder if the ground is listening to what is said?…I hear what the ground says. It says it is the Great Spirit that placed me here. The Great Spirit tells me to take care of the Indians, to feed them aright.
The Great Spirit appointed the roots to feed the Indians on. The water says the same thing. The Great Spirit directs me, Feed the Indians well. The grass says the same thing, Feed the horses and cattle.
The ground says, The Great Spirit has placed me here to produce all that grows on me, tree and fruit. The same way the ground says, It was from me man was made. The Great Spirit in placing men on earth, desired them to take good care of the ground and to do each other no harm.
--Young Chief (We-ah-Te-na-tee-ma-nay), 1855 Treaty Council
More information on the Cayuse, Walla Walla, and Umatilla can be found at www.tamastslikt.org or by visiting Tamastslikt Cultural Institute.