About 20 miles south of Spokane stands a monument to one of many sad stories of the subjugation of American Indians by the U.S. government. In 1858, the U.S. Cavalry was engaged in open military combat in eastern Washington with numerous Indian bands, despite treaties having been signed three years earlier that ceded much of the state to the United States. Led by Col. George Wright, the U.S. forces had all but defeated five tribes in the region, which included the killing of 800 Indian horses. Facing overwhelming odds, the indigenous forces decided to end the conflict.
A Yakama Nation warrior Qualchan (also called Qualchew) surrendered to Wright’s forces on Sept. 25, 1858, at a spot near an open meadow and a small creek the Indians called Latah. Though Qualchan/Quelchew surrendered while bearing a white flag, he was hung within 15 minutes from a tree. That was followed with the hanging of six Palouse warriors the next day. The incidents, brutal in their boldness, typified the period of conquest in Washington. The killing of the Qualchan/Qualchew was not the only hanging incident of tribal leaders during these turbulent years.
To honor the significant event in the settling of the region, local leaders in Spokane erected a granite monument at the spot where it is believed the hangings took place. The creek today is called Hangman. It flows into Spokane. There is even a Spokane golf course, Hangman Valley, bearing the name of the incidents that took place in the mid-1800s. You can read an informative 1997 story about the creek’s name that was published by the Spokesman Review newspaper.
The day I visited the marker, a half-dozen other visitors, some American Indians, also had pulled over to photograph the spot. The location today is marked by a nondescript historic location sign on the rural road with no description of the events that took place here. The only information is what is inscribed on the stone. Given Americans’ love of Western history, I believe this location will grow in popularity in coming years, creating opportunities to tell the story of this state and the West. Perhaps this spot could benefit from an additional cultural interpretive sign and a little slick marketing by the city. History can be good for business, after all. I can point to hundreds of examples making this business case.
(Click on each photo to see a larger picture on a separate picture page.)