Search

Cultural History Pages:

Search for a tour by category:

Search site:

Latah Creek

Clustered along the creek were once several pleasantly shaded frame houses; surrounding them were small orchards, pasture lots, and truck gardens, many of them owned by Chinese and Japanese. This district was distinctly suburban in character and seemed isolated from the residences of Spokane proper, which cling to the rim of the canyon, their terraced lawns creeping timidly a short distance down the precipitous sides.

Latah Creek was known as Hangman Creek, the name deriving from the hanging of Qualchan, a Yakama chief, by Colonel George Wright in 1858. In 1855, after the Walla Walla council, Kamiakin and other Yakama chiefs warned the intruding white men to stay out of the Yakama country or be killed. Shortly thereafter, Qualchan, a nephew of Kamiakin, with five other Native Americans encountered and killed several white men on the Yakima River. For this act Qualchan became a marked man.

In the guerilla warfare of the next three years, both Qualchan and his father, Owhi, took leading parts. Shortly after the Horse Slaughter Camp incident (see Tour la), Colonel Wright encamped on Latah Creek and summoned those Native American chiefs who had not yet made satisfactory treaties to a council. In response Owhi rode alone into the camp to discuss the possibility of peace. Having been led to disclose where Qualchan was camping, Owhi was promptly seized and put in irons. Then Wright sent a message to Qualchan that unless the son surrendered within four days the father would be hanged. What happened after this cannot be exactly determined. In his report for September 24 Wright stated briefly: “Qualchan came to see me at 9 o’clock, and at 9:15 he was hung.” It seems possible, however, that when Qualchan came to the camp he was unaware that his father was a prisoner; perhaps he had been sent there by Kamiakin to discover the kind of treatment Wright intended to mete out to the recalcitrant Yakamas. Numerous objections were raised to the name Hangman Creek and, consequently, the state legislature changed the name to Latah Creek.