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Lucullus Virgil McWhorter Papers 1848–1945, Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections

Collection Profile

Lucullus McWhorter (1860–1944), a rancher in the Yakima River valley of Washington State, was deeply and significantly involved in preserving the cultural heritage of the first peoples of the Columbia Plateau, particularly the Yakama and Nez Perce peoples. As an author, amateur historian, linguist, and anthropologist, McWhorter collected stories, artifacts, drawings, maps, photographs, and printed materials in an effort to preserve the history and culture of these indigenous peoples. He captured photographic images of individuals and landscapes, including battle sites; he documented Indian-government relations in Eastern Washington; and he preserved evidence, including individual recollections, of Indian wars such as the Nez Perce War of 1877 and the Yakima Indian War of 1855–1858. McWhorter's published works include Yellow Wolf: His Own Story (1940), Tragedy of the Wahk-Shum: Prelude to the Yakima Indian War, 1855–56 (1937), Hear Me, My Chiefs! Nez Perce History and Legend (published posthumously, 1952), and The Crime against the Yakimas (1913). McWhorter himself is the subject of Steven Ross Evans's book, Voice of the Old Wolf: Lucullus Virgil McWhorter and the Nez Perce Indians (1991).

The McWhorter papers are an essential and valued resource for tribal communities of the Columbia Plateau, for the scholarly community at Washington State University, and for researchers anywhere in the world investigating questions about the heritage and history of Columbia Plateau peoples. The papers consist of approximately 26 linear feet of material. In conjunction with McWhorter's photographs (the L.V. McWhorter Photograph Collection) and his collection of books and other printed materials (the McWhorter Collection), also held by Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections (MASC), as well as his artifact collection, held by the Museum of Anthropology at WSU, these papers preserve rare and unique evidence of lives, lifeways, and "lost" history. The collection is widely and intensively used.

The importance of Washington State University's McWhorter collections, as well as their direct connection to the university's geographical location, makes them extremely valuable for outreach and teaching purposes. For example, they were connected directly to the WSU curriculum during 2005–2006, when graduate students in the public history program curated an exhibit in MASC featuring items from all of the McWhorter collections, "Learning Each Other's Language: L.V. McWhorter and the Columbia Plateau Tribes." They were responsible for selecting the items and used the papers, photographs, and printed materials to conduct research for their interpretive texts. After this exhibit, images of items from the McWhorter artifact collection were added to MASC's digital collections, helping to re-establish and preserve connections to the papers and photographs.

Collection profile: Cheryl Gunselman
Overview: Laila Miletic-Vejzovic
Illustrations: Jeff Kuure

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