Published on September 11, 2013 by Amy
Qualchan (d. September 24, 1858) was a 19th-century Yakama chieftain who participated in the Yakima War with his uncle Kamiakin and other chieftains. Shortly after the Walla Walla council in 1855, in which Yakama leaders warned the United States against further settlement of the area, Qualchan and five others killed six settlers on the Yakima River. On September 23, U.S. Indian Agent A.J. Bolon was murdered by a band of Yakama while traveling along The Dalles to discuss the incident with Kamiakin. Qualchan was accused of leading the group which attacked him, although historians such as A.J. Splawn insist Bolon’s murder was carried out by Me-cheil, also a nephew of Kamiakin.
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Becoming a wanted fugitive by U.S. authorities, he and his father Owhi participated in guerilla warfare against the US Army for over three years. Qualchan would frequently attack prospectors, miners and others, selling their supplies to The Dalles and other settlements in exchange for weapons and calicos.
In mid-March 1856, he and Chief Leschi led an attack against Connell’s Prairie but were driven back by militiamen under Gilmore Hays.
According to Assistant Adjutant General W.W. Mackall, in a letter addressed to the Department of the Pacific at Fort Vancouver on June 18, 1858, “Kamiakin and Qualchan, cannot longer be permitted to remain at large or in the country, they must be surrendered or driven away, and no accommodation should be made with any who will harbor them; let all know that asylum given to either of these troublesome Indians, will be considered in future as evidence of a hostile intention on the part of the tribe”.
Following the Horse Camp Slaughter, Owhi visited Colonel George Wright at his camp on Latah Creek intending to negotiate peace. During this meeting, he was apparently coerced into disclosing the location of his son’s camp, then seized and put in irons. Wright then sent a message to Qualchan’s camp threatening to hang his father in four days if he did not surrender.
What happened after this point is unclear; however, Qualchan did eventually arrive at Wright’s encampment. There are conflicting accounts: that he rode into camp alone, that he was with his father at the time of the his capture, or that he was accompanied by his wife Whist-alks and brother Lo-Kout. Some say he was captured in a brief gun battle while his wife and brother managed to escape. Qualchan’s sister Mary Moses said Lo-kout and Qualchan’s wife were captured, but released when the Spokane Indians assured the soldiers that they were no relation of Qualchan.
It has been speculated that Qualchan may have been unaware that his father had been taken prisoner and instead had been sent by Kamiakin to determine from Wright the treatment the Yakama would receive if they surrendered. The only record of the meeting exists in a report made by Colonel Wright who wrote “Qualchan came to see me at 9 o’clock, at 9:15 he was hung”. His father was shot several days later attempting to escape from the camp.
Qualchan had two younger brothers, Lo-kout (Quo-to-we-not) and Les-high-hite (Pe-noh), and several sisters: Wah-yah-kon, Quo-mollah, Sah-mah-yas, Si-en-wat, San-clow (Mary Moses) and Yam-kumkt. Chief Moses married Quo-mollah and, after Quo-mollah’s death, San-clow; the latter (surviving until 1939!) gave an account of these things in Mary Moses’s Statement.
According to the United States Geological Survey, Latah Creek is officially named Hangman Creek as a result of Qualchan’s execution.
A popular golf course was built in the area where he was hanged, and named in his honor. Qualchan is featured in a short story by author Sherman Alexie.