David Malin Cortez

Compiled by Stephenie Flora
copyright 2004


David Malin Cortez, 9, mother was a Cree Indian and father was a Spaniard working in the mountains; was called Marshall when he first arrived at the Mission but Narcissa named him David Malin Cortez; Nicholas Finlay escorted him to Fort Walla Walla after the massacre.  He was left at Fort Walla Walla with the priests.

    "After attending to the duries of the morning, and I was nearly done hearing my children read, two native women came in bringing a miserable looking child, a boy between three and four years old, and wished me to take him.  He is nearly naked, and they said his mother had thrown him away and gone off with another Indian.  His father is a Spaniard and is the mountains.  It has been living with its grandmother the winter past, who is an old and adulterous woman and has no compassion for it.  Its mother has several others by different white men, and on by an Indian, who are treated miserably and scarcely subsist.  My feelings were greatly excited for the poor child and felt a great disposition to take him.  Soon after the old grandmother came in and said she would take him to Walla Walla and dispose of him, there and accordingly took him away.  Some of the women who were in, compassionated his case and followed after her and would not let her take him away, and returned with him again this eve to see what I would do about him.  I told here I could not tell because my husband was gone.  What I fear most is that after I have kept him awhile some of his relatives will come and take him away and my labour will be lost or worse than lost.  I, however, told them they might take him away and bring him again in the morning, and in the meantime I would think about it.  The care of such a child is very great at first-dirty, covered with body and head lice and starved-his clothing is a part of a skin dress that does not half cover his nakedness, and a small bit of skin over his shoulders.
    The little boy was brought to me again this morning and I could not shut my heart against him.  I washed, oiled and bound up his wounds, and dressed him and cleaned his head of lice.  Before he came his hair was cut close to his head and a strip as wide as your finger was shaved from ear to ear, and also from his forehead to his nick, crossing the other at right angles.  This the boys had done to make him look ridiculous.  He had a burn on his foot where they said he had been pushed into the fire for the purpose of gratifying their malicious feelings, and because he was friendless.  He feels, however, as if he had got into a strange place, and has tried to run away once or twice.  He will soon get accustomed, I think, and be happy, if I can keep him away from the native children.  So much about the boy Marshall (note: Narcissa renamed him David Malin Cortez).  I can write no more tonight.
   But the constant watch and care and anxiety of a missionary mother cannoth be known by them except by experience.  Sister g. has two of her own and I have three half-breeds.  I believe I feel all the care and watchfulness over them that I should if they were my own.  I am sure they are a double tax upon my patience and perseverance, paticularly Helen; she wants to rule every one she sees.  She keep me on guard continually lest she should get the upper hand of me.  The little boy appears to be of a pretty good disposition, and I think will be easy to govern.  He proves to be younger than I first thought he was; he is not yet three years old-probably he is the same age Helen was when she came here.  His old grandmother has been in to see him today, but appears to have no disposition to take him.  She wanted I should give her something to eat every now and then, because i had got the child to live with me and take care of, also old clothes and shoes.  So it is with them; the moment you do them a favour you place yourself under lasting obligations to them and must continue to give to keep their love strong towards you." [excerpts from letter from Narcissa Whitman to Sister Jane, March 1, 1842]

As the boats swept into midstream one of the Sager girls saw little David Malin, the eight-year-old Spanish-Cree weeping on the shore.  None of the adults in the boats wanted him, as had Narcissa in his early childhood.  He was left in the care of the remaining priests.  [The Whitman Massacre of 1847 by Catherine, Elizabeth and Matilda Sager]

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