Willamette’s earliest roots can be traced to the interactions between Methodist missionaries and the Native peoples of the Willamette Valley and the Pacific Northwest. A lack of cultural understanding on the part of the missionaries contributed significantly to the failure of the mission school that was located on what became today's Willamette’s campus. The missionaries founded the Oregon Institute in 1842 to serve the children of white settlers, and the Indian Manual Training School ceased operations in 1844. The Oregon Institute, which later became Willamette University, occupied the same building as the Indian School, until it was destroyed by fire in 1872.
In the present, it is the hope of the Willamette community that a dialogue between the university and the Willamette Valley tribes of today can be continued and nurtured. Through the work of our faculty, staff, students and community partners, this dialogue has the opportunity to build positive relationships that will last many years to come – and set an example for inclusivity and tolerance.
First in the West, first for the future
In becoming thoughtful citizens of the world, Willamette students recognize the hardships faced by previous generations, actively contribute to addressing the issues that face the world today and prepare for the challenges to come. Being “future first” not only means preparing a vision for what we hope to become, it is also involves an understanding and appreciation for where we have been.
As the Willamette community, we ready students through a series of firsts: