On Saturday, June 22, 2019, we dedicated a new sculpture at the Josephy Center on Main Street in Joseph, Oregon. Two years of preparation and the artisanship of Doug Hyde gave us a work he calls ‘etweyé·wise—which is an old word meaning “I return from a hard journey” in the Nez Perce language.
|Sculptor Doug Hyde and the Returning Nez Perce Woman|
The walwa’ma band of the Nez Perce was forced out of this country in 1877, leading to a war in which the Indians fended off government armies for almost 1400 miles through some of the most rugged country in the West. They were within 40 miles of Canada when the armies caught the cold and hungry people. A promised return to the West became eight years in exile in Kansas and Indian Territory—what the Nez Perce still call the “hot country.”
The Nez Perce War survivors were allowed to return to the West in 1885, but not to the Wallowa Valley. Some went to Lapwai in Idaho, others, including Joseph and his close followers, went to the Colville Reservation in Washington, where descendants remain in exile today. Other descendants are scattered on the Umatilla Reservation in Oregon, at Lapwai in Idaho, in Canada, and on reservations and towns and cities across the country.
Artist Doug Hyde is of Nez Perce, Assiniboine, and Chippewa descent. He grew up in Oregon and in Idaho and studied and eventually taught at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, and now lives in Arizona. His “Chief Joseph” is at the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. and the Clearwater Casino in Idaho. Doug has worked and is working with many tribes to tell tribal stories in art.
On the dedication day we had big drums and tribal members from Lapwai and Umatilla, and others from the Colville Reservation in Washington. They–the walwa’ma band descendants, sang and prayed to open the dedication ceremony, the big drums played, there were speeches and tears–a local women, a Chief Joseph Days rodeo queen from 1952, came with a small object wrapped in cloth which she wanted to return to tribal members. It was a mortar found somewhere along the Snake River years ago. She thought it rightfully belonged to the Nez Perce people. And then, as is customary in Indian country, we shared a meal, including salmon of course.
As we ate salmon and watermelon and enjoyed each other’s company, people–native and non-native–went to stand by the bronze Nez Perce woman and have their pictures taken, or stood back from the granite slab where her cutout welcomes her home to get their own image of ‘etweyé·wise, this return from a hard journey.
Please, if you are in the territory this summer, come by to see us–and to look at the Nez Perce woman as she steps back into her ancestral home.
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