Anne Richardson and General Howard

My friend Anne Richardson passed away a few years ago. Her husband, Dennis Nyback, brought a box of her books and notebooks to the Josephy Library about a year ago, and then he passed away.

I didn’t write a eulogy for Anne at the time of her passing, although I have told bits of her fascinating life story to a few people—the little bits that I know. Now I feel remiss at not having written something sooner, maybe written something before her passing, because of all the people I know, Anne Richardson knew more about General O.O. Howard than anyone else. Hers might have been a valuable voice to anyone trying to untangle the story of Howard and his role in the Nez Perce War.

Maybe it still can be heard—as we have just turned up the many folders of Howard material that was part of Dennis’s gift to the Josephy Library. There are typed notes and hand-written notes, notes clipped in batches and notes filling entire yellow and white pads. All focused on O.O. Howard. Anne once told me she’d read his diaries, and all of the post-Civil War stuff he wrote to finance his retirement. (That, I learned from Anne, was often the way retired generals and statesmen financed the rest of their lives.)

Let me tell you a little bit about Anne, which might make you more curious about what she knew about General Howard.

Anne grew up in Portland, where her dad was a Methodist minister. Their close neighbors were the Hockett family, which had strong ties to Wallowa County. Anne and her childhood Hockett friend spent some summers together in the Wallowa.

I miss pieces of the story here, but Anne dropped out of high school and worked as a waitress in Portland until someone suggested she take the GED test. Which led to a college scholarship at a big-time Eastern college. She got married, had a child, and did not complete her B.A. degree, but a few years later talked her way into the graduate program in film at Columbia University. And there she did get a degree, a Master of Fine Arts in Film. So, no high school or undergraduate college diploma, but an MFA.

Thinking back to her childhood in the Wallowa, Anne decided that she would make a movie about Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce. After some amount of time and research, she decided that the story was not hers to tell, that it should be left to a Native filmmaker. And she began the extensive research on Howard. She, a white woman filmmaker, could tell his story.

Back in Fishtrap days, Anne spent a couple of weeks in Wallowa County with local school teachers and students, giving them her take on the basics of filmmaking. But by then she had retreated from making a film on Howard. She had in mind a museum display, and as a trial she gave us an evening of Howard in the M and M building that was then a kind of performance space. She had a photo of the one-armed Civil War general that she’d found in the Oddfellows Hall, and she made a big canvas map on the floor that showed his travels. Anne was convinced that Howard was not a racist, but a religious zealot, who could not understand the Nez Perce who did not accept his Christianity. The African-American “freedmen” he’d been in charge of before building Howard University landed him in trouble—and his friend, General Sherman, sent him West—had at least been Christian.

Enough said. Anne knew things, and because her late husband had the kindness to pass her notes on to us, we have written records of some of her knowing. We invite anyone with an interest in the General who, almost inadvertently, got drawn into the Nez Perce affair, to spend time with the Anne Richardson materials at the Josephy Library.

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Community Forest on the East Moraine

On Saturday, I made the hike up the west-side trail on the East Moraine of Wallowa Lake. This is a piece of land that the Wallowa Land Trust has worked very hard over many years to keep away from developers. Slowly—over the years, and with the support of the County Commissioners, the Oregon State Park, and Wallowa Resources, Land Trust director Kathleen Ackley and her staff have pulled together easements and ownership to get this marvelous piece of geological, geographical, and tribal heritage land into a “community partnership” of owners and minders.

It’s called the “East Moraine Community Forest,” and the development of its management plan, shepherded by the Land Trust, includes the Nez Perce Tribe. On Saturday, Nakia Williamson, Cultural Resources Program Director for the Tribe, accompanied about 20 of us on the moraine hike. We stopped midway and at the top and Nakia told us about the importance of “The Lake.” What we call Wallowa Lake was so culturally and spiritually important to the local wal?wá ma band of Nez Perce, and to other bands who gathered in summer to harvest the sockeye salmon, that it was just called “The Lake”—iwé tem in the Nez Perce language.

Those of us privileged to live close to it now can understand. In my half century here, I’ve fished in it a few times, skated on it more than I’ve fished, watched children and grandchildren learn to swim in it, and now make swimming in it every possible day part of my summer. I can see the East Moraine from my home in Joseph, and I can summon the sight of iwé tem from here—and from anywhere else in the world where I find myself thinking about home,

The story of the sockeye salmon is, to this point, a sad tale. How the early settler scooped them out of the Lake with horse-drawn seines and built dams and canals for irrigation, not knowing or caring that the sockeye needed this Lake to rest in and mature in on their journeys to and from the sea and their upriver spawning grounds. Now, with the upper dimensions of the dam condemned, and with money almost in place to rebuild it, the issue of sockeye passage is in the middle of things: To “trap and haul,” or to build a fish ladder. Nez Perce Tribal Chair Shannon Wheeler, in a June column in the Wallowa County Chieftain, said that the law says that fish need passage on their own “volition,” on their own power. That would mean a fish ladder and not trap and haul, in my understanding of words.

I don’t know where this sits now, don’t even know who all of the players are. There is the local irrigation district, and then Nez Perce Fisheries, Umatilla Fisheries, adjacent private land owners, state and national rules and funding. And—the people of Wallowa County and Nez Perce and related Tribal members on reservations in Idaho, Oregon, and Washington. Maybe others. And I guess you can add the thousands of visitors each year who come to stay at or by, to swim, row, or fish in iwé tem.

I do know that this is an opportunity to do something right, to right a wrong done over 100 years ago to the fish and its signature home, the iwé tem.

Nakia talked about Nez Perce bands gathering in July, fishing, and using higher grounds for gathering medicinal and food plants and for spiritual quests, finally leaving to harvest huckleberries on their trails to wintering grounds on the Grande Ronde, the Imnaha, and their tributaries. The theme that he returned to on several occasions was that of oneness, the idea that the Lake, the sockeye, the plants and animals that make the moraine home, and what we call “nature” all around us is not separate from us. These things cannot, in the Nez Perce cosmology, be owned. In the Native view, we’re all brothers and sisters, members of the same family of life. The idea of “ownership” is a foreign one, but one, Nakia admitted, modern Nez Perce have had to adapt to and use as they have accepted the donations of land and made land purchases themselves.

The idea of the “East Moraine Community Forest,” the idea that this hunk of sacred ground, and its glacier-carved iwé tem, are in a combined stewardship that mimics the ancient pre-settler relationships of lands, waters, and the humans and sister creatures and plants that share in it, is a comforting one.

I hope that we can all gather around the “all of it,” and embrace it into the future.

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Image curtesy Wallowa Land Trust. Photographer Leon Werdinger, Our hike was at the right of the image, through the trees and to the crest of the moraine. The West Moraine, not as flat-topped as the East, is clearly visible, and one can imagine water and boulders spilling over the Terminal Moraine and into what is now Joseph at the bottom of the photo, Near my swimming beach at the far left!

Nez Perce Teaching Boxes

A few years ago I tried to put a batch of books, photos, and maps into a package for local school teachers. It was an effort to get some information on Nez Perce history and culture into the curriculum, and into the minds of local students.

A few teachers used what I began to call “teaching boxes,” but the materials were all over the grade levels, a bit academic, and clunky. As it turns out, in recent years Oregon—and Washington—schools are required to teach Native American history and culture, and in our state it is all directed at fourth grade teachers and students.

Two years ago we brought Vivian Henry, an interpretive ranger for the Nez Perce National Historical Park, to speak to teachers and students before classes began. Shari Warnock, the teacher at the tiny, multi-grade Imnaha School, bit into it. She took the teaching box materials—now supplemented with National Park videos and teaching materials, and made a year of it. She had help from Ginger Graham, a retired teacher who volunteers at the Nez Perce Wallowa Homeland, and students read, listened, and eventually went to the National Park site and even up the Snake River in a jet boat! And this past year, Olan Fulfur took his Joseph High School American History students to the Park as well.

We’ve updated materials for all of our local schools–photos of dip-netting and a tule mat tipi, maps of pre-Lewis and Clark Northwest and the great Nez Perce fighting retreat, etc, and we have a couple more teaching boxes to go out. One is going to the Education Department at Eastern Oregon University. The goal is to get teachers and students across Nez Perce Country in Oregon familiar with the history, culture, and even the current activities of the Nez Perce people.

The photo above shows a Teaching Box and some of the materials. If you would like to know more, let me know! Maybe we’ll save one box to “check out” to schools and teachers beyond Wallowa County.

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Lillian Bounds Disney–Lapwai, Idaho

I recently had a fascinating discussion with Steven Branting, Institutional Historian at Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston, Idaho. As a result, he sent this wonderful photo of Lillian Bounds Disney as a member of the Ft. Lapwai Rural High School basketball team. He says the following:

“Date: 1916-1917 is listed in some credits, but the ball seems to say “1914, when Lillian was a sophomore. Two other girls in the photo graduated in the class of 1917 with Lillian, who is standing on the far left.”

One can go in several different directions with this. Women playing basketball in 1914 or 1917? Women’s sports in general—from hoops to bareback riding and Title 9 and international soccer—and how we seemed to have forgotten that women once did these things as we watch them gain power and prestige as athletes again.

Or we could go with the “tradition” of basketball at Lapwai that carries on today, with boys’ and girls’ teams winning state championships regularly—almost routinely. Or, for that matter, we could look at the growth and power of basketball in Indian country across the nation. At “Rez Ball.”

But what about the legacy of Lillian Bounds! She was not Nez Perce, but her father worked as a blacksmith on the reservation, and when he died, she and her mother moved to nearby Lewiston, where she did a year in business school before moving to California, to be near a sister and find her fortune. She became an “inker” of celluloid frames at a small film studio, where she met a young man named Walt Disney. They married in Lewiston in 1925, and enjoyed over 40 years of marriage before Walt died at the young age of 65.

Lillian did not forget her old school or the Indian Reservation that it was part of. In the 1980s, she donated $20,000 worth of playground equipment after a local school burned; and another $200,000 to build locker rooms, rest rooms and a concession stand for the Lapwai school’s new track. She also gave money to the University of Idaho to fund college scholarships for Indian students. And, through her California foundation, she sent $100,000 to the Nez Perce Tribe to help with the purchase of valuable artifacts that Missionary Henry Spalding had sent to an Ohio friend named Allen in the 1840s. The collection had gone from the Allen family to Oberlin College to the Ohio Historical Society.

According to the Nez Perce Tribal web page, “in June 2021, the Nez Perce Tribe renamed the collection Wetxuuwíitin’ meaning “returned after period of captivity.” According to Nakia Williamson-Cloud, ‘The re-naming of this collection is a significant step to reclaiming ownership of one of the most significant ethnographic collections in existence.’”

The Ohio History Connection eventually returned the $600,000 it had asked of the tribe for the collection in 1993. The collection is currently on loan to the Nez Perce National Historical Park in Spalding, Idaho.

Special thanks to Steven Branting, who told me this wonderful story, and who says that I should credit Dan Wilson for the photo.

And Hurrah for Lillian Bounds Disney, who played hoops in Lapwai in 1914, and didn’t forget her roots.

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more on co-management with tribes

I received a response to my blog post about Deb Haaland and cooperative management of government lands. The writer was Roger Amerman, currently “USFS Native American Outreach and Recruitment Specialist” on the Clearwater and Nez Perce National Forests.

Roger is enrolled Choctaw, but married to a Nez Perce woman and living on the Nez Perce Reservation. He tells me that in his (Choctaw) culture, children are raised in the culture of the mother. Roger is dutifully raising their son a Nez Perce man.

More background: Roger is a geologist with a degree from Colorado School of Mines, has done graduate work at Washington State University, and is a key part of the Josephy Center’s ongoing program we call “Head and Heart,” an examination of landscapes in the Wallowa Country through the lenses of scientists and those of Nez Perce elders and language specialists. The photo accompanying this post has Roger talking with walwama band elders from Nespelem at an ancient site along the Minam River.

For the record, Roger is also an accomplished beadworker with work in museums and private collections. He’s also a wonderful instructor in beadwork who has done workshops for us here at the Josephy Center.

Here’s Roger’s response to my post:

“Hi Rich, I’m afraid (in a good way) that your blog about co-management and co-stewardship of public lands located in Tribal Homelands is already outdated my friend. As we speak, the Nez Perce Tribe of Idaho and the USFS Clearwater-Nez Perce National Forests of central Idaho are Nationally highlighted as a model of initiating a 5-year plan to truly co-manage public lands in Nez Perce Homelands/ Nez Perce “America”. And, they have well-endowed resources to assist in making this unprecedented relationship blossom and manifested to the rest of the Nation. I know this because I just gained meaningful employment to be in the middle of this “ground-breaking” relationship between the NP Tribe and USFS!! In the PNW, the other significant exclusive showcase and well-endowed relationship that is taking place and being initiated, is between the NPS Glacier National Park and the Blackfeet Nation of Montana. Phenomenal!!!!!! The other tribes and Federal Government entities of the PNW need to get their act together and “jump on board” for the win (in true co-management and co-stewardship of the sacred land and its resources). I am hoping the Nez Perce Tribe of Idaho and the other USFS Forests in the Nez Perce “homeland” (Wallow-Whitman NF, Payette NF, Umatilla NF) form similar benevolent co-management relationships in the near future that will properly and reverently take care of the land.”

Roger’s thoughts got me to thinking that we already have co-management of some fisheries on the Columbia and its tributaries with the Columbia River Intertribal Fish Commission working with state and federal fisheries agencies. We’ve learned that there is important Native knowledge of fish and water. Now we are welcoming Native peoples into a new realm of natural resource management. Hurray for Deb Haaland and the Biden Administration!

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Photo by Ellen Bishop: Roger Amerman and walwama band elders on the Minam

The Biden-Haaland Power Duo

The Joe Biden and Deb Haaland team have done remarkable things in Indian Country. There have been the boarding schools investigation, the appointments of tribal figures to key government posts, the saving of Bears Ears, and then the Grand Canyon National Monument this week!

And–as we live tight against ancient Nez Perce lands, many managed by the US Forest Service, I thought I would reach back and remind you of this effort at joint management. Maybe it will come our way someday soon!

Press release: US Dept of the Interior, August 8, 2023.

“Today [August 8], President Biden established the Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni -Ancestral Footprints of the Grand Canyon National Monument in northern Arizona, an area considered sacred by many Tribal Nations in the Southwest and renowned for its natural, cultural, economic, scientific and historic resources and broad recreation opportunities.

“This national monument designation, which marks the fifth national monument created by President Biden, builds upon decades of efforts from Tribal Nations, state and local officials, conservation and outdoor recreation advocates, local business owners, and members of Congress to recognize and conserve these landscapes in perpetuity…

“The new national monument consists of three distinct areas to the north and south of Grand Canyon National Park, totaling approximately 917,618 acres of federal lands in northern Arizona. The lands will continue to be managed by the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service (Forest Service). The monument designation honors valid existing rights and does not apply to private property or Tribal, state or local government lands.”

Press release: USDA, March 10, 2023

“The Forest Service recognizes its unique, shared responsibility in ensuring decisions related to federal stewardship of lands, waters and wildlife consider how treaty rights and spiritual, subsistence and cultural interests of American Indian and Alaska Native Tribal Nations are considered. The agency’s tribal action plan provides a framework for advancing existing laws, regulations and policies, and provides steps that can be applied through existing programs and processes based on four focus areas:
• Strengthening Relationships Between Indian Tribes and the USDA Forest Service;
• Fulfilling Trust and Treaty Obligations;
• Enhancing Co-Stewardship of the Nation’s Forests and Grasslands; and
• Advancing Tribal Relations Within the USDA Forest Service.

“Announcing these agreements reflects the Forest Service’s commitment to put the Tribal Action Plan into action and make investments that support the plan’s goals.”


RFK and Tamkaliks

Yesterday, a few lines from Robert F. Kennedy’s March 1968 speech at the University of Kansas were broadcast on NPR. I immediately looked it up and read the entire speech. It’s a campaign speech, laced with some of RFK’s soft humor—”I was sick last year and I received a message from the Senate of the United States which said: ‘We hope you recover,’ and the vote was forty-two to forty.”

But–he then addresses the War in Vietnam and laments the turmoil in the country. By March, the Tet Offensive in Vietnam had inflicted heavy casualties on Americans—and Vietnamese. In April, Martin Luther King was assassinated and cities burned. And then RFK’s own June assassination in a Los Angeles hotel. I can still see the football player, Rosy Grier, wrestling the gun from Sirhan Sirhan, and then pushing the crowd that wanted to attack the gunman back. He did not want violence to be met with violence, he said.

Just weeks before that, in the middle of a campaign speech, Robert Kennedy said these words.

“Our Gross National Product, now, is over $800 billion dollars a year, but that Gross National Product – if we judge the United States of America by that – that Gross National Product counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for the people who break them. It counts the destruction of the redwood and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl. It counts napalm and counts nuclear warheads and armored cars for the police to fight the riots in our cities. It counts Whitman’s rifle and Speck’s knife, and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children. Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country, it measures everything in short, except that which makes life worthwhile…”

I had to look to remember that Whitman was the mass killer who shot students from a tower at the U of Texas, and that Sparks had murdered several Chicago nurses with a knife. How soon we forget, but, other than that, the speech could be delivered today.

Or—I could think about the revival that is going on in American Indian Country. When I think back two weeks ago to Tamkaliks in Wallowa, I think about the beauty of dress and the pride in those wearing it. I think about the smiles, feathers, and beads—the joy—worn and shone by the youngest dancers. I think about the namings and memorials and the “giveaways” offered by parents and loved ones. I remember the spirit that informed the drummers and singers in the longhouse service. I remember the wit of the announcers and the resilience of Indian peoples, the grace with which the Nez Perce people return to this ancient homeland now occupied by others…

Hundreds of non-Natives came to see and to learn, to share a meal of buffalo and salmon—and no one was thinking about the drug problems in our country or the Gross National Product. And for a few days in the small town of Wallowa, Oregon, a few hundred Natives and non-Native Americans were living the dream that Robert Kennedy did not live to see.

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Water has its way

Tulare Lake in California was once America’s largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi. Over decades, it had been completely drained and turned into extensive farmland, the waters that once fed it diverted in other directions for irrigation and city drinking.

Then California saw years of drought and over-tapping of groundwaters. Farmers drilled beneath old lake beds to capture ancient water. Scientists and ordinary Californians wondered about lands that were literally sinking, and at how the suffering Colorado River with its dams and lakes was going to be divided up to serve states and tribes.

California was then covered this winter and spring with gargantuan dumps of snow and rain. And Tulare Lake reappeared, burying fields, buildings, power poles, vehicles and other manufactured goods that filled the lives of people who once lived and worked where the lake now IS. Today, it is at 168 square miles; imagine a lake sixteen miles long by ten miles wide!

The waters from a still impressive snowpack that would have once naturally filled the lake are now being diverted as much as is possible to reservoirs and to restoring groundwater to the parched California lands. But no one is sure when or how the new-old Tulare will return to recent boundaries—the guesses are a couple of years. With another wet winter and spring—as is forecast—that number of years could be wishful thinking for the mostly corporate farmers who just yesterday tilled the land that is now beneath the lake.

And the land that has been a job for many Californians and a breadbasket for the nation might be something else in two years—and certainly in twenty and thirty years. This year is a reminder of the resilience of water.


In our own country, waters’ journeys back to traditional places in traditional volume is also a matter of lawsuits and adjustments—and the inevitable aging of dams. There are lawsuits brought by tribes and environmental activists who want fish and natural rivers returned, fought by power companies, irrigators, and barge shippers. Four dams on the Klamath River are in fact being removed, and talk of removal or at least breeching of the four lower Snake River dams is animated.

A few years ago, Idaho Republican Congressman Mike Simpson began advocating openly for the breeching of the lower Snake River dams. He proposed spending over $30 billion to compensate and refigure lost electricity, irrigation and transportation. He notes the many billions that have been spent in efforts to maintain salmon runs that are now facing extinction. And he thinks that salmon are ultimately important for the water, lands, and people of Idaho.

When Simpson first revealed his plans, Northwest politicians did not jump to get on his bandwagon. There was hesitancy and push back—and there were calls for more studies. The tribes did jump on—immediately. And as they have pitched their reasons for return, scientists are finding new ways in which salmon are intertwined with life. Salmon are food for forest creatures, and bring nutrients from sea to feed forests. They directly feed thousands of humans and animal relatives—the orca in the ocean depend on the salmon.

Breeching of the Lower Snake River dams is now a serious conversation, and we will all be watching to see what happens with the Klamath River. News is that the Yuroks, an awesome tribal power and stellar leader in resource revitalization, will not serve salmon at this year’s salmon feast. Numbers in the Klamath River are that low, and the Yurok are putting every present effort into long-term recovery.

Dams or no dams, water will have its way. Dams are finite things, and decades of standing in rivers has left huge volumes of sediment. According to the people dismantling the Klamath dams, some 20 million cubic yards of sediment has accumulated behind the dams over the last century! And what does the sediment hold? Ag chemicals, mining chemicals, industrial waste? Sediment behind the lower Snake dams seems relatively benign—not so upper river dams; not so main stem Columbia dams. And in addition to the planned removal of some dams, we keep an eye on Tulare Lake and its unplanned return and envision unplanned breeching.

Whatever shape dam removal takes now—or fifty years from now—will be covered not only by politics, but by the fleetingness of manmade corrections and diversions, and by the ways of water, wind, and fire.

We don’t know what those huge forces of nature will destroy and create, but more of us—non-tribal people—are listening to the wisdom of people who have lived here forever. As we listen long and hard, we might envision living with the natural world rather than living to dominate it. Learn to adapt to and with changing waters.

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Photo: Iron Gate Dam on Klamath River–Associated Press

Artists, teachers, and tribal elders

A couple of weeks ago I went with friends to an art opening for Judd Koehn at the Pendleton Arts Center. Judd is a retired art professor who taught for many years at Eastern Oregon University. Once, a long time ago, when we bought the building that became the Bookloft in Enterprise (and still is!), we donated all of the old heavy heating radiators to Judd and Eastern to be turned into molten metal and student art projects.Read Rich’s Post →

Changing the mascot name

In the late 1990s. a ruckus arose over the mascot at the Enterprise school They were called “savages,” and for years a copy of the old caricatured Cleveland Indian was painted at the center of the basketball court. Art teacher Gary Wishart had tried to dignify things with a painting of a regal looking Indian with headdress, but change was in the wind nationally. and there were enough local proponents of change to press the issue here.
One of the change proponents was Sam Miller, and Sam kept track of everything. Some time back he brought a box of materials into the library. It was a bit of a jumble, with duplicates of letters and letters to the editors, some outrageous posters distributed at the time, and even a ball cap with the old buck toothed Cleveland logo.
Over the past couple of weeks, Ella Coughlan has gone through the material, pulled aside duplicates, and indexed most things by date. There is some but not complete annotation, and none of the items have been scanned for digital distribution. But we thought we would send out this preliminary index to let you know what we are about, and to ask for suggestions for next steps.
Are there still schools out there in the throes of change?
Is anyone compiling a history of the whole renaming movement who could use this material?
We will appreciate your thoughts as you take a look at the spreadsheet linked below.

Indians and the Fourth of July

Maybe every holiday has its double. Christmas falls on or near the Winter Solstice, when Scandinavian pagans burned a yule log to symbolize the return of the sun, and pre-Christian Romans celebrated the sun’s return with a holiday honoring the God Saturn. That festival took place sometime between December 17th and 24th. Christians, who often had a hard time talking new converts into dropping old customs, appropriated the date of December 25 to celebrate the Nativity—the appropriation coming over 300 years after the birth of Jesus.Read Rich’s Post →

Hurray for the Supreme Court

Last week the Supreme Court upheld the Indian Child Welfare Act. “The bottom line is that we reject all of petitioners’ challenges to the statute, some on the merits and others for lack of standing,” Justice Amy Coney Barrett, the conservative Trump appointee, wrote in her majority opinion. Justices Alito and Thomas were the only dissenters.

In brief snippets on National Public Radio, we were reminded that prior to the 1978 Act, “hundreds of thousands” of Native children were removed from their families and tribes. One account said that fully one-third of Native children were being removed from their families over decades in the twentieth century.Read Rich’s Post →

Deb Haaland and the Road to Healing

I’m often surprised to find out that friends who follow political and cultural affairs closely still do not know who Deb Haaland is. With a hint, some of them come up with “oh yes, Department of Interior, isn’t it?” But her position and her presence are not front and center in their minds.

Things are different in Indian Country. When Haaland visited Idaho a year ago to turn over the federal keys to the Dworshak National Fish Hatchery to the Nez Perce Tribe, it was a big celebration. I said to a Nez Perce friend that Deb Haaland is some kind of saint. “Yes,” she said, “and superwoman.”Read Rich’s Post →

Lower Snake River Dams

On Thursday, May 22, new Nez Perce Executive Committee Chair Shannon Wheeler addressed a lively Josephy Center audience on the current status of the Lower Snake River Dams. Kyle Smith of American Rivers, who has the newly created role of “Snake River Director” for American Rivers, gave an introductory slide tour of the current state of affairs, but Chairman Wheeler carried the load.

He started with salmon’s role in the Nez Perce creation story, moved on to Native loss of land and habitat, and quickly covered Idaho Representative Mike Simpson’s Columbia Basin Initiative. Shannon Wheeler is obviously a smart and aware negotiator, dealing easily with political and agency people from Idaho, Washington, and Oregon to the White House. But the thing in his presentation that stood out in my mind is that his people know what it is like to be on the losing end of water/land transactions, and want to make sure that players other than salmon and the Indian people are not similarly harmed in current negotiations.

Check out the entire presentation here–and let us know what you think;

Traveling with the Elders

Two weeks ago, my library partner, Kolle Kahle Riggs, and I went on a trip up the Snake River with science folks, a Yakima videographer, two young Nez Perce photographers, and Nez Perce elders from the three reservations in the Northwest, where most people of Nez Perce ancestry are enrolled. Two young daughters and an interested boat captain rounded out our crew.

Our goal was to see the Snake River canyon from the eyes of geologists—and through the lens of Nez Perce story and history. It was a noisy jet boat upriver rather than a quiet drift down river, but far gentler on the joints and limbs for Native elders and this non-Native old guy.Read Rich’s Post →

More on the DOD–Doctrine of Discovery

Katy Nesbit, writer and now cleric at the local Episcopal church, dropped a book off recently, just a few days after the Vatican rescinded its Doctrine of Discovery. I had not thought much about next steps, about how we might unravel what centuries of this obscure but powerful doctrine has meant and still means to indigenous peoples across the world.Read Rich’s Post →

Catholics–and Providentialism

It would be easy now to pile on the Catholic Church—especially its hierarchy. The Vatican’s recent “repudiation” of the Doctrine of Discovery has been followed by the Maryland Attorney General’s announcement of “staggering sexual abuse” by church officials in his state. The Associated Press reported that “More than 150 Catholic priests and others associated with the Archdiocese of Baltimore sexually abused over 600 children and often escaped accountability.” The documented abuse occurred over a span of 80 years, and was accompanied by decades of coverups. More money was spent on treatment and rehabilitation of perpetrators than on that of victims. And the Attorney General said that similar studies were addressing abuse in other dioceses.Read Rich’s Post →

Vatican rescinds “Doctrine of Discovery”

I have written and spoken about the impact of the “Doctrine of Discovery” on Native American affairs for years. This “new” news from the Vatican is astounding. I think that, for the most part, the Vatican and the Catholics in general have tried to forget this piece of “ancient” history that basically says that Christian nations have the right to discover—and rule over—lands inhabited by non-Christians. In other words, all of the Americas were subject to the doctrine, and our USA, in Supreme Court opinions developed by Chief Justice John Marshall in the 1820s and 1830s, declared “that the principle of discovery gave European nations an absolute right to New World lands.” Native peoples were left with a doctrine of “occupancy” and “limited sovereignty.”Read Rich’s Post →

Alvin Josephy, Custer, the Indian Story—and Vietnam

On Thursday night we watched a “rough cut” version of a documentary chronicling Alvin Josephy’s career as a historian of and advocate for Indians. Sean Cassidy, retired from Lewis-Clark State College, introduced the film, which he and fellow LC professor Patricia Keith put together in the early 2000s.Read Rich’s Post →