The “Roaming Nez Perce” on a level playing field

Our national founding documents talk about all men being created “equal,” and many see the history of the country as a gradual expansion of “all men” to include black men—14th Amendment, 1868; women—19th Amendment, 1920; and, in 1924, when they were finally given citizenship in the country that had swallowed up their native lands, Indians. Read The Article

Coho return to the Lostine River!

I got this “FYI” from Jim Harbeck at Nez Perce Fisheries here in Joseph last night:

“The first Coho Salmon to return to the Lostine River in over 40 years came back home this morning…  I think we’ll see at least a few hundred Coho this fall at our weir on the Lostine. And more importantly, once again the Nez Perce Tribe is proving to be a good steward here in Wallowa County. This fish returned to a reach of river just below old Chief Joseph’s original burial site. I’m sure he’d be proud of his people for this significant accomplishment (and Ken Witty would be too).”

Ken Witty was a long-time fish biologist for the State of Oregon, and did some consulting with the tribe after his retirement.

It’s a long story. 1855 Treaty; Fish Wars of the 70s (which Alvin Josephy wrote about); Boldt Decision awarding half the salmon catch to the tribes; Nez Perce, Confederated Tribes of Read The Article

The Civil War and Nez Perce Treaties


Yesterday in line at the grocery store, a new young clerk was telling someone how interested he was in the Civil War, and how he really wanted to go east and visit Antietam.  I piped up to suggest that he think about the civil war in the west. Had he ever wondered how Union County got its name, and why there is a Sumter close by? And did he know about the impact of the Civil War on Indian tribes, and specifically on the Nez Perce treaties?
I’m teaching a short, non-credit class on the Nez Perce and the Wallowas, and plan to devote one of five sessions to the treaties. Thinking about the grocery store clerk and about the upcoming class, it occurred to me that Alvin Josephy’s treatment of the treaties—in his books and in a long article for American Heritage on the 1855 Treaty—might have been different
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History counts


It’s an old saw—you learn by teaching. This fall I am teaching a class for the Oregon State University Ag program on the Eastern Oregon U campus in La Grande. The class is “Ecosystems and Pacific Northwest Tribes.”  We looked briefly at the pre-Columbian Americas and the impacts of contact—the “Columbian Exchange”—and then moved on to the pre-contact Northwest (realizing that such a designation is loaded with post-contact geography), the impacts of the fur trade, missionaries, treaties, and settlers, and finally now, are looking at how the region’s ecosystems are working today.
We read a few chapters of Charles Mann’s 1491, a wonderful essay, “People of the Salmon,” by Richard Daugherty in Josephy’s America in 1492, and bits and pieces on the fur trade, treaties, missionaries, and Oregon tribes. This week our reading was the Klamath chapter from First Oregonians, and our guest speaker was Jeff Oveson, long-time executive
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Summer in the Library—brown bag lunches, art books, OHQs, and a student intern!


We’re doing brown bag lunches on Tuesdays this summer, so if you are in Joseph at noon on a Tuesday, please stop in and join the conversation.  Next week—May 28—we will be talking about Indian treaties, especially the Nez Perce treaties of 1855 and 1863 and the aborted attempt by President Grant to change or rescind the 1863 version.
This week we talked about art—specifically the paintings and drawings by Europeans of American Indians. Mike Rosenbaum, who drove up from La Grande to join us, brought along a few gorgeous art books featuring George Catlin, Karl Bodmer, Paul Kane and others. And on leaving Mike decided that the books should stay here!  So a big thanks to him, and an invitation to everyone to take these books down from the shelves and take a look at how early Europeans saw the indigenous peoples of the Americas.
Two things have struck me
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A puzzle re the Treaty of 1863


In 1863 the Joseph or Wallowa Band Nez Perce lived quietly in the Wallowa Country, isolated by mountains on three sides and the Snake River Canyon to the east. There were no white settlers—though a couple of French trappers married to Nez Perce women had lived among them from time to time—just a few hundred Indians who gathered summers in the Wallowa valley and at the Lake to hunt and socialize and catch and dry fish, and then spread out in family groups along the tributaries of the Snake River in colder times. 
In 1863, to the north, over high timbered country and across what is now called the Grande Ronde River and then more high country and then about at the confluence of the Snake and Clearwater rivers, white men made new lines on maps drawn at Walla Walla in 1855 that had promised the Wallowa Country and a total of
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