Canoe Notes #4

Allen Pinkham Jr was here this weekend working on the canoe. He had some help in a Saturday work party, and the small canoe–16 feet–Is looking like a canoe. To remind, we had it in the water much earlier–Allen wanted to make sure it floated right, without tilting port or starboard. It did, and we got some pictures, etc.

Which means that he could start thinking about the finer points of design and function: making sure the bow is heavier to compensate for the oarsman in the rear; comparing the shapes of bow and stern to photos of old canoes and the new ones being built by river and coastal tribes. It means we took off another 50 pounds I guess. Allen estimates weight at around 300 pounds now, and thinks we can take off more as we clean up the inside hull. Here is what it looks like now, blunt bow to left:

The next move is to finish Read The Article

Canoe notes #3

Allen Pinkham Jr. got his dugout canoe into the water at Wallowa Lake in November. He’ll be back for some finishing work on this 16 footer, and then on to the 30 footers! The plan is to build one with the help of modern tools–as was done with the smaller canoe–and then one with traditional tools and methods. And then—he wants a trip on the Snake River in 2018.

Meanwhile, here’s the run-up to launch, and the canoe–and Allen and granddaughter–In the water. That’s son-in-law Travis, whose day job is in a commercial boat-building shop, working with Allen.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BMIwMx7VA0Y

Read The Article

Canoe notes #3

Canoe, Allen, granddaughter, Wallowa Lake

On Sunday, August 19, we launched Allen Pinkham Jr.’s dugout canoe. This one, as described before, is about 16 feet long, was shaped with help of Jim Zacharias’s mill, Allen’s work with electric chain saw, and his further work—with some minor help from a few of us locals—with chisel, hammer, and adze.

Six of us hoisted it onto James Montieth’s pickup bed, and the six of us lowered it into the water at the boat dock on the north end of Wallowa Lake. There was a big, fancy powerboat across the dock from us, but our craft immediately attracted attention and drew a crowd of 40 or more, including a raft of kids who wanted to try it out.

Which they did. And it floated, and it floated true—not listing port or starboard. Both ends took on about same amount of water, but Allen thinks he can adjust that as he does final shaping of Read The Article

Canoe notes #2

My childhood recollections of New World history move quickly from Columbus and the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria to Squanto and the Puritans on the other side of the continent. In neither case did we get much real history, but rather sloganeering echoes passed from teacher to student for decades, now centuries. And we got holidays—Columbus Day and Thanksgiving—that were and probably still are occasion for grade school pageantry.

But Allen Pinkham, Jr., our Nez Perce canoe carver, sends me back to Alvin M. Josephy, Jr., my mentor and the “Great Reminder.” Alvin reminds us that Indians were here for millennia before Columbus and the Puritans, that they had fashioned high civilizations as well as many simple but effective ways of living on their lands, that there had been catastrophes even before the Europeans came with the great upset, but that Native peoples and the land have been resilient. (I mistakenly typed “had” in place of “have” in that sentence; Read The Article

Misunderstanding Indians

Alvin Josephy with Allen Pinkham Sr. at Betty’s Memorial

In a talk at the Josephy Center on Saturday night, Nez Perce elder Allen Pinkham Sr. said that non-Indians have never understood that Indians, even while succumbing to Euro-American diseases, arms, numbers, and policies aimed at their cultural destruction, continually borrowed from and adapted to European science and culture. His examples included learning to use horses, cattle, guns, iron, and words on paper.

He had a different take on missionary zeal and the supposed longing for “The Book” that is cited in most histories of Indian-white relations in the West. Indians were sent to Hudson Bay’s school in Red River, Canada, and a group of four was sent to St. Lewis to find William Clark in search of information about writing and books, not “The Book.” But Europeans interpreted all as a thirst for knowledge of their—Christian—religion. What we wanted, Allen’s father had told him, were the “tools,” the way to Read The Article

It’s the Water!

Photo by Edward Sheriff Curtis of Nez Perce Dugout Canoe

A couple of summers ago Allen Pinkham Jr. was here at the Josephy Center teaching workshops. He did a few days of beading and a few making drums with a handful of people interested in the crafts and the Nez Perce Indians who had developed them. At the end of his stay, Allen told me that “We Nez Perce were canoe people you know. I’d like to come back here and carve a dugout canoe.”

That conversation sent me on a journey that landed enough grant funds to bring Allen back—in fact, he’s due in tonight with his father and with Bob Chenoweth from the Nez Perce National Historical Park in Spalding, Idaho. Bob’s made a study of historic Nez Perce canoes— there are only a handful in existence, and the park has four of them—and will do a program based on his research. Allen Sr. will chip in with Read The Article

The Nez Perce and the Columbian Exchange

In preparation for my Portland presentation on the Nez Perce in the Wallowa Country tomorrow night, and thinking about this ecosystems/ Pacific NW tribes class I am teaching in La Grande, I got to wondering about which elements of Alfred Crosby’s Columbian Exchange had the greatest impact on the Nez Perce.

The first one that comes to mind is the horse, because the Nez Perce became noted for their horse breeding and horsemanship. But they probably didn’t get the horse until the early 1700s, over 200 years after Columbus and his crew landed with them in the Caribbean. Late in the history of a people that had been here forever.
It was diseases, and specifically smallpox, that got Crosby to thinking about what all had crossed the ocean and united the two worlds so long divided. And the impact of diseases that the Europeans had developed some immunities to over centuries on indigenous Americans was in all ways catastrophic. In
Read The Article

Lewis and Clark, Pinkham and Evans, Josephy


Allen Pinkham and Steve Evans
On Wednesday night Allen Pinkham and Steve Evans gave the first of what we plan to be annual lectures in honor of Alvin Josephy. Their theme—following the title of their recently published book, Lewis and Clark Among the Nez Perce: Strangers in the Land of the Nimiipu—can be seen as a direct response to Alvin’s charge in a long ago NYT book review of Stephen Ambrose’s Undaunted Courage: “[we still await] an understanding treatment (perhaps by an Indian historian), not simply of what the explorers reported but of what was happening on the Indians’ side…”
In fact, Alvin’s last book, which he edited along with Marc Jaffe, was Lewis and Clark Through Indian Eyes, and Allen Pinkham began the evening by holding it up—he was one of its contributors—and explaining that Alvin had advised the ten Indian writers that he and Marc Jaffe were
Read The Article