Rez Ball

There was a time in America—a century ago—when Indian athletes were courted and celebrated. The most well-known of those early twentieth century athletes was, of course, Jim Thorpe, the Carlisle football and track star who won Olympic medals, played professional football and baseball—and eventually had to give the medals back because he had done what many other “amateurs” had done, taken small amounts of pay for semi-pro baseball. But he was then, and is still among some, thought to be the greatest American athlete ever. Read The Article

Lessons from the Redstars

Veronica “Ronnie” and Albert Redstar (w me)

Sometime this summer, Kathleen Ackley, director of the Wallowa Land Trust, asked me to put together a class about Nez Perce history for local agency and non-profit workers who work with tribes. She wanted me to recruit speakers from the Tribes to be part of the presentations. Her thought was that a better understanding of Tribal history and culture would lead to better working relationships.

So in good white-man fashion, I put together a series of five Thursday programs that would trace, roughly, the history and activities of the Nez Perce Indians in the Wallowas from ancient times to the present. It’s been good, and as always in these things, when you are asked to teach—or to organize teaching—you end up learning. In this case learning to rethink my own linear notions of time and space.

Last week was week four, and I had asked Albert Andrews Redstar and his sister, Veronica “Ronnie” Read The Article

Nez Perce Return

Few Indians live in the Wallowa Country now, but Indians come here every year—maybe, even through war and exile, some few have always made their ways here to hunt and gather foods and be in this place. Now, they come to run Nez Perce Fisheries, to manage a small piece of Precious Land in the canyons, and in the summer for dances and parades. And there is a 320-acre place we call the Nez Perce Homeland Project near the town of Wallowa.

Tamkaliks, Nez Perce Homeland, 2016

Last Sunday, Nez Perce peoples from Colville, Umatilla, and Lapwai—Washington, Oregon, and Idaho—drummed, sang, and danced in the new Long House at that Nez Perce Homeland grounds. Most were descendants of the Joseph, or Wallowa, band of Nez Perce who made this country home for thousands of years before being forcibly removed in 1877.

The drumming and singing seemed louder and the dancing more spirited than I remember from past years, when services Read The Article

More on Missionaries–and on Catholic and Protestant “Ladders”


For whatever reason—maybe the wonderful cover photo—I have kept the Spring 1996 issue of the Oregon Historical Quarterly by my bed, and pick it up from time to time to look at the fine drawings and paintings of Father Nicolas Point, and to follow those first Jesuits on their 1840 journey to Flathead country in Montana—and their departure in admitted failure just ten years later.
Elizabeth White writes of their early contact and early successes, which she attributes to the similarities between Catholicism and traditional Indian culture: oral liturgy, sacred wine and pipe, sweat lodge and church. The mission’s ultimate failure had to do with deeper life views—the Indian belief that man is part of nature and the Christian/European stories of/beliefs in serpents and other evils lurking in nature. The notion that Christian powers could not be added to traditional powers of nature and native spirit but must supplant them was
Read The Article

The Nez Perce Story—again

Alvin Josephy found the story in 1952 or 53—and things changed. Over the next dozen years he would become engulfed in the Nez Perce story and the American Indian story. He would find old drawings tucked away in museums, chase fur trade records to London, sweat with veterans of the Nez Perce War, and put the big of it and the detail of it into a huge American epic called The Nez Perce Indians and the Opening of the Northwest.

His was not the first attempt, and certainly not the last. The Nez Perce story is told and retold in poems and novels and histories again and again. There are new books every year that explore aspects of the story in detail, and/or shout their author’s own astonishment at finding the story and desire to get the rest of us to know it. Almost always they pay tribute to the Josephy text and to the Nez Perce people and specific
Read The Article

Josiah Red Wolf: Nez Perce War vet–and musician

I was digging through the small—and often most interesting—pieces of literature that Alvin collected along the way to his books and work as an advocate for Indians and the earth. Among the conference reports, ethnographic studies, newspaper clippings, and student papers was an article from Westways magazine, September 1977 by M. Woodbridge Williams, “Legacy of Survival.” The piece recounts a 1970 meeting with Josiah Red Wolf, at that time the lone survivor of the Nez Perce War. (When Alvin began his research in the early 50s, there were three: Red Wolf, Albert Moore, and Sam Tilden.)
Angus Wilson, one-time tribal chair and a good friend of Alvin’s, accompanied Woodbridge. Josiah was 98 at the time, but he and Wilson soon had an animated conversation going in Nez Perce—Wilson had to get him off an agitated rant on the treaties.
Red Wolf had been just five years old during the War, had spent a year at Leavenworth and
Read The Article