The recent upsurge in measles cases in Florida and the US in general has doctors and public health officials scratching heads. Apparently, there is a big difference in infection rates when the percentage of children who receive the MMR—Measles, Mumps, Rubella—vaccinations drops from 95 % to 91%; transmission among the unvaccinated spreads more rapidly, and a few—stats say 3 %–of the vaccinated still get a mild case of the disease. That, in my understanding is in a nutshell what is happening in Florida and threatening elsewhere as measles cases in 2024 rise.Read Rich’s Post →

The Last Indian War—Horses and Technology

Elliot West’s “The Last Indian War” was published in 2009, so it has been around. I’d not read it, but it was handy and I needed to check a date or name, so picked it up. And read a page or two. And decided I should read it. Read it because what West does is put the Nez Perce War in context of the Westward movement and US history.

We know that the War parties—Nez Perce and pursuing armies—moved through Yellowstone National Park. Some writers even tell us that it—Yellowstone—was a first, and that tourists were encountered and captured. But West tells us that yes, Yellowstone was the first National Park, and that it “reflected three powerful forces creating and defining the West.”Read Rich’s Post →

A Brief List of Books on Nez Perce History and Culture

I’ve put together lists of books on the Nez Perce several times over the years, but new books keep coming out, sometimes new books with “old” information not covered in previous books. Two wonderful examples in the current list are those edited by Dennis Baird, Diane Mallickan, and W.R. Swagerty, Encounters with the People, and the Nez Perce Nation Divided. Both deal with original written and oral accounts of the people in crucial years leading up to the 1863 “Liar’s Treaty.”

I won’t pretend to be exhaustive, to do a serious and complete bibliography of books on the Nez Perce. We have a dozen more on our library shelves and/or in the sales shop downstairs! Maybe someday.Read Rich’s Post →

“Side Channel”at Nez Perce Homeland

On Saturday, Indian elders helped dedicate the “side channel project” on the Nez Perce Homeland grounds in Wallowa. The Wallowa River, Nez Perce Fisheries workers told us, had been shoved to a side, channelized decades ago, probably in the 1940s and 50s, so that more land would be free for pasture and crops. This narrowed, straight flowing river has scoured the river bottom and eaten the banks, and in so doing destroyed places for fish to rest while migrating, and places for them to spawn. The side channel does not change the course of the main stem, but allows water to drift to and through some of the river’s old territory. In spring runoff, water will spill over the side channels and recreate marshlands, where tule and other native plants can grow. There have already been fish and lamprey in the side channel waters.Read Rich’s Post →

October 5; On this day…

October 5, 1877 is the day on which the wal’wá·ma band of the Nez Perce and members of other non-treaty bands lost their freedom. They’d intended to go quietly from the Wallowa to the reduced Idaho reservation, leaving and losing their homeland but continuing to live in nearby country among relatives from other bands. They crossed the Snake River into Idaho in spring runoff, and there the grief-stricken actions of some young Nez Perce in killing Idaho settlers—settlers known for their mistreatment of Indians—set off a fighting retreat of more than 1200 miles. It ended on this day 144 yeasr ago at the Bears Paw mountains in Montana, just 40 miles short of safety in Canada.Read Rich’s Post →

Learning to be a librarian

Learning to be a librarian

When Alvin Josephy started talking about leaving his books to Fishtrap all those years ago, I nodded and envisioned a nice addition to the Fishtrap house with shelves of books, a file cabinet or two, study carrels, and a stream of poets and historians pulling books off the shelves and making new poems and stories with their help. Over time, in conversations with Fishtrap friends and with a small grant from the Lamb Foundation, the vision gained an artist’s rendering (see top of the blog page) and an architect’s plans.

And then the real world and a recession hit, money from foundations that had seemed “ready” became impossible, and, eventually, I settled in to try to make sense of Library holdings, mission, and possibilities. I started learning to be a librarian, and envisioning the eventual physical home receded into some far off mist.

So now I wrestle with whether we finish cataloging books—or concentrate on papers and ephemera. And how do we make the information we have available? How important is a complete bibliography of Alvin’s work? And, most importantly, never mind the books—what do I do with Alvin Josephy’s legacy as historian and activist on behalf of American Indians? “Alvin, I thought you were leaving me a bunch of books, but all this?” I say to myself as he watches over my shoulder.

I talk about these things with writers, historians and library friends all the time. And just last week, had a nice meeting at Lewis and Clark College with Special Collections librarian Doug Erickson and friend Kim Stafford.

Doug’s office desk sits in a corner of the room that houses the William Stafford Collection. In the opposite corner there is an odd-shaped Plexiglas enclosure with a seat in it and wires running out of it to a stool-full of electronic gear. It was some kind of medical deal that Doug picked up on EBay for $150 and turned into a mini recording studio. Among other things, he records poets for his “Oregon Poetic Voices” project. I know a bit about that, because Fishtrap was an original partner, and you can go right to that site and hear Ursula LeGuin read poetry in 1990 at Summer Fishtrap. Try it:

But the big aha moment for me in the talk with Doug and Kim is that libraries and archives are not just collections of old dusty stuff. They are things you work with now. And Doug says that Mitt Romney was right—rich folks get their words and ideas recorded all the time. Doug wants the poems your grandma wrote—or the ones you write.

Which takes me back to Alvin looking over my shoulder. He determined to write the Nez Perce book AFTER he found the Indian voices collected by an oddball Washington rancher named Lucullus McWhorter and published by another oddball, an old fashioned freedom of the press publisher from England who found his way to, of all places, Caldwell, Idaho, and founded Caxton Press. And published Yellow Wolf and Hear Me My Chiefs.

In the twelve years it took to research and write The Nez Perce and the Opening of the Northwest, Alvin also found three remaining veterans of the Nez Perce War he could talk to, the Sohon drawings from the 1855 Walla Walla treaties, which were hidden away at the Washington State Historical Society, and other obscure stuff—revealed in the footnotes of the book (their omission the reason he always hated the abridged version of same)

So my next library project is to bring a real live archivist to town to train me and other volunteers in the ways of preserving these other voices against the time the next Alvin comes along.