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 →

The Josephy Library, January 30, 2013

Rich and Josephy Center Director Lyn Craig at the shelves
The Josephy Library of Western History and Culture is part of the Josephy Center for Arts and Culture in Joseph, Oregon. It is based on over 2000 books, journals, artifacts, manuscripts, and miscellaneous pieces from Josephy home libraries in Greenwich, Connecticut and Joseph, Oregon. It honors Alvin’s work as a historian of and advocate for American Indians, and Alvin and Betty’s commitment to literature, history, the arts, the West, and to the men, women, and children of all colors and backgrounds who have lived in and loved the West.
Alvin M. Josephy Jr. was the author of The Nez Perce Indians and the Opening of the Northwest, The Indian Heritage of America, 500 Nations, and several other books and scores of magazine and journal articles on Indian and Western history. He was the founding board chair of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian.
January 30, 2013:
1       Over 400 books are cataloged and on shelves. We catalog on the SAGE system of Eastern Oregon Libraries: http://eos.eou.edu/ 
2     Hundreds of journals—long runs of Oregon Historical Quarterly, American Heritage, Western Historical Quarterly, American West, etc. , and shorter runs of more obscure journals—Annals of Wyoming, Okanogan Historical Society Report, Northeastern Nevada Historical Society Quarterly, etc. are being entered on a spread sheet, which should be available on line in a couple of weeks.
3      We have begun to index articles written by Alvin Josephy. Eventually, we will have a spread sheet with this information, and will gradually add abstracts. As Josephy’s journalism includes hundreds of pieces written during student days at Harvard, as Marine journalist in the WW II Pacific, ten years at Time Magazine, etc., this will be an ongoing activity.
4     The Original maps from the Nez Perce book are being digitized and will soon be available.The plan is to put them up on the Josephy Center web site at low resolution. Print use of high resolution images will be by permission.
5     We are beginning to organize material in “pods” by subject area. These reflect significant areas of concern in Josephy’s work. For instance, materials on the fur trade and the Civil War in the West,
6       Our second class, “The Wallowa Country: 1855-1900” will begin on February 19. This four week, non-credit class is aimed at local history buffs and will include several Joseph High School students.
7       Saturday morning sessions for middle school students are in the works
8     A “children’s corner” is being developed by volunteers. It will include children’s books, toys, etc.
9     Although the main collection is non-circulating, we have extra copies of Josephy books and other material of special local interest that is being organized into a very small lending section.
We appreciate your questions, suggestions, and assistance. Libraries, I am learning, are sustained by love. There is no way that this work “pays its way,” but, as friend Kim Stafford reminds me, it was Benjamin Franklin who said that community is dependent on three strong public institutions: a fire department, post office, and library. The fire departments are still here, the Post Office is under attack, and small non-profit libraries like ours join the great public libraries in maintaining culture—and community.

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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 elders who keep the story alive.

On Sunday I was privileged to watch and listen to another telling of the story in the Lapwai, Idaho High School gym. It was a world premier, a special performance for Nez Perce people of a work commissioned and performed by the Caritas Chorale of the Wood River Valley in Idaho. Artistic director Dick Brown brought some 60 singers from his chorale and 30 string and percussion players from the Boise Symphony to play the work composed by Idahoans David Alan Earnest (music), and Diane Josephy Peavey (libretto).  

Brown, who grew up in Mississippi, told the audience that he was familiar with prejudice and issues of social justice. He didn’t tell us how he had first commissioned a work on Lewis and Clark in Idaho with the same composition team, and that Diane Peavey brought the Nez Perce chapter of Lewis and Clark into that piece. It was performed to fine reviews, and Brown dug deeper into the Nez Perce story himself, and then found the funds to commission a new work and take the group of musicians to Lapwai to boldly test it with the Indian people.

I remember talking with Diane when she first got the charge. It was daunting, because of her father’s identification with Nez Perce history, and because she knew enough of the story and knew many Nez Perce people and wondered how she could tell their story.

But with their help, she told the Nez Perce story as a tribute to them and a lesson to the rest of us, the non-Indians who now share land and waters we took from them.

When Alvin found the story, he was driven to precedents, to trace the history of tribes and European immigrants to the Northwest. Eventually it led to studies and books about the whole of it—“The Indian Heritage of America” and “500 Nations,” massive dioramas of two continents and 30,000 or more years of human habitation. He studied archeology and linguistics, mythology and contemporary Indian cultures in making his pictures, and he came away knowing that Indians had survived against all odds and had things to teach us still.

A choral work does not allow for great detail; the work of it is in the selection of the scenes and then telling, with few words and accompanying music, the essence of it. I am sure that artistic director, composer, librettist, and Nez Perce friends all had a hand in choosing and creating, but it was really Diane’s charge to be the word teller. The scenes were brilliantly chosen—from Lewis and Clark and creation myth through white religion, the Nez Perce War, and on to Nez Perce care of the land today. I loved the inclusion of the Celilo Falls story, that final affront to 12,000 years of Indian living, and thought that wrapping the story around the Nez Perce promise to the Creator that the two-leggeds would always care for the four-leggeds and the land and waters that sustain us was brilliant.

Shakespeare used old stories to address his concerns, and the Bible tells the Gospel four times. We learn with every telling of the Nez Perce story, and now have two Josephys to thank for theirs.

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Note: performances in Sun Valley and Hailey, July 14 and 15. For more information, go to caritaschorale.org/