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The Nez Perce Historical Park in Spalding

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Nez Perce History Books

When Lewis and Clark met the Nez Perce in 1805, the tribe controlled a territory of 17 million acres which stretched across the states of Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington. We visited the museum dedicated to them in Spalding, Idaho, just east of Lewiston.


Nez Perce is French for “Pierced Nose”: a name mistakenly bestowed upon them by French fur traders. Nose-piercing has never been a part of Nez Perce culture, but for some reason the name stuck. The tribe refers to itself as the Niimíipu, which means “The People”.

Like most Native Americans, the Nez Perce have a rich history which turned tragic with the arrival of Europeans. They were among the final American tribes “discovered” by the whites, and established a friendly, collaborative relationship with Lewis & Clark’s party. The arriving settlers didn’t seem interested in their territory, and the Nez Perce were able to live in peace alongside their new neighbors.

Far from being afraid, the Nez Perce were fascinated by these white people with their powerful “magic”, and sent a delegation to St. Louis requesting missionaries to come west and teach them from the “Book of Heaven”. Before visiting the Nez Perce Museum, I had never considered that Native Americans might have requested conversion, but I suppose it makes sense.

Of course, it didn’t take long for the cozy relationship to fall apart. After the discovery of gold in Idaho, the Nez Perce were pushed off their land onto ever smaller reservations. Disease, particularly smallpox, devastated the population, and things came to a head during the 1877 Nez Perce War. The Nez Perce won some initial skirmishes, but were eventually overwhelmed by the US military just 40 miles south of Canada, where they had hoped to find refuge. The war ended with Chief Joseph’s legendary words of surrender: “Hear me, my chiefs! I am tired. My heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands I will fight no more forever.”

The museum dedicated to the tribe is exceedingly well-done, filled with artifacts and displays which bring the customs and practices of the Nez Perce to life. There’s a short video presentation which is both interesting and informative. And near the museum are buildings dating from the late 1800s, including a Presbyterian Church and a general store where whites would trade with the Nez Perce for food and clothing.

Nez Perce National Historic Park – Website
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Wrapped Kid
October 4, 2012 at 2:23 am Comments (5)

A Concise History of Idaho

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Idaho History Books


History in Idaho began when the White Man discovered it, and that’s that! Well, no, of course that’s not true. But unfortunately the recorded history of Idaho does begin with the appearance of Europeans in the early 19th century. Everything prior is based on fossil records and legends. So, the known story of Idaho is largely one of conflict between settlers and Native Americans, and of the struggle to populate and live off some of the continent’s wildest land.

15,000 to 6,000 B.C. The appearance of humanity, with Big-Game Hunters on the trail of woolly mammoths and mastodons establishing a presence in Idaho.
6,000 B.C. to A.D. 500 The so-called Archaic Period sees a major warming of the earth, which creates massive rivers. The Archaic people, hunters and gatherers, begin to trade with one another.
500 to 1805 Not much is known about the 1300 years before the arrival of the Europeans, referred to as the Late Period. The modern Indian tribes such as the Nez Perce, the Bannock and the Shoshone, took shape and flourished.
August 12, 1805 Lewis & Clark enter Idaho, making it the last of the 50 states to be explored.
1810 The fur trade leads to the establishment of Fort Henry on the Snake River, abandoned just a year later.
1832 Aided by the Nez Perce tribe, fur trappers engage the migratory Gros Ventre people in a bloody battle at Pierre’s Hole.
1836 Henry H. Spalding establishes a protestant mission in Lapwai, writes Idaho’s first novel, opens its first school, and plants its first potato.
Chief Joseph, 1840–1904
1846–1869 Tens of thousands of settlers pass through Idaho on the Oregon Trail, though very few choose to settle here.
1860 A gold rush leads to the illegal establishment of Lewiston, squarely situated in territory given to the Nez Perce tribe in a treaty.
1863 Abraham Lincoln incorporates the Idaho Territory, which included most of present-day Montana and Wyoming, and had its capital at Lewiston.
1877 The bitterly fought Nez Perce War concludes with Chief Joseph’s immortal words “From where the sun now stands I will fight no more forever.”
July 3, 1890 Idaho is admitted into the Union as the 43rd state.
1892 Mining strikes in Coeur d’Alene turn deadly and union struggles culminate in 1905’s assassination of Governor Frank Steunenberg.
1905 The completion of Milner Dam allows settlement in the heretofore unpopulated Magic Valley area.
1936 The Sun Valley ski resort opens, featuring heated outdoor pools and the world’s first ski lifts.
1981 The closure of the Bunker Hill Mining Company signals the substantive end of mining in Idaho.
1992 The infamous Ruby Ridge standoff between right-wing separatist Randy Weaver and the US Marshalls leaves three dead, including Weaver’s wife and son.
2001 The Aryan Nation is expelled from the state. Owing to Idaho’s remoteness, right-wing extremism has been a problem since the 80s.
2012 and beyond With the eclipse of mining, Idaho’s economic base turns to tourism and technology, with Boise establishing itself as one of America’s most livable cities, and adventure-seekers the world over beginning to discover the state’s great untamed wilderness.
Camping World
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August 27, 2012 at 9:56 pm Comments (2)
The Nez Perce Historical Park in Spalding When Lewis and Clark met the Nez Perce in 1805, the tribe controlled a territory of 17 million acres which stretched across the states of Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington. We visited the museum dedicated to them in Spalding, Idaho, just east of Lewiston.
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