140 years since the 1877 war and flight of the Nez Perce

By Roger Peterson, Public Affairs Specialist with the U.S. Forest Service for the Nez Perce (Nee-Me-Poo) National Historic Trail

This year marks the 140th anniversary of the 1877 war and flight of the Nez Perce. The staff of the Nez Perce (Nee-Me-Poo) National Historic Trail (NPNHT), in conjunction with a number of partners, featured a series of public events to help provide visitors with information and experiences. We encouraged people to take time to learn more, participate in these events, and reflect upon the historic events of 1877 and what they mean for all people today.

People attend the opening of the exhibit at Ravalli County Museum. (Photo courtesy Joni Packard, USFS)

A poster commemorating the 140th anniversary is featured on the new website. (Photo courtesy www.fs.usda.gov)

The commemoration began in early May with the unveiling of a poster which the staff of the NPNHT produced in conjunction with the U.S. Forest Service Center for Design and Interpretation. In May, the staff of the NPNHT also designed and launched a website to provide information about events happening during the following months. From May 19-October 31, 2017, a new exhibit, “The Journey of the Resilient Nez Perce People,” was on display for visitors at the Ravalli County Museum in Hamilton, Montana. Designed and fabricated by SeaReach LTD, exhibit development was accomplished through a partnership between NPNHT and the Ravalli County Museum, Bitter Root Cultural Heritage Trust, U.S. Forest Service staff, and Tribal elders, staff, and members. The exhibit marks the path of the 1877 conflict between the Niimíipuu and the United States Army. The display tells the story of the Nez Perce flight and gives the viewer an in-depth look at the culture and customs of this strong society. The intention is for the exhibit to be able to travel to other museums along the NPNHT in the future.

Nez Perce Drummers and Dancers perform. (Photo courtesy Roger Peterson, USFS)

The annual Nez Perce memorials, which are open to all people, are held at several locations across the Pacific Northwest, from Fort Vancouver, Washington to the Bear Paw Battlefield near Chinook, Montana, and provide great opportunities to learn, reflect, and interact with descendants of those whose lives were touched by the war and flight.

On September 21, “The Creators: A Gathering of First Nation Artisans and Live Performances” was held at the Lolo Pass Visitor Center on the Idaho and Montana border. This event featured about ten native artists and dances and was attended by the public and local school children. The staff at Lolo Pass plans to make this an annual gathering of native artists, providing them with a venue to display their creations.

On October 5, the NPNHT, along with the University of Montana History Department and the Rocky Mountain Museum of Military History, cosponsored a lecture by Vanderbilt University Professor Daniel Sharfstein. Sharfstein recently released the book “Thunder in the Mountains: Chief Joseph, Oliver Otis Howard, and the Nez Perce War.” More than 150 people attended the lecture in Missoula, Montana.

We hope that people took advantage of this moment in time to pause and reflect on what the story of the NPNHT means to all of us and to learn from the lessons that it teaches.

15th anniversary of Kaya as ‘First American Girl’

Kaya doll display. (Photo courtesy USFS)

By Sandra Broncheau-McFarland, Administrator of the NPNHT
Adapted from an article in the NPNHT Summer 2017 Progress Report

Kaya, the American Girl doll, was first introduced 15 years ago in 2002. The Nez Perce tribe was represented by an advisory board who worked to assist Pleasant Company to assure that the stories and product were authentic. The project took six years to develop until the launch.

The Pleasant Company/Mattel offers the historical series that makes the Kaya doll and six books about her as an 11-year-old Nez Perce girl. Through discussions with advisory board members this spring, the company agreed it was time to reintroduce Kaya to a new set of little girls on the Nez Perce reservation.

On the morning of September 8, 2017, more than a hundred 4th grade girls and mentors gathered for the read-a-thon at the Lapwai High School Gymnasium in Lapwai, Idaho. They spent the next two hours reading from the Kaya books. For participating, each student received a set of the books and a doll (valued at $125) that were donated by the company.

Unless otherwise indicated, all material in Pathways Across America is public domain. All views expressed herein are perspectives of individuals working on behalf of the National Trails System and do not necessarily represent the viewpoint of the Federal agencies.

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