The following highlights were submitted for the Nez Perce (Nee-Me-Poo) National Historic Trail by a representative of the Bitter Root Cultural Heritage Trust for calendar year 2021:
Strengthening Organizations and Partnerships
The NPNHT has awarded a Challenge Cost Share Agreement to the Bitter Root Cultural Heritage Trust (BRCHT) to lead preparation of a Strategic Partnership Strategy for the NPNHT. Work will begin with an assessment of the opportunities along the entire length of the trail and BRCHT will propose a framework for the Forest Service to work with partners in a way that shares tasks, builds capacity, develops revenue, and myriad other tasks to assist with the operations and development of the NPNHT. If circumstances permit travel, the effort will kick off with a trip along the trail during the Spring and Summer of 2022 to meet existing partners and identify potential new ones.
Local Economy, Tourism and Community Health
NPNHT was awarded a $130,000 NATIVE Act Grant. Funding will be used to update and/or install interpretive signs along the Auto Tour Route.
Signs will focus on using the Nez Perce language and traditional place names. Interpretive messages on signage will begin with interviews and photography of elders and Tribal artists will prepare artwork. Youth will assist with sign installation and traditional presenters will support installation of the signs with appropriate ceremonies.
“Updating interpretive signs with Nez Perce language is an important step in asserting the Tribe’s presence and history in this area,” said Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee Chairman Samuel Penney. “These places were often named based on their features or attributes, and the names do not come from historical figures, but rather our people were often named after these places.”
USDA Forest Service Administrator of the Nez Perce (Nee-Me-Poo) National Historic Trail Sandra Broncheau-McFarland has been working with strategic partners for years and recognizes that what is being learned from this project can be applied to other segments of the trail. “We are so pleased to be working with two tribes on this project, the Nez Perce Tribe, whose homeland is the Forest Service’s Northern Region, and the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes who traditionally used the area,” she said. “The two Tribes have important history in this region, and this project seeks to support each Tribe’s need to further document their experiences on this landscape as well as share their heritage and stories with current inhabitants and visitors.”
Nez Perce Tourism, LLC of Lewiston, ID is partnering with the Forest Service to plan and implement grant activities under a Participating Agreement. Stacia Morfin is the owner of Nez Perce Tourism and an enrolled member of the Nez Perce Tribe. Morfin’s business shares Nez Perce heritage through interpretive events and excursions created to connect visitors to Nimiipuu culture.
Morfin will be working closely on the project with the Nez Perce Tribe, Shoshone-Bannock Tribe, both Tribe’s Circle of Elders, the NPNHT, and local forests and additional partners to ensure sacred and undisclosed areas remain protected, while those appropriate for sharing can be interpreted with signage and programs that visitors can experience.
Education, Interpretation and Cultural Expression
Local partner, Bitter Root Cultural Heritage Trust, has been working with the Forest Service NPNHT for over a decade to support interpretation and other good works along the trail. Kristine Komar, president of BRCHT, believes that “both locals and visitors to the area appreciate learning more about the trail and events of 1877. The Flight and War of 1877 have great currency to our current culture and it’s important that we do all we are able to encourage dialogue and reflection.”
To those efforts, the BRCHT was awarded a Challenge Cost Share agreement to install NPNHT overview signs throughout the Bitterroot Valley. Partners along the trail jumped in eagerly to participate and include the City of Hamilton Parks, Fort Owen State Park, Ravalli County Museum, Victor Park, and Darby’s Sacajawea Rest Park, among others. The signs help each community share the story in context of their local setting and visitors are able to experience the trail from a variety of viewpoints along the Auto Tour Route. The Bitterroot Valley is fortunate to have three nation trails running through the valley on the exact same alignment-the Nez Perce NHT, of course, as well as the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, and the Ice Age Floods National Geologic Trail, so there is no lack of stories to share.
Another exciting interpretive effort BRCHT and NPNHT are working on is Agents of Discovery. (www.agentsofdiscovery.com) This highly interactive augmented reality app makes use of the most current technology and is easy to populate and operate. It works without onsite connectivity (if downloaded ahead of time) and can be changed and updated quickly. The Forest Service WO has been providing funding for Agents of Discovery so we can better learn how to work with digital interpretive media. Currently there are five “missions” – River Park, Hamilton; Historic St. Mary’s Mission, Stevensville; Travelers Rest State Park, Lolo; Lake Como, Darby and Bass Creek Recreation Area, Stevensville (Forest Service). Each mission is led by a unique “agent” designed to effectively guide participants. A new mission is also in development for the Lewis and Clark Descent Trail.