Sunday, June 15, 1997

Nez Perce return home

by Terri Crawford Hansen
News from Indian Country

Sometimes we do it right.

The month of June marked a right and momentous celebration for the Nez Perce, the people of Chief Joseph or "Hinmat'owyalaht'qit" — "Thunder Coming Up Over the Land," and his descendents.

Returning to their beloved Wallowa valley for the first time — many riding their famed Appaloosa horses — was more than a meaningful eloquent ride. This was a promise kept to Chief Joseph 120 years ago, after they were chased out by a 15-week attack by the U.S. Calvary.

The Nez Perce, who call themselves Nimipu, "The Real People, " received through the Trust for Public Land, over 10,000 lush acres into ownership of their native lands.

From here on in, the land will be known as Chief Joseph Ranch.

Celebrations began June 12, when the Nez Perce celebrated a name-giving ceremony. Other events included a pow-wow memorial, dancing, give-aways, and ended with a June 17 Memorial for those Nez Perce killed in the U.S.-Indian conflicts.

June 15 saw a dedication of the Wolf Education and Research Center, to commemorate the tribe's participation in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife reintroduction of gray wolves from Canada to Idaho .

"The Trust for Public Land has been saving land for people for 25 years," says Susan Ives, vice president and director of public affairs. They have worked with a number of Indian tribes in the past, she says, but this is their first transaction with the Nez Perce tribe.

The tribe plans to restore the mountainous land to wilderness with native elk, salmon, berries, roots and grasses.

No one is expected to live on the land except for a caretaker.