Saturday, August 16, 2008

Chief Lookingglass Pow Wow

beautiful summer evening

It was very interesting. To say the least.

[Some background: We live on the Nez Perce Reservation. They call themselves Nimi'ipuu, which means the "real people" or "we the people." The Nimi'puu aboriginal territory was approximately 17 million acres or approximately 70 thousand square kilometers or 27 thousand square miles; including the Clearwater River Basin, the South and Middle forks of the Salmon River Basin and their tributaries. The Lewis and Clark Corp of Discovery waited with the Nez Perce in the Kamiah Valley almost a month in the spring of 1806 for the snow to melt so they could cross the Bitterroot Mountains on their return to the East. It is estimated that at the time of the Lewis and Clark Expedition the native people had been in the area for over 10,000 years. Chief Jospeh was the most famous of the Nez Perce ("I will fight no more forever.") and Chief Lookingglass was the war chief who, along with Chief Joseph, directed the 1877 Nez Perce retreat from eastern Oregon into Montana and on toward the Canadian border.]

I grew up here and have very little knowledge of the actual history of the people who live(d) here, which I think it really depressing. We learn all about Eli Whitney and the cotton gin and all the dead white men of history yet we aren't taught anything about the very rich culture that we are surrounded by and that survives in spite of the efforts of the whites. A good portion of the people I went to school with, through the 12th grade, are native...and I never took the time to learn about their culture, which makes me feel like a louse.

So I decided I should make an effort to find out what I can about the Nez Perce and going to pow wows is one way of doing that.

Grand Entry

Horace Axtell was there and led several of the ceremonies. He is one of the most revered Nez Perce elders, a veteran of WWII who was in Nagasaki immediately after the bomb was dropped, and he will be receiving an NEA National Heritage Award this fall in Washington, D.C. for his leadership and efforts to help continue the culture of the tribe. Here is a video of him speaking Nez Perce. His book Little Bit of Wisdom is on hold for me at the library, so I'm very interested to read it and find out more about the Nez Perce.

remind me to get a camera
that actually works in low-light

out of focus but I like it anyway

I didn't stay as long as I would have liked---it didn't start until 7:30 p.m. and I left at about 9:30 because I was getting hungry, cold, and tired. But I'm sure it will continue into the night. In fact it lasts all weekend.


Chris said...

When I lived in Ronan, I made it out to the Arlee powwow several times. There are things I liked about it, and things I disliked about it. I went to the Gathering of Nations in Albuquerque back in '99, and there was more that was distasteful than there was to like. I like the smaller, grassroots powwows best.

Do you ever feel like you don't belong, living on the reservation? Even though I am 1/2 Indian, I still felt like I shouldn't be there when I was living in Ronan. I think on that reservation whites outnumber Indians something like 3 - 1, and racism is pretty bad. It was very troubling, the whole experience of living there.

April said...

Yeah, I do feel guilty for living here, as a white person. I mean we give them reservations that are small percentages of their actual land and then we decide to live there, too? I guess maybe that is why I am trying to learn more about their culture. There is some racism here, but it tends to be subversive...

What did you find distasteful about the Gathering of Nations? This was my first time, so I definitely had anxiety about being there. Like a voyeur.

Chris said...

I guess my biggest gripe about the Gathering of Nations was that it just didn't feel "authentic" to me, whatever that means. There was so much commercial shit there, and all the main events and the Grand Entrance and stuff took place inside a big basketball arena . . . it was just too weird to me. I probably have overly romantic notions of what such an event should be like, in fact I'm sure I do, that I really couldn't overcome my distaste.