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NEZ PERCE APPALOOSA Horse Club

The NPApHC was formed in 1991 to serve youth on the Nez Perce Reservation by introducing them to horses and teaching them how to ride.  We are now a 501(c)(3) entity and include the whole family in our activities.  The majority of our members are Nez Perce, so we emphasize the Nez Perce culture and history.  Membership is open to everyone and to all horse breeds, i.e., one does not have to be Nez Perce, Native American, or own a horse (most members use horses owned by other Club members).  For more information on membership or scholarship donations, please contact Sally Mankiller, our Treasurer:  SMankillr@aol.com

To describe some of our activities, following is an article that appeared in a recent edition of our Nez Perce tribal paper, Ta'c Tito'qan:  

REMEMBERING 1877: WALLOWA – START OF THE NIMIIPUU TRAIL; WHITE BIRD – START OF CAMPAIGN

The earth and its inhabitants were forever scarred by the tragic events of 1877 that originated in the Nimiipuu Homelands 134 years ago this spring.  In early June of this year, 32 members of the Nez Perce Appaloosa Horse Club (from Lapwai and Lewiston plus one member from St. Regis, Montana) revisited the trails, hills, rivers, valley and campsites that the Wallowa Band occupied wakiipa (a long time ago).  The NPApHC families consisted of men, women and children, much like the make-up of the Nimiipuu families who were involved, through no choice of their own, in the Campaign waged against them in 1877 by the pursuing U.S. Army beginning at White Bird, Idaho, on June 17 and ending on October 5 near the Bears Paw Mountains in Montana, 30+ miles short of the remaining Nimiipuu’s eventual destination in Canada, the Queen’s land, with exiled Lakota Chief Sitting Bull and his people.

Chief Joseph & Warriors Pow Wow:  During the third weekend in June, the 34thAnnual Chief Joseph & Warriors Pow Wow and Nez Perce War Memorial committee, headed this year by Whitebird band descendant Richard Arthur of Lapwai, commemorated the events of 1877 and honored the participants of that devastating Campaign with an empty chair ceremony on Saturday night of the Pow Wow for families to remember their ancestors.  As he does every year, W. Otis Halfmoon of Sante Fe, New Mexico, who is Tribal Liaison for the U.S. Park Service and a noted tribal historian very familiar with the story of the Nez Perce Campaign, conducted the empty chair ceremony, which concluded with an honor song by the Nez Perce Wap-qa-qhan Drum of Lapwai.  All present day Nez Perce were called to come join in the procession as we all share and identify with the sad events of 1877 - treaty, non-treaty, Traditional, Christian, everyone.   

White Bird Memorial:  The related, annual Nez Perce tribal memorial ceremony was held in a light drizzle on Saturday morning at the White Bird Battlefield and was conducted by Dr. Horace Axtell, U.S Army veteran and Nez Perce traditional leader, and Wilfred Scott, retired from the U. S. Navy and former Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee member.  After an opening prayer, riders Angel, Faith and Payton Sobotta, Bessie Blackeagle and Jon Yearout on their Appaloosa horses from the Yearout ranch encircled the group.  After the riders spoke and departed, other members of the group shared their stories and thoughts.  A sacred pipe ceremony and honor song concluded the ceremony.  (A complete article about the ceremony and photos appeared in the June 20 issue of Indian Country Today.) 

In the spring of 1877, all Nimiipuu bands living off the reservation boundaries of the Treaty of 1863, from Wallowa, Salmon River, and Palouse country, received final orders by General O. O. Howard to vacate their ancient homelands and report to him at Fort Lapwai and move to land assigned to them within the 1863 boundaries, which they didn’t accept and for 14 years sought reversal of the Treaty (a treaty assigning land to the Wallowa band in their homeland had been revoked by the U.S. Government).   The bands left their homelands only after General Howard “showed the rifle” to the chiefs during an earlier meeting at Lapwai, choosing  a peaceful route to save their families from war.  The non-treaty bands met at a traditional gathering place, Tipaxliwam, at the head of a gorge located by present day Tolo Lake near Grangeville.  (This big gorge to the Salmon River is a haven for wildlife but is invisible from U.S. Highway 95 or the gravel road cutoffs, and is marked only by a line of trees on the landscape.)   Unknown to the Nimiipuu leaders, a few young warriors took matters into their own hands and killed some settlers along the Salmon River who had wronged family members in the past but had escaped punishment.  The bands knew this was a bad sign for a peaceful resolve.   Even so, they attempted a truce by showing a white flag to a contingent of over 100 soldiers from Fort Lapwai and some volunteers who came toward the warriors near their new camp in White Bird Canyon on June 17, 1877.   Instead, a volunteer opened fire on the warriors, the Nimiipuu reacted, and the day ended with 34 soldiers killed with no losses by the Nimiipuu.  Now, there was definitely no turning back, and skirmishes with the Army followed them all the way to Bears Paw and Chief Joseph’s reluctant surrender to save the remnant of those who left their homelands in peace and ended up in a conflict that they tried to avoid. 

Wallowa Homeland Memorial Trail Ride: This five-day activity was made possible with matching NPApHC funds and Challenge Cost-Share funds administered through the Nez Perce National Historic Trail office for the purpose of posting signs along the original Trail, educating our members, especially the youth, and the general public about Nimiipuu history and the origin and special meaning of the Trail.  After traveling from Lapwai, down and up the aptly named Rattlesnake Grade to Enterprise, Oregon, the group of vehicles split up.  The riders and horses proceeded to Buckhorn Point in the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest and the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area.  The pickups and trailers were parked at Buckhorn for two days while the trail riders made their way down a steep traditional route of the Nimiipuu down to the Imnaha River along what is now called Tully Creek.  The camp crew went on to Joseph where they drove to the Imnaha Store and from there slowly traveled for hours over a steep graveled road down to Cow Creek Camp on the Imnaha River.  Later that evening, the riders rode into camp and were served a delicious, hot meal provided by head chef and Nez Perce descendant Floyd Alfrey and his family, including daughter Sally Mankiller and her husband, Kermit Mankiller and son Kristian.   Five-year old Ahlius Yearout, Lapwai Headstart preschooler, was the youngest rider that day.  He held on tightly to his saddle horn wearing his “horsemen” hat, gloves and boots (“horsemen,” not “cowboy,” he will tell you) and was led on horseback by his dad, Abraham, who was elected with his Dad, Jon, to serve the Club as co-Head Wranglers with duties to organize, transport and care for horses and look out for the welfare of the riders and horses.  They both deemed this ride challenging but very  rewarding.   

 

Three Yearout generations (Jon, Abe & Titus) on the Nez Perce Trail (hills of Hells Canyon)

The next day’s ride was along the original trail, which can still be seen indented into the land from a distance, from Cow Creek over the hills and down to Dug Bar on the Snake River where the Nimiipuu with all their families and possessions, including thousands of horses and cattle, crossed the high waters in May 1877.   When the horses and riders met up with those who went to Dug Bar by vehicle, we had lunch together and walked around the area, looking across the stretch of water that the Nimiipuu crossed in May of 1877, actually close to the time we were at the same spot. 

NPApHC Group at Dug Bar on the Snake River

We could see the way they probably went up the opposite hillside on the Idaho shore to Joseph Plains, which would lead them on their traditional route to the Salmon River, another high water which they would cross three times in the ensuing month. Our head wrangler, Jon Yearout, was the only one of our group who knew the route having previously ridden a horse down to Dug Bar on the Oregon side.   We know there were probably other Nez Perces who rode horse over the original trail since 1877, but felt we were the first in a long time since it is hard to access and leads nowhere except down to the river so it is not used much.  It felt good to represent our families and all the other descendants who would like to be there but haven’t yet had the opportunity.   The youngest riders that day were Titus Yearout and Kross Taylor, both 7 years old and soon-to-be 2ndgraders at Lapwai Elementary; they rode both ways.  Their Tootas, Abraham and Emmit, did horse leading duties on the steep trail.

 

Kross Taylor & Titus Yearout on Nez Perce Trail to Dug Bar

That night while everyone was sitting around the campfire, Emmit Taylor II, Nez Perce Tribal Fisheries Manager and NPApHC Vice-President, read an account from Alvin Josephy’s book, The Nez Perce Indians and the Opening of the Northwest,  that described exactly where we were, the trails on which we rode and what took place in 1877.  We could see the surrounding hills covered with livestock and the tipis and campfires much like our circle.   Emmit recounted the events that led to this crossing, which took two days and involved warriors on horses swimming with the rafts made of buffalo and cowhides strapped together holding their belongings with the elderly and young children riding on top of the loads.  Emmit said he could imagine the fear of the children, who would have been near the ages of our youngest riders, including his son, and children and an infant in our camp.  

Nez Perce Tribal Fisheries employee, Joe McCormack, who lives near Joseph, and his co-worker, Neal Meshell from Lapwai,  joined us for dinner while we were at Cow Creek.   Joe shared about his work as well as the purpose of the Wallowa Band Nez Perce Trail Interpretive Center located near Wallowa, of which he has been the Chairman. (We are indebted to Joe who worked hard to find a place to pasture our horses when we moved camp to  Wallowa Lake.)

(All along the trail from Buck Horn Point, at the bridge crossing the Imnaha River, and down to Dug Bar, the riders put up over 30 Nez Perce Trail marker signs to identify the trail so others will find their way; we hope to return soon.) 

On Friday, the riders retraced their route back up to Buckhorn Point and then trailered the horses to the final leg of our trip, Wallowa Lake, where we were graciously hosted at the campgrounds by Todd Honeywell and his staff at the Wallowa Lake State Park.    Early Saturday morning while many campers were having breakfast, we put on traditional regalia and horse trappings and paraded throughout the large campground.  At the foot of Wallowa Lake, we gave a presentation to an audience estimated at over 75 people who came from the surrounding towns of Joseph and Enterprise to add to the out-of-town campers. 

NPApHC members in the above photo (left to right), with Wallowa Lake in the background, are: Kross & Emmit Taylor, Abe & Titus Yearout, Angel & Grace Sobotta (behind), Monice Samuels, Olivia Carter, Glory Sobotta, Bailey Ewing, Samantha Alfrey, Rosa Yearout (standing), Veronica Mankiller, Doris Ferguson

President Rosa Yearout opened the presentation with introductions of the participants, the purpose of the Nez Perce Appaloosa Horse Club and our visit to the area, the meaning of the Nez Perce National Historic Trail, and to express our appreciation to all our benefactors.    Emmit was exhuberant in greeting the audience and said it felt good to be in this beautiful area that is so precious to the Nez Perce and on such a beautiful sunny day, which the weather forecasters predicted said would be rainy.   He then shared some of the Nimiipuu story connected with the events leading up to the 1877 conflict between the non-treaty Nez Perce and the U. S. Cavalry.  We encourage our club members to consult with elders, tribal historians, and do a lot of pertinent reading to learn all we can about the areas of the Trail that we ride on, not only for our own benefit or that of our immediate family members but also to share with others, especially our youth, and to make the public aware of the history of the Nimiipuu and why we have the Nez Perce Trail.  Emmit’s presentation was fast paced and narrated eloquently.

Angel Sobotta followed suit by mentioning the current burial site of one of her direct ancestors, Old Chief Joseph, whose grave is now at the north end of the Lake along with several of her McFarland ancestors and why Old Joseph was relocated there from a hillside near Wallowa after his grave was desecrated.    She concluded by sharing a story from L.V. McWhorter’s book, Yellow Wolf: His Own Story, when the Nimiipuu “hostiles,” as they were referred to, encountered the Carpenter-Cowan party in Yellowstone National Park in August of 1877.  A man in the group extended his hand to Yellow Wolf and shook his hand.  Yellow Wolf later related that, “Because I shook hands with him put me in mind not to kill him.”   In this same fashion, all NPApHC members then went out to the audience at the Lake and shook their hands as our gesture of peace and friendship to them and their people.  As is often mentioned by our respected elders at the memorials held at the major battlesites of 1877, we are not gathering to place blame, cause guilt or hard feelings, but to foster healing and to honor the memory of  those who have gone before us but who still live with us in our memories.   Yox kalo.  (By Rosa Yearout, Lapwai, Idaho)