Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Nez Perce Park turns 50; Alvin Josephy 100

Beadwork byAllen Pinkham, Jr.
The Nez Perce National Historical Park celebrates 50 years this summer, which also marks the centenary of Alvin Josephy’s birth.  Josephy, who passed away in 2005, wrote The Nez Perce and the Opening of the Northwest and is the namesake of the Josephy Center for Arts and Culture and the Josephy Library—which is my gig. As part of the Park’s anniversary celebration, the Center is honored to host “Nuunimnix” a Native American Art Exhibit, which opens this Saturday, May 30 at 3 p.m. This will be followed by a Sunday celebration for Alvin, a “birthday party” for the historian and friend of the Nez Perce people. This one is at 4 p.m. May 31.

The Nez Perce art is not commercial, but “gift art,” the things tribal artists and craftspeople have made for each other. The Nez Perce Park, for those not familiar with it, is unique among national parks because the land is not all contiguous, and is not all owned by the Park Service. It is headquartered on the Nez Perce Reservation in Spalding, Idaho. In 1965, all sites in the Park were in Idaho, but it now includes bits of Oregon, Washington, and Montana. In Wallowa County, the Dug Bar Crossing and the cemetery at the Lake are now on the list. For more information on the Park, go to http://www.nps.gov/nepe/index.htm,

Some of the Indian artists and the show’s curators will be here to talk about it, and a Nez Perce Drum will be here to help with the celebration. Fortunately, the drummers and singers have agreed to stay over and help with the Josephy celebration. For those of you who were at the memorial service at the Josephy ranch in the summer of 2006, this is the same group of drummers who honored the Josephys at that time. And although I cannot promise it, I believe that one of the drummers stayed at the Josephy ranch as a boy and attended the Wallowa Valley Day Camp.

Albert Barros, who is currently on the Tribal Council, will also be here. He too stayed at the Josephys, went to Day Camp, called Betty Josephy “mom,” and am sure will have a few words. This is a tight circle, with old family friends, many of whom grew up with the Josephy children, now tribal elders!

Al Josephy’s favorite picture of his father
Josephy children: Al Josephy and some of his extended tribe plan to be here as well. Daughter Kathy—“Katch”—hopes to sing one of her dad’s favorite songs. And we will be opening a small permanent exhibit that explains Alvin’s career. It’s set up as a hundred year timeline; Al came up with the title: “100 years of Headlines.”

Alvin Josephy never set out to make headlines, but he wrote quite a few. Our exhibit will feature many of his books and articles—Now That the Buffalo’s Gone and 500 Nations; “The Custer Myth” in Life Magazine, and “Wounded Knee and All That—What the Indians Want” in the New York Times. It might not be ready this Sunday, but we will have his voice in that broadcast on the Marine Corps invasion of Guam.

So this is a big weekend, and I hope that some of you who read this blog and follow goings on here in the Wallowa Valley will join us in the celebrations. And if you cannot make it now, sometime in June, while Nuunimnix is still on display. And if not in June, whenever you make it to the Wallowa Country, traditional home of the Joseph Band of the Nez Perce Indians.


p.s. If you get Oregon Public Broadcasting, April Baer and I talked this morning, and some portions of it will be broadcast on her “State of Wonder” program at noon this Saturday. I understand you can “stream” it from anywhere, but any streams I know about are all wet.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Remembering Ivan Doig

The Daily News Online
I think it was the fall of 1977 or the spring of 1978. We had opened the Bookloft in Enterprise in late 1976, and were going to our first “trade show.” It was in a Seattle hotel, and there were tables and tables of books—books recently published or about to be—with publishers’ representatives standing behind their wares and offering special deals…. if we would just order so many books.

And there were authors’ appearances. Over the course of a weekend a dozen or more authors read briefly and talked about their new books, and we booksellers, new cloth book bags in hand and already filled with publishers’ catalogs, stood in line after the appearances for free autographed books.

Ivan Doig was an unknown at the time—still making a living as a journalist as I recall. But he was good, and I stood in line for him, and made it to the front before Harcourt Brace & Jovanovich ran out of copies of This House of Sky. When my turn came, Ivan looked me in the eye and asked me what my name was. “I’m going to sign this to you—so you won’t sell it!” he chuckled.

A few years passed, and a quiet couple came into the bookstore, browsed, and drank coffee in Judy’s Kitchen at the rear of the store. They didn’t announce themselves, but I slowly figured, from that first Seattle meeting and the jacket pictures on his books (by then there were several), that it was Ivan Doig. They said that writer-friend Craig Lesley had said good things about the country and our bookstore, so Ivan and his wife Carol had made the long drive from Montana or from Auntie’s Bookstore in Spokane to Portland and Seattle—or from Seattle and Portland to Spokane or Montana—taking the long route through Lewiston on Highway 3.  We had a short talk, they bought a book or two, and were on their way.

In 1988, I moved from the bookstore to Fishtrap, and immediately began inviting Ivan Doig to join us. I had a fistful of polite rejections when another writer, Bill Kittredge, explained that he and many of his friends enjoyed the writing conference circuit, but Ivan stayed home and wrote!

That didn’t deter me; I kept inviting him. And in 1994 our theme was “The Restless West: WW II and After,” and Ivan had a new book out. It was called Heart Earth, and covered the War period from a trove of letters between his mother and her brother, who was stationed on the USS Ault in the Pacific. Ivan’s mother had passed when he was six, so he was reconstructing a time in his own life and in her life that had been covered over as he and his dad moved from sheep ranch to cow camp across Montana in the 1940s and 50s. He would be a perfect fit.

I learned later that it wasn’t the theme that brought him to Fishtrap—historian Richard White, from the University of Washington, was our keynoter. He and Ivan were friends from the time Ivan picked up a Phd in History at UW. When sales of House of Sky took off, so did any thoughts of an academic career, though Doig is remembered for the attention to historical accuracy in all of his books.

So he and Richard had talked. Ivan had seen a little bit of the Wallowas, and that was good, and Richard’s friend, the historian Alvin Josephy, would be here. So there was the chance to meet him. He came, read, and talked, and we all loved him. Personable, honest, a man who read and treasured Irish writers and Australian writers as well as his American peers. For Ivan’s stories and Richard White on how WW 2 had shaped the West, and for Alvin’s stories of the Pacific—that was the time he played a recording of the landing at Guam—it was a memorable Fishtrap.

I can see him now at the Fishtrap podium. I think I am going to dig out a recording of his 1994 talk. I had no notion that he had been battling cancer for eight years, and his death on April 10, which I am now reading about in the Missoulian and the NY Times and Washington Post, slipped right by me. Those who knew him revere the connections (recollections like mine must be going on in thousands of minds as I write), and no one seems surprised that he had been quiet about the cancer, and gone on doing research, writing books, and granting interviews to the end.

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