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.

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