Joseph-Shannon Wheeler, Oregon, has dreamed of this day for years.
On Thursday, more than 150 Nezperce (Niimiipuu) people returned home to celebrate part of their hometown. This was 100 years after the US military expelled them from the Wallowa Valley in eastern Oregon.
In 1877, in direct violation of the Walla Walla Treaty of 1855, Nezperce was forced from his 7.5 million acre hometown to a 750,000 acre settlement in Idaho.
For years, the tribes have worked to stay connected to the ancestral lands they were driven out of. Last year they succeeded in regaining part of the land.
The Nez Perce tribe purchased 148 acres of land in Joseph in December. This is known as Amsa Axpa, or the location of the boulder, but due to concerns about COVID-19, the blessing ceremony could not be officially held until Thursday.
The property has been privately owned and operated as a ranch for over 100 years. Located on the edge of the city’s rodeo ground.
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Surrounded by the Wallowa Mountains, ownership includes homes near Airport Road, barns, grasslands, and the frontage of the Wallowa River, where Nezperce camps and catches sockeye salmon, built in 1884.
It also includes the ridge where Chief Joseph once held a council.
“I hope our ancestors will feel tears of joy and see our people returning to the land we belong to, and their tears will turn into joy,” Wheeler said before the ceremony. Said to. “Our people know that we were born of this land. We are so tied to the land, and so is the land to us.”
He said blessings are important for our ancestors to be able to “listen to us” and “feel our moccasins on the ground again.”
Wheeler described the day as a bittersweet victory following 144 years of sadness and patience.
Wheeler is a descendant of Chief Joseph, one of the few Nezperce leaders who fought vigorously to protect the Nezperce tribe and its land.
Chief Joseph was one of the Nezperces who deprived 90% of the land of the tribe and refused to comply with the 1863 treaty demanding a move to the Idaho settlement.
In 1877, a war broke out when General Oliver O. Howard tried to drive the non-treaty Nezperce out of the land. Under the guidance of Chief Joseph, a band of about 700 people traveled more than 1,100 miles, chased by 5,000 US troops.
Joseph’s band surrendered to General Nelson Miles and General Howard on October 5, 1877, after the final battle in the Bearspo Mountains, Montana. They were 40 miles below their goal of crossing the Canadian border.
It is estimated that more than 230 Nezperce people, including women and children, died during the withdrawal from combat.
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After their surrender, US officials promised Joseph Band that they would be allowed to join their rest in the Idaho settlement. This turned out to be a lie.
“When they were crossing the valley, one of the elders at the time told people to look back,’because this may be the last time I’ve seen this land,'” Wheeler said in an interview with the Statesman Journal. Like USA TODAY, it is part of the USA TODAY network. “And for many of them, it was the last time they saw the land.”
The surrendered people were sent to Kansas during the winter and banished to Oklahoma during the summer. It was not until 1885 that they were allowed to return to the Pacific Northwest, yet many, including Chief Joseph, were moved away from the Nezperce settlement to the Colville settlement in Washington. I did.
long time no see
Wheeler remembers one of the first times he visited the land shortly after they signed it. He visited with other tribal leaders such as former secretary Rachel Edwards, executive leader Quincy Ellenwood, cultural resources director Nakia Williamson Cloud, and land enterprise manager Kim Cannon.
“I sang a few songs over there just to be there. We stood on the ground and looked back at what that meant when we were there,” Wheeler said. .. Is standing. “
The coronavirus pandemic only delayed the inevitable, said Nezperce finance officer Casey Mitchell, a descendant of Chief Joseph.
“It’s time to reclaim our land,” he said. “This has great implications not only for us at the council table here, but for our people as well. Our people have been waiting for a long time to return to the land.”
The people of Nezperce have continued fishing and gathering in and near the Wallowa Valley, but Nezperce has been struggling for protection and protection after years of struggle to claim their guaranteed fishing rights under US treaties. Fought in. According to Mitchell, they had the opportunity to officially call the land their own again.
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It also cultivates an ancient sacred campsite.
“We have ancestors buried there,” Mitchell said. “That’s why we already have the place name, Am’sáaxpa, Place of Boulders. When Shannon and everyone went to sing, it was to inform our ancestors that we were going home. We let them know that we are at home and that we are there. ”
The Nezperce people filled the parking lot at Joseph High School on Thursday, preparing to pass through Joseph and enter Amsa Axpa for a blessing ceremony.
Twelve people on horseback, dressed in traditional regalia, led more than 100 people to a distance of nearly a mile through Joseph. At the top of the property, a long traditional tent welcomed participants.
Walking and riding were intentional, Williamson Cloud said.
“When are they [ancestors] They left, they left on horseback, “he said.
Now Nezperce was riding a horse back to the land.
“We are here, we are survivors,” said Williamson-Cloud. “We are doing what our ancestors couldn’t do.”
Prior to the blessing ceremony, tribal leaders looked back on the history of the Nezperce tribe, sharing joy about the historical events of the day and talking about what the day represents.
The drummer sang seven sets of seven songs, as traditionally at the blessing ceremony.
Ellenwood described this purchase as another stepping stone to Nezperce’s growth and history. He said his first visit to the property was emotional.
“I told them,’This can’t let us slip through,'” Ellenwood said.
Shari BlackEagle couldn’t miss the opportunity to come to Oregon.
She learned about the event three weeks ago and immediately contacted her cousin to see if her family would go.
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She flew from Oklahoma and made her first long trek to the Pacific Northwest.
Her mother moved to Oklahoma many years ago, where Black Eagle still lives.
She met her father Norton Black Eagle for the first time on Wednesday night.
She said she was “overwhelming” all day long, and finally she was able to meet a family known only on Facebook and other social media. She said it was a homecoming in every sense.
Their family is a descendant of Chief Black Eagle, the husband of Chief Joseph’s sister.
Shari’s aunt, Janet Blackeagle, was involved in Shari’s reaction. She joined the Oregon family in May when Nezperce celebrated the return of the United Methodist Church’s Wallowa sanctuary.
“I remember we approached [to Wallowa] If you feel good, you’ll get there quickly, “remembered Janet. “We didn’t sleep … when we got there, we all felt fine.”
“It’s very exciting,” she said.
“It’s about arriving at a place that allows you to be unforgivable,” Norton Black Eagle said of the day.
The family planned to return to Aidaho that day, but not before celebrating Shari’s visit a little more. Before she had to return to Oklahoma, they were showing other landmarks and attractions around the Warowa Valley.
Follow Dianne Lugo on Twitter. @DianneLugo..
Native American tribes celebrate landfill after 100 years of removal
Source link Native American tribes celebrate landfill after 100 years of removal