Lewis and Clark
NPR/NGS Radio Expeditions
26 Jul 2001
- Clearwater National Forest; Powell Ranger Station
- 46.51038 -114.70961
- Coniferous Forest
Stereo=1; Decoded MS stereo
NPR/NGS RADIO EXPEDITIONS
Show: Lolo Trail
Log of DAT#: 6
Date: July 26, 2001
02:17 AC: It's July 26th and it's 11: 15 in the morning at the Powell Ranger station in Idaho on Route 12 along the Locksaw River. Powell Ranger station is in the Locksaw district of the Clearwater Nat'l Forest. We're behind the district house that Jeff Fee stays in when he's up here, and we're going to talk to Alan about the trails that L&C took over the mountains and the most difficult part of their journey that they'd come to when they got to the Rocky Mountains and try to find their way over. They find a series of trails that are so clear that L&C refer to them as roads, and I think that they were roads. (3:30)
3:40 AP: My English name is Alan Pinkham. My Nez Perce name is (something ...), given to me by my father. I'm a Nez Perce that lives in ?, Idaho on the Nez Perce reservation. And position I have now is with the National L&C Bicentennial Council. I'm the tribal liaison that works with the tribes that have any connection with L&C and what occurred with L&C. So -just trying to get tribal involvement in the bicentennial, so if there's any opportunity for that tribe ..to participate in whatever L&C activity or stories or whatever that they can ...tell their own stories. (4:43)
AC: ...What we're going to do is say this Bicentennial is coming and people are planning for it. .. One of the pieces is going to be this trip ...The other piece is going to be just a couple of interviews and I'd like to talk to you about that ...What is it you would like to see happen with the bicentennial commission ...as a native person's representative.
5:28 AP: In the journals and other renditions of L&C, or historical interpretation of went on with L&C, rarely do you see a tribal position written. in a journal or a historical rendition of L&C and their encounters. And my concern of that other half of what should have been in that L&C journal is never in the journal and that's the tribal perspective of what the tribes thought of this military expedition or this reconnaissance patrol that was coming into their tribal territory. That is never reflected -either it's "oh these Indians are very friendly and they accepted all our gadgets....and they were good Indians..." Or it was at the extreme of what ocurred with the Black Feet -they had a fight with them and had to kill a couple of Black Feet. (6:41) .. Another portion of this is that some tribes heard that L&C were coming...and they would look down at L&C and say, Oh, there they are, and look at them and then turn around and go back. (7:01)
AC: So they knew they were coming?
7:03 AP: Oh sure. There's no great mystery about it ...We knew L&C was coming and eventually it was prophesized that these strange people would come among us one day. And they would bring some strange things with them, both good and bad. This is a long prophesy...Basically, when these...strange creatures came among us, we would question, are they human beings, b/c they don't look like us -they got this pale skin and some of them have eyes like fish, and they smell¿.. So what are they? And then when we heard them talk and they were giving out things, we said, maybe they're mixed with some other creature -they're half human beings and half some other kind of creature b/c they don't look like us. So this is some things that weren't ever put into any historical rendition...or even in L&C's journal (8:35)
AC: Would there be some debate in your community of whether you should have any role in a bicentennial celebration ... b/c for your people, things didn't always turn out so well .
8:57 AP: Well, this is all the good stuff that L&C wrote about the encounter with the Nez Perce...The Nez Perce never killed us ...And some of our people have said, why do you want to go out and celebrate this L&C stuff-they never did anything to us ...Look at all the things that we lost. .. We were almost wiped out. .. But I reminded them -look what happened to us. 200 years we had been suffering but we survived all that, so now where are we. We should always talk about the past to better understand why things occurred 200 years ago ...Understand those events and why those occurred and why we ended up where we are right now. And we should talk about those things ...And so that then we should talk about the present -today -maybe tomorrow. We can talk about that if we have an understanding of the past. Then we can ...sit down together wi these people that we thought were strange. And we can talk about the present. And then we can talk about the future generation ...That's what I want to do. (10:57)
AC: Let me ask you about the trails. I've been trying to get people to explain this one word that you find in the journals ...And the storybook idea of these guys is that they're out there cutting their own trail through the wilderness and finding their way ...over the mountains...to the coast. But in the journals what they're writing about is we're following roads ... That's a powerful word, road. A road means -you feel safe on a road b/c somebody put that road there. So it must be ok to go down that road ...It's a path, not the way we think about roads today ...Whose road was that?
12:20 AP: Well, it's a myriad of roads and trails -footpaths or horse trails criss-crosses all over these mountains.. This is all familiar country to us because we were there. 200 years ago we went to the great plains for buffalo or we went to trade with other tribes on the plains¿... northern plans or to the southern planes. So we knew then that even ifwe were never there before people that were there before would describe...the landmarks. Or if you go to a certain place you'd see a certain outline of the mountain that looks a certain way or maybe a cairn ...So when these new people saw these things, they knew where they were at...(13:27)
AC: How often did people go back and forth?
AP: Every year there would be some group of Nez Perce that would gather, or they'd go to a number of villages around the Snake or the Clearwater ...They would send a messenger out, "We want to go to the plains, come meet with us." ...Then the leaders or the one who wanted to go to the plains would gather and ...talk about what they wanted to do ...We want to go to the Salish people ..the crow people ...the Yellowstone River. .. the Great Falls ... They wanted to go for the buffalo ...or maybe to trade ...So they would gather and decide well who was going to go -and someone would say well maybe I want to go ...They'd choose a leader from that group ...And if they'd never been there before, then other people who'd been there would describe the landmarks to them. But generally speaking they would choose someone who had already been there ...So it was all familiar country to these people ...(15:19)...
15:36 AC: When they went, they would follow these trails and paths that would lead up over this pass, and this was the way to go?
15:45 AP: Yeah, they would describe landmarks. There around the Nor there's one creek that
comes in there by where I live that's called ??? and that means Coyote's Mud Bath -so ifthey say, you need to go by Coyote's Mud Bath, they know where they're at in the Clearwater. A little further up, it'd be groundhogs peelings place ...(16:35)...It's not new -the tread is visible in some places but other places it may be grown over. .. so you go around it. Then a great fire comes ...and you got a clear trail there for a number of years. So the trail is always flexible even though you end up in the same place. You just meander through these ridge lines and you come to a place where it's narrow...And the only way you can get through there is through the top, and that's where you see the tread...2 or 3 feet deep in some places ...Then it would kind of spread out later when a ridgeline came more open ...(17:50)
AC: We think ofL&C's journey as an incredible feat of exploration and daring, but it doesn't seem that way to you.
18:08 AP: No, it's not that way. And in those same days 200 years ago, some teenage boys...would say, oh let's go to Salish, let's go over to visit -3 or 4would get together, pack up a horse, and away they'd go. Teenagers! They didn't have to be grown men...They would take maybe a little bit of food with them and they would probably go w/o food when coming across the Lolo or Nipu trail... this is routine. It's not that we're poor, it's that when we traveled we carried very little with us. And when we got to somewhere where we knew, we would kill something for food...(19:21) So going w/o food for 3 or 4 days was routine -it wasn't that we're poor and wretched like they say in the L&C journals...We utilized every part of the animal-we ate the intestines, we ate the stomach ...(20:05)
20:23 When I was young my father did that to me and my brother -drove out to the end of the road and says get off and now you walk back. And my brother was like why did dad leave us out here .. .I can just barely remember that -I was just 5 or 6 years old, was walking through timber like this. He finally came back, we made our way back ...That was just part of our training. And then later I ended up on the ...reservation and Mt. Adams is over there. And I'd ask my dad -I's about 14, 15 years old, I'd ask dad, take me down to the end of the road, I'd make up a pack and he'd drive me up there and let me off. He'd say when're ya coming back. .. He'd ask...do you need to be picked up and I said no I'd walk back .. .I'd be gone 5, 6 days and walk back 30 miles .. .I'd sleep on the ground -in the mornings I'd wake up and deer and elk would be all around me .. .I'd go to a lake and catch some trout or shoot a grouse to eat (22:19) ... I'd walk all around there, Mt. Adams ...just by myself.. I'd come to these crevices ...50,60 feet down ...And I'd go across these places, I'd walk up the mountain -I thought this was great (23:00) ... Even though there's dangers out there, always look and watch ...so that you're not surprised by something. B/c there was bears out there, there was dangers, and they always told me don't ever be afraid ifyou see something out there. (23:38)
23:40 And later at Saligo (?) Falls on the Columbia River there was one of the major fishing sites for Indian people ...Dam covered it up ...falls were 14, 15 feet high and then there was a big raceway through the middle. Just a tremendous roar of water coming down the Columbia and over these falls, and that's where we'd catch salmon (24:23) ...The falls was inundated in 1957, and I was just a young boy then -we'd go down to fish and my father was a fish-buyer down there for a fish company ... and he never told me to be afraid...(25:00) .. I would catch steelhead or small chinook. I couldn't handle the big ones...35 & 40 pounds ...so I'd go and try to catch the steelhead b/c they were smaller, and my father never told me to be scared of the water (25:33) I have a cousin who fell in...and he was just about 4 or 5 years old. He was never told to be afraid ...They caught him in a net and they pulled him out and put him back on the scaffolding ...(26:00)...
26:22 And so when we traveled, that's the same thing that we would do -don't be afraid but always know where you're at by looking at the ridgeline or looking at a landmark. And I only got lost once in my life -I was up hunting up in the mountains and it was the wintertime and my dad said, oh we'd better go get some help. So we loaded up, I and my brother and my dad, and we walked ...up. The snow was about a foot and a half deep
(27:00) and our rig broke down and we had to walk 5 or 6 miles out of the mountains into the valley where we were staying. And my brother says, we walk around this ridgeline and we'll come out just above the house, so I was following him, and it was a big wide ridge and it was going sloping down to the valley and it got foggy and everything just got white, and pretty soon I was like where' s my brother. He had disappeared in the fog (27:50) and I couldn't find any tracks ... Somehow I got turned around and went down a slope the wrong way, and I came to a creek and says we weren't supposed to hit a creek ...We must be lost. .. So I walked across the creek and hit a road and oh, heck this is the road we came up! So I walked down the road and finally made it back home and there's my brother waiting for me ...(28:30)
28:36 And it's those kinds of things, you grow up not being afraid of being lost, and that was the first time that ever happened to me. I was only ... 12 or 13. But here, a foot and a half of snow...Just those kinds of things...When you're traveling through the mountains there's always hazards---there's always hazards---your own emotions
are your own hazards. Your emotional reaction to what occurs around you...That's what the creator has placed before us -those kinds of obstacles.
(29:27) So if you're not afraid of these things, then you become -you then have the ability to accept things the way they are. And if you're at peace with your own creation, what is the problem. You can survive all these things. And I've survived many things ....fighting fires ...a shipwreck ...gasoline that was about to explode ...a couple of car wrecks. One day I said if these things keep happening to me I'll never live to be 30. (30: 13) And then I finally thought, so be it. And for a long time ...25 years ¬there was all peace. And then I lost touch with it and I hit black ice with a pickup and I flipped over ...and I hit the guard rail again and flipped over again and ended up right in the middle of the highway on all four wheels and I said, oh my, just about lost it again
(31:00) [AC & AP chuckling]
31 :09 AP: So ever since those other hard times I had, I said well, must be the way it's going to be. My father told me ...do something for your people. And that's all he'd tell me. He didn't tell me how or when or who ...He just said do something for your people. So I thought of that. And that's what I'm doing right now. It's for my people. (31:58)
AC: The bicentennial council?
32:02 AP: And the time I served on the tribal council, I said oh, I'll do it for the people. And that's all he told me ...He didn't tell me to be a leader. .. and this is the way you should lead...He said you do something for your people. And that's what I've been doing for, oh, the last 30 years. It's all about the environment ...god's creation ...mother earth ... the light given to us every day (32:51).
AC asks AP to say his name again ... When Nez Perce people speak. .. say who their parents were ...
33:18 AP: This is the way they introduce themselves ... [then he says his name in Nez Perce and his parents' names]. And then if you want to go even further you say your grandparents [and he does] ... They knew then who you were .... WE don't do that so much now, but like my English name, Alan Pinkham, it's a borrowed name. When it came for census for Indians, it's like you can't spell [name in Nez Perce] -what kind of English name you gonna have? Either he was given that name or he chose to take that name -Pinkham... Some of the old Nez Perce could say Pinkham -they just say Pinkem. So sometimes you see our name P-i-n-k-e-m instead of P-i-n-k-h-a¬m... And then most of our tribal members are either Johnson, Smith, Jackson...McFarland, and those kinds of names. B/c we had to be civilized because we went to war with the United States, and we had to be Christians .... (35:26)
35:27 But out people lied sometimes to get back here -just like my grandfather. Says, alright, I'll be a good Indian. So he got back on the reservation but he'd go to different homes and have their own religious services ... (35:48) ... And some would go to the Methodist ... church to show them, yeah, I'm a good Indian. But now I'm not afraid anymore to say, no I'm not a Christian ... (36:10) So when you get up before your maker, he's not going to ask you are you a Presbyterian or are you a Methodist. .. He's going to ask you, are you a good man. Have you been a good man? Have you treated the people good? ... That's what he's going to ask you. (36:40) And he may ask, what are you sorry for, and you might have to ...tell that story ...(36:55)...
37:38 Ambi for interview with Alan Pinkham ... MS
37:52 -ambi -wind chimes and wind, lawn mower in background (or some kind of faint motor -maybe boat?), cicadas
39:15 McQuay -there's somebody mowing the lawn ...come back later
Stan Tate Intv