Nez Perce
National Historical Park

Administrative History



Viewed from the perspective of the superintendency, management of the park has presented two fundamental and persistent challenges. One might be termed a pattern of neglect, originating both inside and outside the National Park Service. Superintendents have sought to overcome, or at least ameliorate, this neglect by securing funds and staff positions that were essential for implementing the park's basic development plans. Superintendents have had to contend with the reality that Nez Perce National Historical Park has, since its establishment, been treated as a second-class site within the national park system.

The other fundamental challenge for superintendents of Nez Perce National Historical Park has been to develop and maintain collaborative relationships with the Nez Perce Tribe. These two challenges are connected, for the Nez Perce people recognize the pattern of neglect and believe that the park has not yet lived up to its promise. Some superintendents have been able to work effectively with tribal leaders, emphasizing common goals and converting the Nez Perces' frustration into political support for their budget requests. Other superintendents have had less success working with the tribe, discovering too late that cool relations with the tribe ultimately undermined the park. As one senior NPS official observed, "The Park is pointless without the full involvement of the Nez Perce Tribe. It's their story, and any attempt to tell it without their full participation would be pointless and, needless to say, a complete failure." [70]

This chapter provides a narrative of the park's administrative development from 1965 to the present, focusing on these two main themes of neglect and relations with the tribe. Six superintendents have administered Nez Perce National Historical Park since the park was authorized in 1965. These six individuals have enjoyed varying success. Superintendents are remembered by the tribal leadership and the staff at Nez Perce largely on the basis of their effectiveness or ineffectiveness in advancing the park's development plans and working constructively with the tribe. Therefore, these two themes are traced chronologically through the six superintendencies. It must be pointed out, however, that one superintendent's initiatives commonly unfolded during the next superintendent's tour of duty. Moreover, when relations between the tribe and the park broke down at Nez Perce National Historical Park, bad luck and surrounding circumstances were often as much the cause as the personalities involved.

Chapter Two

Introduction | Robert L. Burns, 1965-1968 | Jack R. Williams, 1968-1975
Robert L. Morris, 1975-1981 | Fahy C. Whittaker, 1981-1987
Roy W. Weaver, 1987-1990 | Frank C. Walker, 1990-
Last Updated: 01-Jun-2000