Administrative History
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The idea for Nez Perce National Historical Park originated in two separate causes, or movements. The first movement featured the longstanding efforts of white residents of the Clearwater Valley to commemorate the mid-nineteenth-century activities of Protestant missionaries Henry and Eliza Spalding. The second movement sprang from the efforts of the Nez Perce Tribe to foster job growth on their reservation through tourism development. Beginning about 1961, activists in the two movements began working together toward a common goal of establishing a national historical park. The resulting campaign garnered support from both the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and the National Park Service (NPS), and culminated in the Nez Perce National Historical Park Act on May 15, 1965.

The Non-Indian Preservationists

The small delta at the confluence of Lapwai Creek and the Clearwater River was the site of some of Idaho's earliest recorded history, and so it appealed strongly to non-Indian Idahoans with an interest in commemorative local history. The idea that this site should be preserved initially drew support from such organizations as local pioneer associations, the Daughters of the American Revolution, and the Presbyterian Board of Missions. Later it gathered adherents from county historical societies and state universities. Although the movement evolved through more than four decades, its vision remained essentially the same: to develop the Spalding site in order to provide Idahoans and out-of-state visitors with a better appreciation of the Nez Perce role in U.S. history.

As early as 1920 a few non-Indian valley residents proposed that the state or federal government establish a park to commemorate the Spaldings and their activities among the Nez Perce. A Clarkston fruit grower by the name of E.A. White wrote a letter on behalf of a local pioneers association urging officials in Washington, D.C. to preserve the site of the Spalding mission and school. Whether this letter was directed to the National Park Service is unclear; it may have been the first proposal for a national historical park in the area. [8]

In 1922 the state regent of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), Mrs. James Babb, created a stir when she successfully opposed a plan by the Idaho State Highway Department to build a new bridge and approach road directly through the historic site. Apparently Mrs. Babb drove to the site and bodily positioned herself in the way of the surveyors, "calmly informing [them] that if they put that bridge across the site they would have to put it over her because she was going to stay right there." The surveyors agreed to relocate the highway fifty feet to the east. [9]

Inspired by Mrs. Babb's protest, the Alice Whitman Chapter of the DAR now spearheaded the park movement. About 1923 it succeeded in having a memorial placed at the Spalding home site consisting of a large rectangular rock on which was mounted a bronze tablet. Displaying a degree of ethnocentrism that later generations would find offensive, the DAR's memorial proclaimed that the Spalding mission site represented the "first home" in Idaho. In 1935 the DAR marked the site of the Spalding home with two piles of stones, erected an iron fence around the site, and identified it with a second memorial plaque. The following year the Alice Whitman Chapter of the DAR achieved its initial objective when Governor C.C. Moore of Idaho dedicated a large acreage surrounding the homesite as Spalding State Park. In the following months, the Idaho State Highway Department developed the site with an arboretum, picnic grounds, and winding foot paths (see Chapter Six). [10]

The next goal of the Alice Whitman Chapter of the DAR was to establish a museum at Spalding. A few DAR members, notably Mrs. John Alley, wife of the physician in charge of the Nez Perce Indian Tuberculosis Hospital at Lapwai, collected artifacts. Their intent was to display them in a public museum eventually. Beginning in 1949, the DAR prevailed on Idaho's Senators Glen Taylor and Henry C. Dworshak and Representative Compton I. White to introduce bills that would appropriate funds for "an Indian museum." Senator Taylor's bill called for an appropriation of $85,000 for the Secretary of the Interior to establish a museum at Spalding "for the purpose of preserving, classifying, and displaying relics and artifacts of the American Indian, and historical material relating to the early history of the Northwest." Senator Dworshak's bill called for a $50,000 appropriation and assigned the development of a museum to the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Although the DAR organized a letter-writing campaign in support of these various bills, none of the bills was passed. [11]

Despite that disappointment, the DAR succeeded in generating enough local interest in the museum proposal to call a public meeting on May 29, 1953, which led directly to the formation of the Spalding Museum Foundation, Inc. In the fall of that year, Marcus Ware, a Lewiston attorney, headed the new organization, assisted by DAR member Virginia Leckenby. Other charter members included Joseph Blackeagle of Lapwai, J.E. Buchanan, president of the University of Idaho, and fifteen others, most of whom were residents of Lewiston or Clarkston. [12]

Proponents of the Spalding State Park and a Spalding Museum probably always saw some economic benefit in their efforts, but it was not until about 1960 that tourism development became a major part of their arguments. At least two factors were at play in bringing about this change. First and most importantly, Idahoans discovered that tourism had become a major factor in the state's economy. A 1960 tourist survey revealed that in the previous year tourists had spent approximately $120 million in the state, making tourism Idaho's third largest industry after agriculture and timber. Governor Robert E. Smylie requested the legislature to create a state parks department. The legislation failed in 1961 and 1963, but passed in 1965. Meanwhile, the Commissioners of the State Land Board concluded that outdoor recreation was "fast assuming a prominent role in the economy of Idaho," and pressed for more development of Idaho's scenic and historical resources. [13]

A second factor in the changing orientation of the movement for a historical park was the expectation of increased tourist traffic along the Clearwater River corridor stemming from new federal highway development. In 1962, the federal government completed U.S. Highway 12 between Lewiston and Lolo, Montana. Called the Lewis and Clark Highway because it roughly followed the same route taken by the explorers, the road pierced a large stretch of wild country and was extraordinarily scenic. The Lewis and Clark Highway joined U.S. 95 across the Clearwater River from Spalding, making Spalding a logical center for tourist information.

Perhaps a third factor contributed to the movement's higher profile in the early 1960s. Dams were under construction or being planned at several points above and below Lewiston on the Snake and Clearwater rivers. Many of Idaho's river canyons still looked essentially the same as they had in the time of Lewis and Clark. Although Idahoans have generally shown little support for the creation of national parks in their state, the spate of dam building at this time appears to have made many area residents poignantly aware of Idaho's recreational and historical resources and more sympathetic to preservation. [14]

During this period, the Spalding Museum Foundation provided continuity and assumed several important tasks in the coalescing movement for a national historical park. It took over the DAR's role of lobbying for a congressional appropriation with which to establish a museum, promoted the museum idea locally and raised funds from private donors, acquired property (a small parcel of land adjoining the southwest corner of Spalding State Park) with the intent of donating it to the park, and coordinated the effort of collecting and storing artifacts for future display in a museum. The Spalding Museum Foundation remained active even after it was largely subsumed by the campaign to establish a national historical park. In 1963, it paid for an appraisal of the Evans property, a key parcel of land in Spalding on which stood the Sacajawea Museum with its eclectic assortment of historical artifacts. [15] Even after the park was established, the Spalding Museum Foundation continued to lobby senators and congressmen for the necessary funds to build the park's visitor center.

By the early 1960s, booster organizations like Advance Idaho and the Lewiston Chamber of Commerce had developed a keen interest in the area's historical resources. It began to appear that Idaho's historical and recreational resources could be developed together. The idea arose that Idaho's overall character — scenic, rustic, and pristine — could be preserved and marketed in a single package. This called for a wider conception, something like "Nez Perce country" or "Nez Perce historic country." Beginning about 1961, some of these individuals began to work with Nez Perce tribal representatives on a plan to establish a national historical park.

The Nez Perce Tribe

There were about 2,100 Nez Perces on the tribal roll in 1960, with some three-fourths of all tribal members residing on the reservation. The dominant tribal concern then, as now, was how to improve economic conditions on the reservation. While some Nez Perces found employment in the lumber mills and others worked in the woods or farmed their own land, many others faced a critical lack of employment opportunities on the reservation. Only about thirty percent of adult male tribal members who lived on the reservation had full-time employment. Another twenty-five percent of this group had seasonal employment. Considering that the average Nez Perce family income was approximately $950 per year, and considering further the reluctance shown by most Nez Perces to move off the reservation, it followed that the foremost tribal concern was to foster job growth on the reservation. [16]

The Nez Perce Tribe also took a keen interest in reservation land issues. The majority of the reservation was checkerboarded by allotments, some of which were owned by individual Nez Perces and some by non-Indians. The majority of the reservation acreage was leased to non-Indians for agricultural purposes. The tribe held only a remnant of the reservation lands. The Nez Perce Tribe was seeking to bring reservation lands back into tribal ownership, and was accomplishing this by purchasing one parcel at a time. Although the tribe's land acquisition program aimed at improving the tribe's contemporary economic base, it had underpinnings in the Nez Perces' cultural tradition too. As tribal leader Richard A. Halfmoon explained in 1970, the Nez Perces traditionally regarded the area as their homeland; no person "owned the earth," but members of a group enjoyed the privilege of living on a portion of the earth, and there the earth provided them with resources they needed to live. [17]

A third tribal concern, more strongly felt among the elders than the young people, was how to preserve Nez Perce culture. To some Nez Perces it seemed that the medicine dance, the root feast, and other traditional customs were in danger of extinction. The Nez Perce people were approaching a time when full-bloods would constitute a minority of the tribe. Some Nez Perces began to have discussions about what the tribal government might do to preserve the Nez Perce cultural heritage. [18]

The Nez Perce Tribe had a constitution and bylaws (adopted in 1948 and revised in 1961) and a nine-member governing body, the Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee (NPTEC). NPTEC was charged with administering tribal economic development, managing human and natural resource programs, and monitoring investment of tribal income and assets. [19] This last function became especially important in the late 1950s and early 1960s after the Nez Perce Tribe received judgment awards for three cases before the Indian Claims Commission. The first award — for $2.8 million — stemmed from the tribe's loss of its accustomed fishing place at Celilo Falls on the Columbia River. The second award — for $4.2 million — compensated the tribe for the unfairly low price paid for Nez Perce lands in 1863 during Idaho's gold rush. The third award — for $3 million — was to compensate the Nez Perce for gold taken from the reservation illegally before the reservation had been reduced in size. In the words of tribal attorney Theodore H. Little, the judgments created an "upsurge of hope among the Nez Perce, and a desire to build for the future." [20]

Nez Perces disagreed on how the judgment funds could best be used. Some wanted to apportion the money among all tribal members on a per capita basis, while others wanted NPTEC to make discretionary use of the funds for long term economic development on the reservation. The conflict over proper use of tribal funds was often sharp, and tribal elections for NPTEC positions would often focus on this issue. [21] At first those Nez Perces in favor of per capita payments had their way. The Celilo Falls judgment award was dispensed in $1,400 cash allotments to all tribal members with recommendations that it be used for the purchase of home improvements, farm machinery, and the like. [22] Federal officials later maintained, with tacit concurrence from some tribal leaders, that the economic benefits from those expenditures had been short-lived and disappointing. [23] They recommended that a portion of the money should be held in trust while the tribe developed a long term economic development plan for the reservation. Some tribal members were receptive to the idea of working with the federal government to invest the tribal judgement funds wisely. As will be seen, the judgment funds would play a crucial role in the campaign for establishing Nez Perce National Historical Park. Perhaps fittingly, a portion of the money received by the Nez Perce Tribe for its loss of lands a century earlier would now be used to invoke the idea of "Nez Perce country" in a new incarnation — as a historical artifact and unifying theme for the Nez Perce National Historical Park.

The spirit of cooperation between NPTEC, the NPS, and the BIA reflected a broad change in federal Indian policy taking place in Washington, D.C. following the presidential election of 1960. During the previous decade, the Eisenhower Administration and a Republican-led Congress had sought to implement a policy of "termination" through which federal trust responsibility to Indian tribes would be reduced. Ostensibly aimed at "freeing" Indians from the BIA bureaucracy, termination threatened to eliminate the tribes' special relationship to the federal government and abrogate the Indians' treaty rights. Although only a handful of federally-recognized Indian tribes were actually "terminated," the policy cast a pall over all Indian tribes. Tribal governments balked at taking over services provided by the BIA for fear of appearing "advanced" and ready for termination. [24]

Idaho's Senator Frank Church, Montana's Senator Lee Metcalf, and other prominent western senators and congressmen began to oppose the termination policy by the end of the decade. John F. Kennedy denounced the termination policy during the presidential election campaign of 1960. He promised Indians that there would be no change in treaty relationships without the consent of the tribes concerned. Kennedy further declared that "there would be protection of the Indian land base, credit assistance, and encouragement of tribal planning for economic development." The government would take "no steps to impair the cultural heritage of any group." Kennedy chose Stewart L. Udall, a congressman from Arizona with a deep interest in Indian affairs, to be his Secretary of the Interior. Udall immediately appointed a task force on Indian affairs, whose report became the blueprint for the administration's Indian policy. One member of the task force, anthropologist and former Lieutenant Governor of Wisconsin Philleo Nash, was appointed Commissioner of Indian Affairs. [25]

Both Udall and Nash believed that Indian tourism held great promise as a way to improve economic conditions on many Indian reservations. Indian tourism — the marketing of Indian villages, ceremonies, and arts and crafts to non-Indian tourists — already had a long history in the Southwest where the Pueblo Indians, for example, had begun to derive significant income from tourists as early as the 1920s. [26] Another precedent could be found among the Eastern Cherokees, who established a tourist industry in the decade and a half after World War II which revolved around a Cherokee pageant, a reconstructed Cherokee village, and a Museum of the Cherokee Indian. [27] Udall thought that Indian groups could learn from the experience of the Southwest Indians, and he recommended to a group of Nez Perces that the tribe might send a delegation, at federal expense, to study an Apache-owned recreation center in his state of Arizona. [28] Commissioner Nash, for his part, was familiar with recent initiatives to develop a tourist trade around the Menominee Indian Reservation's attractive lakes and forests in northern Wisconsin, and from his new position he promptly pushed a proposal to develop recreational facilities on other Indian reservations throughout the United States.

Nez Perces by and large welcomed the Democratic Party's electoral victory in 1960 and the change of federal Indian policy that it promised. Democrats not only opposed termination, they were staunch allies of many tribes, including the Nez Perce. Idaho Senator Frank Church, Idaho Congresswoman Gracie Bowers Pfost, Washington Senators Henry M. Jackson and Warren G. Magnuson, and Montana Senator Lee Metcalf were such Democratic Party politicians. The Nez Perce Tribe's legal counsel in Washington, D.C., Richard Schifter, was a partner in the prestigious law firm of Strasser, Spiegelberg, Fried, Frank & Kampelman, and a former student of the preeminent Indian rights lawyer of the New Deal era, Felix S. Cohen. [29] Since the Nez Perce Tribe had strong ties to the Democratic Party, the election of John F. Kennedy held promise for the tribe.

In March 1961, NPTEC Chairman Richard A. Halfmoon inquired about obtaining technical assistance from the National Park Service on a proposal to develop some tourist attractions on the reservation. Schifter, NPTEC's liaison in Washington, contacted Assistant Secretary of the Interior John A. Carver, Jr. and drafted a letter for Senator Frank Church to send to the Department of the Interior in support of NPTEC's proposal. [30] Carver directed the NPS to consult with the Nez Perce Tribe on its tourist development proposal. The NPS assigned Daniel F. Burroughs, chief of the Columbia River Recreation Survey Branch of the NPS located in Portland, Oregon, to the task. In May 1961, Burroughs met with Halfmoon, four other NPTEC members, and William E. Ensor, Jr., the BIA's superintendent of Northern Idaho Indian Agency, and accompanied the group on a field survey. This appears to have been the first instance of direct cooperation between the Nez Perce Tribe and the NPS. [31]

Burroughs listed six different projects which the tribe had taken under consideration. These included a museum; a reconstructed Nez Perce village; a western fort that would include stores for the sale of Nez Perce arts and crafts; an amphitheater in which tribal members could perform dances, ceremonies, and other tribal customs; a community hall for the transaction of tribal business, as well as for use by non-Indian organizations such as the Boy Scouts; and tourist accommodations, including motels, restaurants, service stations, automobile campgrounds. Burroughs concluded that the scenic attractions of the region, together with the traffic on U.S. 95 between Lewiston and Boise and State Route 9 up the Clearwater Valley, would justify some kind of well-planned development. [32]

Less than a month after Burroughs's quick survey, Secretary Udall met with NPTEC at Spalding State Park. NPTEC members Allen Slickpoo and Harrison Lott, tribal attorney Theodore H. Little, and Irving Faling, a member of the tourism promotion organization called "Advance Idaho", briefed Udall on the proposed tribal enterprises. The development could include an Indian village, a handicraft store, a horse racing track, and rodeo grounds, Udall was told. "Jobs would be provided for hundreds of Indians in the area, as this program gradually developed," Faling said, "and the entire Lewiston area would derive great benefits from the tourists attracted to the region." Udall expressed strong support for the proposal, drawing comparisons between what the Nez Perce Tribe could offer and what some Indian groups in the Southwest had achieved by way of tourism development. He encouraged the non-Indian community to work closely with the Nez Perce Tribe and noted approvingly the emphasis on promoting tribal income. "When Indians are the magnets to attract these tourists, as they often are," Udall said, "they certainly should share in the economic benefits." [33]

Udall opposed short term fixes, stressing the importance of using tribal judgment funds for the development of long-range programs to promote job growth and educational opportunities for tribal members. Per capita payments were invariably spent on consumer commodities, Udall remarked, "and in a few months or years there is nothing to show for it." [34] Congress had appropriated judgment funds for the Nez Perce Tribe only two weeks prior to Udall's visit. His concern over how the money would be used certainly must have been an important factor behind his visit. Indeed, uncomfortable with leaving the fate of those funds to tribal politics, Udall decreed on September 11, 1961, that no more per capita payments could be made out of Nez Perce trust funds until the tribe had an approved economic development plan. The Secretary's directive placed NPTEC members in an awkward position as they stood for reelection. In the long run, however, it probably bolstered the position of those Nez Perces who wanted NPTEC to seize the initiative for economic development planning. [35]

On July 26, 1961, NPTEC adopted resolution 61-143, providing for the establishment of a Nez Perce Tribal Development Advisory Committee. The purpose of the committee was to investigate various economic opportunities that would create jobs and improve the standard of living of tribal members. The committee's specific charge was to develop an overall economic development program to guide use of the Nez Perce judgment award funds. The committee was to report to NPTEC on an advisory basis. [36]

Non-Indians were invited to serve with tribal members on the committee. As the new entity described itself to the Nez Perce tribal membership in its initial report, the Development Advisory Committee represented a "cooperative community project" in keeping with the government's broad new Indian policy of stimulating long term investment on Indian reservations. [37] Committee members included Allen Slickpoo, Angus A. Wilson, and Frank Penney of NPTEC, Marcus Ware and Theodore H. Little of the Spalding Museum Foundation, and William F. Johnston of the Lewiston Morning Tribune. Johnston chaired the tourism subcommittee. The formation of this committee joined together the older non-Indian preservationist movement for a historical park with the newer reservation-oriented movement for tourism development. Henceforth, the Development Advisory Committee would work with NPS and BIA officials and legislators to hone the Nez Perce National Historical Park proposal between 1961 and 1965. The fusion of these two interest groups was a crucial turning point in the origins of Nez Perce National Historical Park. [38]

The Campaign for Nez Perce National Historical Park

National park campaigns often materialize out of the guiding vision of one individual or organization. No one entity or person can be singled out in the campaign for Nez Perce National Historical Park, although the Nez Perce Tribal Development Advisory Committee did play a central role as a consensus-builder. Rather, the campaign succeeded because local citizens, officials in the Department of the Interior, and Idaho's congressional delegation all worked together without encountering any major opposition.

On April 20, NPTEC Chairman Angus A. Wilson wrote to the Area Redevelopment Administration with a request for technical assistance. The ARA notified NPS Director Conrad L. Wirth of the request and offered a grant of $10,000. On May 2, Wirth requested that the NPS Western Region send a team to the area. Their task was to prepare a reliable cost estimate for a feasibility study to determine if the $10,000 grant was sufficient. The team, headed by Assistant Regional Director Leo J. Diederich, assembled in Lewiston on June 3. The NPS officials first convened with the Development Advisory Committee. Others who attended this meeting included representatives of the BIA and ARA, the director of the Idaho State Historical Society, the president of the Spalding Museum Foundation, and three anthropologists from Washington State University. The following day the NPS team toured the reservation with Superintendent William E. Ensor, Jr., and NPTEC Chairman Angus Wilson. The team found some serious obstacles to the proposed development. The Nez Perce Indian Reservation lacked a readily definable physical boundary to give tourists a strong sense of place; moreover, tribally-owned lands and Indian allotments were widely interspersed with lands within the reservation that were owned or leased by non-Indians. The area was scenic but did not have any outstandingly significant natural features. At the conclusion of the visit, the NPS team determined that the proposed $10,000 ARA grant was insufficient. It recommended that the feasibility study should include both a survey of the recreational resources and an analysis of the reservation's and region's economies, for a total cost of $50,000. [39]

By August the ARA had approved a $37,500 grant and the feasibility study was under way. The BIA contracted with Armour Research Foundation of Chicago. Joseph Fraser conducted field research for the economic component during the fall and completed Volume I in June 1963. Erwin Thompson, historian at Whitman Mission National Monument, was granted a leave of absence from the NPS to consult with Armour Research Foundation and prepare Volume II of the feasibility study, "A Survey of the Recreational and Tourism Resources in the Nez Perce Country." The latter volume was completed in September 1963. [40]

Fraser's report suggested that the increase in tourist traffic following completion of the Lewis and Clark Highway would justify tribal investment in a "tourist and historical facilities program." The report identified a joint commission of Indian and non-Indian area residents as the best way to manage such a venture. Fraser broke the program into three components: (1) a museum or visitor center; (2) an amphitheater and Indian village; and (3) a tourist services complex. The construction, operation, and maintenance costs of a museum or visitor center might be secured through a federal appropriation, Fraser stated. The amphitheater and Indian village, on the other hand, would probably have to be a tribal enterprise. Fraser noted that such facilities had proven profitable for some tribes and had failed for others. Finally, Fraser recommended that the tourist services complex include a motel, restaurant, service station, arts and crafts shop, trailer park, and campground. This complex would also have to be a tribal enterprise, requiring a larger investment than the amphitheater and Indian village, but the complex offered greater chances of returning a profit. [41]

Thompson's report emphasized that the history of the people and the land posed a "complex challenge to interpreters."

The history of the Nez Perce Indians offers a continuous thread that must be woven throughout the length and breadth of the tapestry. The history of the whites, who now dominate the country, must also receive emphasis. And the contacts and conflicts of the two provide a story by itself. Explorations, the fur trade, the missionaries, gold mining (both white and Chinese), the growth of towns and cities, the agriculture and forest industries, the great dams that are to come — all these and many more aspects make up the whole story. [42]

The key to success, in Thompson's estimation, was an ample visitor center. For Thompson, the visitor center would serve not only as a museum for interpreting the story of Nez Perce Country, but would also direct the visitor to numerous outlying historical sites. The facility would also provide a safe home for historical and ethnographic objects that were now scattered throughout the area and at risk of being lost or destroyed. The visitor center administrator would be in charge of running the facility and coordinating the management of scattered sites with many landowners and government agencies. [43]

Thompson invited Alvin M. Josephy, Jr., to contribute a foreword to his report. Josephy, a distinguished historian and editor with American Heritage Magazine, was then working on his book, The Nez Perce Indians and the Opening of the Northwest (1965). Enlisting Josephy in the park campaign proved to be a wise move. He had numerous contacts among the Nez Perces, as well as with politicians in Washington, D.C. Indeed, his brief foreword to Thompson's report would be quoted more often than any other testament on behalf of the park. [44]

Josephy had first discovered Nez Perce country while on an assignment for Time Magazine some years before. His "immediate, grand impression," Josephy wrote in the foreword, "was of having come on one of the most spectacularly rugged and beautiful parts of the United States." And yet this was also one of the least known and developed regions of the country. After sketching the history of the area, Josephy concluded,

Nowhere else in this country, in fact, am I aware of a large region whose over-all story can be interpreted so compactly in a setting that has so little changed under the advance of civilization. The opening of the new Lewis and Clark Highway across the Bitterroot Mountains now makes this area easily accessible as it has never been before to large numbers of vacationing American families. Without the knowledge of the background of the country through which they are driving, awareness of the great heritage of this region might easily evade them. This report, with its conclusions, shows the way to a truly imaginative interpretive program whose establishment cannot but help inspire Americans to a greater regard for this beautiful portion of the United States and its noble past. [45]

During the spring of 1963, when the Armour Research Foundation's reports were in draft, officials in the Department of the Interior began conceptualizing how the Nez Perce country might be brought into the national park system. Assistant Secretary of the Interior John A. Carver, Jr., a native of Boise, took the lead. Carver represented one of Idaho's prominent political families; prior to his appointment as assistant secretary, he had managed Frank Church's Senate office. Since joining the Interior Department, Carver had overseen several national park proposals, and he recognized at the outset that they were now "dealing with a concept which is new and different." The basic premise of a national historical park in Nez Perce country was that the region around the confluence of the Clearwater and Snake rivers offered a unique opportunity to interpret a number of distinct yet intertwining stories of the nation's heritage. The three main themes, in Carver's view, were the Lewis and Clark expedition, the mining frontier, and the War of 1877. "What we have here is not a land area to be brought under Federal ownership, but rather a series of sites," Carver observed. What would hold the park together was the interpretive effort emanating from the visitor center. [46]

From his position as Assistant Secretary, Carver made the crucial call that the project should serve the national park system first, and the Nez Perce Tribe incidentally. "I am thinking of a park equivalent to our National Historical Parks in the East," Carver wrote:

The project must stand on its own feet as a historical park type development. One incident is greatly enhanced economic opportunities for the Nez Perce Indians, but we still must remember that this is an incident, not justification for the kind of development I have outlined. This project can stand on its own feet, and it is better to emphasize its intrinsic worth rather than its contribution to Indian economic advancement. [47]

As Carver prepared to visit the Nez Perce Indian Reservation in May, NPS Acting Director George B. Hartzog, Jr., provided additional thoughts on the proposed park. Hartzog agreed that a visitor center would be an essential component of the "broad scale or regional approach in planning and promotion" that was now under discussion. Hartzog suggested that the visitor center could be located on the reservation in the Spalding-Lapwai area. There might be a satellite visitor center in the Kamiah area. Other sites might be interpreted through small on-site exhibits. Hartzog agreed with Carver that the cooperation of various landowners and agencies would be vital to the success of the program. [48]

NPS Director Conrad L. Wirth conceptualized the proposed park along similar lines but with a greater emphasis on the land base. He thought there might be a ghost town in the region that the Park Service could acquire and preserve. "It shouldn't take too much land, but we should have enough land for a proper setting to get the true feeling of the story we are trying to tell," Wirth advised. In addition, Wirth wanted the park to have land for camping and other recreational uses. "This might be worked out jointly with other land agencies but still be part of the over-all package." Finally, Wirth suggested that the park's interpretive thrust could be coordinated with similar types of units elsewhere in the nation where the story was more expansive than the actual site under NPS jurisdiction.

It might be considered as a general outpost of the interpretive story we hope to tell of the western expansion at St. Louis....In our visitor center at St. Louis we are proposing to tell the general story of the western expansion brought about by general exploration and, of course, the Louisiana Purchase. In the Nez Perce country the story would be about one of the great trails of exploration in the North, especially the Lewis and Clark Trail, and the prehistory and history of man that dates back to 9,000 B.C. It could include other historic sites, perhaps not of national importance in themselves but their combination with the over-all picture would aid in telling the complete story. [49]

Touring the Nez Perce country in mid-May, Carver and Wirth were impressed by what they saw. Idaho's Governor Robert E. Smylie joined Carver and Wirth in support of the park idea. Carver came to two important conclusions. First, the history of the area was the outstanding resource. Second, the park should be decentralized but limited to Idaho. [50]

By now it was quite clear that the Park Service, not the BIA, was guiding the park proposal along. Park planning overshadowed the development of tourist facilities, although local newspaper coverage of these developments still noted that the Nez Perce tribe was an important part of a "cooperative effort" and had offered to use some of its judgment funds to provide accommodations for park visitors. Before leaving Lewiston, Wirth asked Burroughs and several members of the Nez Perce Advisory Development Committee to draft a bill for authorizing the national historical park. A legislative assistant in the Park Service's Washington office massaged the draft bill and sent it back to the Nez Perce Advisory Development Committee. William F. Johnston, managing editor of the Lewiston Morning Tribune and chairman of the tourism subcommittee of the Nez Perce Advisory Development Committee, then submitted the draft bill with supporting documents to all four members of Idaho's congressional delegation. [51]

The whole congressional delegation responded favorably to the legislative proposal. "I wish every legislative proposal could come to me in such good shape as yours for the Nez Perce National Historical Park," Senator Frank Church wrote to Johnston. Representatives Compton I. White and Ralph Harding supported the proposal, as did the one Republican member of the delegation, Senator Len B. Jordan. It was perhaps significant that the Nez Perce country had personal associations for Jordan: the senator came from Grangeville, near the White Bird battlefield, and had operated a ranch near Pittsburg Landing in the Snake River Canyon for a number of years. [52]

William F. Johnston of the Nez Perce Tribal Development Advisory Committee nevertheless thought that two points in the bill needed strengthening. The first and easier point was the name. Initially the Park Service favored the name "Nez Perce Country National Historic Sites." Alvin Josephy thought it needed the greater prestige of the national historical park designation. John Carver agreed to change "Sites" to "Park" and let Congress amend the title back to "Sites" if Congress deemed it necessary. But William Johnston still thought the handle was too long. He could appreciate the meaning attached to each word, but the end result was "pretty cumbersome to promote nationally — or even to put on a map." [53] Eventually Senator Church shortened the title to Nez Perce National Historical Park.

The second point of the bill that Johnston sought to strengthen concerned the park's land base. As the bill was originally drafted, Section 3 provided that the government could purchase no more than 500 acres for the park. It is unclear who suggested the limitation, but its aim was clearly to deflate any charges that this was a "land grab." Johnston preferred no limitation, or at least a higher ceiling. Harold T. Fabian, chairman of the National Parks Advisory Board, agreed that the limitation could be too restrictive and might "prove embarrassing" to the Park Service. Apparently, Senator Church was willing to consider eliminating this provision, but Representatives White and Harding insisted on it. Still, with backing from the National Parks Advisory Board, Johnston persuaded the Idaho delegation to accept a higher limitation of 1,500 acres. [54]

The National Parks Advisory Board provided additional leverage in getting the bill introduced. Alvin Josephy presented the concept of the Nez Perce National Historical Park to the board at its 49th annual meeting in Big Bend National Park, Texas, in November 1963. The board adopted a resolution endorsing the concept on November 6. This action strengthened the position of the Idaho delegation; two weeks later Senator Church introduced the bill with Senator Jordan co-sponsoring it. [55]

Senator Jordan's support was especially valuable. He had refused in the previous month to co-sponsor Church's bill to establish a Sawtooth Wilderness National Park. In Jordan's view, the Sawtooth proposal was too restrictive and would hinder Idaho's economic development. The Nez Perce National Historical Park's unusual concept of land ownership, on the other hand, seemed to pose no such threat. As preservationists' hopes for a national park in Idaho's Sawtooth Range dimmed, the prospects for the Nez Perce National Historical Park looked comparatively brighter. [56]

Once Idaho's congressional delegation was unified behind the bill, its progress through Congress was relatively straightforward. Most importantly, Congress chose not to debate or prescribe the actual sites that would be included in the park; this was left to the discretion of the Secretary of the Interior. Instead, Congressional debate focused on the amount of acreage that the Secretary of the Interior would be authorized to acquire in fee and in scenic easements, the amount of the limitation on land acquisition and development costs, and the limits on the secretary's authority in administering cooperative sites. [57] The Senate Subcommittee on Public Lands held hearings on the bill in Washington, D.C., and Lewiston in August and October 1964. [58] Following the election of the 89th Congress in 1964, Representative White re-introduced the bill in the House on January 4, 1965, and Church and Jordan re-introduced an identical bill in the Senate on January 6. The Senate Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs reported the bill with an amendment on February 9, and the Senate amended and passed the bill the next day, and referred it to the House Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs. The House committee reported on the bill with an amendment on April 14, and the House amended and passed the bill on May 3.

The question then arose whether the Senate and House needed to go to conference to reconcile the difference between the two bills. The Senate's amendment to the bill stipulated that no more than $630,000 would be authorized for land acquisition. The House version carried this same provision, but added a limitation of $1,337,000 for development. Senators Church and Jordan recommended that the Senate agree to the amendment by the House and dispense with a joint conference. [59] The bill, Public Law 89-19, was finally approved on May 15, 1965.

Interpretation of the Act

It was evident to all that the Nez Perce National Historical Park was an unusual addition to the national park system. The act authorized the Secretary of the Interior to designate a number of recommended sites throughout an area that measured 60 miles from north to south and 110 miles from east to west (Figure 1). Some sites would be acquired by the NPS, some would remain in the Clearwater National Forest, and some would remain under non-federal ownership and would be managed under cooperative agreements. The NPS would be responsible for relating all the sites to one another through a park-wide interpretive plan. No one connected with the establishment of Nez Perce National Historical Park would have argued with the statement of the National Parks Advisory Board that the park idea represented "an imaginative new concept of historic preservation." Beyond that general point of consensus, however, those individuals and groups involved in creating the park had different ideas about how the park would develop.

Probably the most nebulous aspect of the park concept had to do with the resources that were to be preserved. At a certain point in the planning process, the so-called scenic-recreational-historical values that made Nez Perce country an attractive region had to be redefined as primarily of historical value; this was, after all, to be a national historical park. Yet the scenic values remained implicit in the legislation. Senator Church argued that the area contained "scenic magnificence" as well as historical resources, and that the natural setting gave Nez Perce country "a high degree of historical integrity." [60]

This was a complicated formulation. The relatively undeveloped condition of the land gave the historical resources integrity in a dual sense. In the narrow sense of the term, there were few visual intrusions of modern life to distract the viewer; one could still see, for example, the White Bird Battlefield in much the same condition as it existed on the eve of the battle. In a broader sense, the natural setting contributed to the feeling of these historical sites because the historical themes that they reflected — exploration, gold mining, Indian-white conflict, logging — were strongly associated with nineteenth-century white Americans' experience of the wilderness. The scenic magnificence alluded to the area's wilderness values: not official wilderness as defined by the Wilderness Act of 1964, but the wilderness of western history and myth. Desiring to build support for the park proposal, Senator Church deliberately eschewed the term "wilderness" to avoid any confusion with official wilderness. But he implied, nevertheless, that "scenic magnificence" had a historical and mythic dimension in this case, for without the wilderness setting the historic resources did not have the same impact. That was why local preservationists began with the premise that Nez Perce country was rich in scenic-recreational-historical resources.

Erwin Thompson described the correlation between scenic and historical values in Nez Perce country in his 1963 feasibility study:

Despite extensive farming in the uplands, intensive logging on the mountain slopes and canyon walls, and the growth of towns and cities, the overall effect as one drives through the former lands of the Nez Perces is the impression, "This is how it was." The prairies are still open; vast armies of pines and firs still climb the hills; the grass-covered slopes still rise above basalt cliffs; the rivers and streams largely run clear and free. The country is so vast, so magnificent, and so lightly settled that the eye tends to glance over such recent developments as roads, railroads, mills, fences, towns, and spreading residential sections. This is still, in essence, the Nez Perce country. [61]

Scenic grandeur, in other words, would assist the park visitor in conjuring up the images of western history and myth.

The relationship of the park resources to the surrounding scenery was vague. The House report on the measure, for example, stated that the park concept departed from the usual type of park in which a single, compact area was placed in federal ownership; instead the park would comprise a number of widely scattered sites not necessarily under federal ownership. The historical values of Nez Perce country were too varied and diffuse to make a compact area under federal ownership feasible; therefore, "it is believed that the approach...will give maximum coverage at minimum expense." [62] This begged the question of what was meant by "coverage." Indeed, most of the sites would be designated without any defined or protective boundaries whatsoever.

Another important aspect of the park concept which still awaited definition concerned the park story. The park's creators agreed that the story was relatively complex, involving multiple events, eras, and points of view. They also agreed that the story must be presented skillfully to tie the various sites together. To the extent that the park's creators could foresee that the story would be contentious, they deliberately postponed discussion of that problem until the park bill had been enacted. In retrospect, one can find the seeds of contention in the park campaign.

Figure 1. Map of Nez Perce National Historical Park (NPS map.) (click on image for an enlargement in a new window)

Local non-Indians, Nez Perce, and Idaho's senators and representatives all had different ideas about what precisely constituted the park story. Local, non-Indian interest in the project had started with the Spalding mission site and the missionary story. Indeed, the Daughters of the American Revolution regarded the missionary experience as symbolic of a larger story of "civilizing" or "Americanizing" the Nez Perce country. Exemplifying its somewhat narrow vision of a Spalding museum, the DAR sponsored an "Idaho school childrens' historical drive for dimes" on May 13, 1954, to commemorate the coming of the first printing press to Idaho on that date in 1839. [63] As will be seen, a story that cast the Spaldings as heroic torch-bearers and the Nez Perce as benighted heathens did not sit well with the Nez Perce Tribe on whose land the museum would be built.

NPTEC approached the park idea with different expectations about the park story. It was assumed that the Nez Perce people would be at the center of the story. The NPS-administered visitor center would complement tribally-administered developments such as an amphitheater for pageants, a reconstructed Indian village, or an outlet store for Nez Perce arts and crafts. Anthropologists in nearby universities assumed that preserving Nez Perce cultural traditions and artifacts would be a major thrust of the new park. [64]

Idaho's congressional delegation took a more expansive view of the park story. Senator Church suggested that there were three principal stories to be told in Nez Perce country: the story of Lewis and Clark, the story of the mining frontier, and the story of the Nez Perce's flight from the U.S. Army in 1877. Representative White was even more inclusive. "The historic background of the State is an epic story of pioneer adventure, missionary zeal, Indian wars, and the advance of civilization," he testified. "In the north-central area of the State there is an area well adapted to the preservation of historical sites and the development of the cultural lore of the Nez Perce Indian Tribe." [65] The expansiveness of these statements were calculated to satisfy all of the park's proponents, not necessarily to provide guidance to the Park Service as it set about developing an interpretive program. Idaho's congressional delegation succeeded admirably in selling the park idea to Congress, but it left the NPS with a formidable challenge in making the park story coherent for visitors and at the same time palatable to local constituents.

The park campaign also highlighted the fact that tribal and non-Indian groups had potentially conflicting ideas about who the park would benefit. Tribal leaders anticipated that Nez Perces would find jobs on the park staff and that the park would stimulate arts and crafts sales. [66] NPTEC Chairman Angus A. Wilson told the Senate subcommittee that he thought the park would benefit the tribe. NPTEC intended to cooperate closely with the Park Service and to invest tribal funds in tourist services near the park. "Maybe the Government, at a later date, would have to invoke laws regulating this sort of thing," Wilson said. (NPTEC later considered a motel development at Orofino, but eventually dropped the plan.) [67]

NPS officials, for their part, stressed that the national historical park would be developed in accordance with accepted National Park Service standards and policies. There was nothing in the legislation specifically mandating that special consideration be given to tribal economic development. One official noted that the Armour Research Foundation's feasibility study wrongly implied that the NPS should build a visitor center at Spalding in order to relieve the tribe of this financial undertaking. The reason that the NPS supported the project was "to assure the proper preservation of cultural and historical values of the Nez Perce Country and to permit the Nez Perce story to be cohesively told." [68]

Governor Smylie added another wrinkle when he noted in his testimony before the Senate subcommittee that the Spalding State Park served admirably as a picnic area for thousands of local residents. [69] The governor promised to convey the state park to the National Park Service once the Nez Perce National Historical Park was established, but with the caveat that this traditional recreational use would continue to be permitted.

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Last Updated: 01-Jun-2000