Administrative History
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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.

The Superintendency of Robert L. Burns, 1965-1968

On August 22, 1965, more than three months after Nez Perce National Historical Park was authorized, the Secretary of the Interior announced that Robert L. Burns had been appointed the park's first superintendent. Burns was selected for the job for a couple of reasons. As the first superintendent of Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial from 1963 to 1965, he had already been through the experience of setting up a new unit in the national park system. Before going east in 1960, Burns had spent thirteen years as a ranger in various national parks in the Rocky Mountain West, concluding with three years at Big Hole Battlefield National Monument in 1957-1960. Big Hole was the site of a sharp engagement between the Nez Perce and the U.S. Army in 1877, and while serving at that site Burns learned about the story of the Nez Perce War of 1877. [71] When he was appointed superintendent of Nez Perce National Historical Park, Burns decided with hindsight that the Park Service's experience at Big Hole in the late 1950s and early 1960s — establishing an administrative presence, receiving visitors, and preparing development plans under Mission 66 — helped to generate enthusiasm within the Park Service for the Nez Perce National Historical Park proposal. [72]

Burns arrived in Nez Perce country with an open mind as to where he would establish temporary headquarters. Spalding, Lapwai, and Lewiston all seemed like possibilities. He inquired about office space in the BIA's administrative building in Lapwai, but was offered nothing better than a cramped room in the basement bisected at chest height by a water pipe. Richard Halfmoon then suggested that he establish his quarters in Watson's Store, an old general store on the edge of the Spalding State Park which the tribe had recently purchased with the expectation that it would be incorporated into the national historical park. [73] Burns accepted the offer, and Watson's Store became the park's administrative headquarters and temporary visitor center for the next three years.

One of Burns' initial tasks was to establish official contact with numerous political entities throughout the region. His objectives were to advertise the park, to make the Park Service administrative presence known, and to develop partnerships with landowners of those sites that would be cooperatively managed. Thus he delivered lectures and slide programs at the University of Idaho and Washington State University, gave talks to schools and service clubs in the Lewiston-Clarkston area, agreed to be interviewed by the Lewiston and Spokane newspapers and Lewiston's TV and radio stations, corresponded with key U.S. senators and congressmen, consulted with members of the Spalding Museum Foundation, the Nez Perce National Historical Park Association, and tribal leaders, contacted state officials in Boise, and met with Forest Service officials of the Clearwater National Forest. [74]

Another preliminary administrative concern was to get the land acquisition program moving. Burns worked with specialists in the Park Service's Western Service Center in San Francisco, making recommendations on site as to which land owners would likely negotiate a fair price and which would not. The latter residents were threatened with proceedings to condemn their property by right of eminent domain, as authorized under Section 3 of the Nez Perce National Historical Park Act. [75] The process of land acquisition was most contentious at Spalding, where the Park Service wanted to add several privately owned tracts to the core area covered by the Spalding State Park. Ultimately, twelve households were removed in order to restore the historical character of Spalding. Burns took pride in the fact that the people who were dispossessed received an equitable settlement under his watchful eye. [76] As a result, the Park Service reached its $630,000 limit before it had acquired all the private land that it desired.

Burns also ran into a sharp encounter in East Kamiah. There the Park Service wanted to acquire the First Presbyterian Church of Kamiah and the neighboring house that had once been the home of the missionary-teacher McBeth sisters. The church's Nez Perce parishioners and the Reverend Henry L. Sugden turned out to be unwilling sellers. Sugden informed Burns in the fall of 1967 that his parishioners were adamantly opposed to the purchase and resented the recent visit by an appraiser. He hinted that they might consider a long-term lease of the former McBeth house, however. After serious consideration, Burns recommended that the Park Service drop the two buildings from the list of properties that were being sought as park sites. He argued that the missionary story in East Kamiah was not of prime importance to the park for it overlapped the missionary story at Spalding and Lapwai. [77]

Burns wanted to be sensitive to opposition to the park from Nez Perce tribal members in East Kamiah in order to preserve the feeling of goodwill toward the park among the tribe as a whole. When he spoke to the parishioners at East Kamiah, he could not dislodge their idea that the park was a "white man's scheme to make the white man rich." Burns noted that the attitude might stem from the fact that the Nez Perce at Kamiah and Lapwai still harbored bad feelings toward each other based on their respective loyalties shown in the War of 1877. [78] The superintendent did not want the park to cause friction between tribal factions. If it did, he reasoned, the Park Service would find itself in the position of favoring one faction over another.

The land acquisition program remained tightly focused on a few core sites. Initially the Park Service planned to acquire fee title to just three sites: Spalding, East Kamiah, and White Bird Battlefield. Sometime after Burns' arrival, acquisition of the state's seven-acre Lewis and Clark Canoe Camp site entered into the program. In February 1966, Regional Director Edward A. Hummel inquired with state officials about the possibility of including this area with the anticipated transfer of Spalding State Park. The Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation welcomed this suggestion. Director Wilhelm M. Beckert stated that both sites would achieve a "better national image and national recognition under the National Park Service," and expected that the people of Idaho would "greatly benefit" if these sites were placed "under the National Park designation." [79]

Burns began preparing for the transfer of the Spalding State Park to the Park Service as soon as he heard that the state legislature had passed the authorizing legislation. The ceremony was scheduled for the earliest possible date, July 24, 1966. This allowed three months to clear the title to the land, verify boundaries, hire two maintenance men (one for the Spalding site and one for the Canoe Camp site), oversee dismantling of the existing concession stand and cleanup of the area, and invite the appropriate dignitaries to the ceremony. On the appointed day, Governor Smylie transferred the Spalding State Park together with the Canoe Camp site to the Park Service. [80]

After establishing a Park Service presence and getting the land acquisition program moving, assembling a staff became the new superintendent's next concern. This was no routine task, as Burns had to reconcile civil service procedures with the expectation on the part of many Nez Perces that tribal members would find jobs in the new park. The first staff position that Burns needed to fill was that of administrative clerk. Thinking of the importance of precedence he very much wanted a Nez Perce tribal member for that position. He coordinated a search with the chairman of NPTEC and the BIA office in Lapwai, but failed to locate an interested, qualified tribal member. [81] After keeping the search going months longer than he had anticipated, he hired Carol M. Gamet, an employee of the BIA office in Lapwai and a non-Indian.

Meanwhile, Burns received several inquiries from tribal members about other employment opportunities in the park. Two Nez Perce women, Ida Blackeagle and Viola Morris, were hired to perform their beadwork and other crafts in the presence of park visitors. These women became the first "cultural demonstrators" in the National Park Service. [82] Some Nez Perces were interested in seasonal ranger positions. One individual wanted to serve as a guide, but Burns informed him that there would be no such position for at least three years. With the transfer of the Spalding State Park, the NPS hired two laborers (one Nez Perce and one non-Indian) who worked for the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation. Burns employed two other non-Indians to fill seasonal ranger positions during the summer of 1966. The following winter another non-Indian, Milo E. Anderson, joined the staff as maintenance foreman. [83]

Burns also brought a park historian on staff. He wanted an individual who could bring expertise to the tasks of curating artifacts and setting up an interpretive program, as well as serve as acting superintendent when Burns was absent. In March 1966, Burns informed Allen Slickpoo that the candidate for this job would have to have about fifteen years of Park Service experience. Six months later, in a letter to the regional director, Burns lowered his standards to ten years experience and stressed that he wanted to "push this through as soon as I can." Without recommending a specific federal grade level, Burns suggested that "perhaps after the development and construction phase of the Park has been completed the grade of the Historian may want to be dropped one or two grades." [84] In February 1967, Earl R. Harris was hired as park historian. He had worked for the NPS since 1950. He transferred to Nez Perce from Scotts Bluff National Monument, Nebraska. [85]

If the composition of the new staff seemed disappointingly non-Indian to the Nez Perce Tribe in 1967, tribal leaders by and large accepted it graciously. They remained confident that the park would be a good thing for their people and that Burns had their interests at heart. The superintendent worked hard to develop a personal rapport with the Nez Perce and genuinely enjoyed that aspect of his job. He took lessons in the Nez Perce language from a tribal elder and attempted, without great success, to learn Nez Perce beadwork. He often "made sweat" with the Indians, priding himself on the fact that he could take the heat in the sweat lodge longer than some of his Nez Perce companions. He learned all that he could about native foods, collected various plant specimens for display in the Watson's Store, and cultivated his own patch of the medicinal root, kouse-kouse. [86] Burns and Halfmoon once traveled to Nespelem, Washington, to inspect the grave of the younger Chief Joseph. The two men were in agreement that the gravesite should one day become part of the Nez Perce National Historical Park. Regional Director John A. Rutter subsequently advised Burns that the matter of the grave was out of Burns' jurisdiction. [87]

Before Burns departed Nez Perce country for Philadelphia in 1968, his good friends Richard Halfmoon and Sam Watters took him into the backcountry. There they insisted that he go out alone on a vision quest. Considerably moved, Burns complied. [88] This farewell gesture not only revealed something of the tribal leaders' relationship to the superintendent; it also indicated their untarnished hopes for the park's future.

The Superintendency of Jack R. Williams, 1968-1975

Jack R. Williams was appointed superintendent of Nez Perce National Historical Park in the fall of 1968. Prior to this appointment, Williams had served as superintendent of Aztec Ruins National Monument, New Mexico (1963-1965), and Navajo National Monument, Arizona (1965-1968). He was no stranger to Indian country, having worked with Pueblos and Navajos. Like Burns, he sweat with the Nez Perce and took a keen interest in their culture, becoming an expert on their famous Appaloosa horses. Nevertheless, Williams did not share his predecessor's success in getting along well with the Nez Perce. He established a law enforcement presence at Spalding that many tribal members found repugnant. Some thought he wore his uniform too ostentatiously. He also made a mistake in where he lived, first occupying a double-wide trailer on the premises, and later moving into the former Indian agent's house after it had been refurbished. [89] It was not long before NPTEC members began to grumble that they wanted a different superintendent.

But the superintendent was more of a target for Nez Perce ire than a cause of it. It seemed to the Nez Perce Tribe that the park's development program had sputtered and stalled. Although the NPS completed its master plan for Nez Perce National Historical Park in June 1968, another dozen years would pass before it had a permanent visitor center. Williams knew that it was not unusual for Congress to delay fifteen to twenty years before appropriating funds for the development of a new area of the national park system. [90] He admitted that the park was in something of a "holding pattern," but the Nez Perce Tribe had a hard time accepting that. [91]

Congressional procrastination was merely the shorthand explanation for the park's slow beginnings. In the early 1970s the Nixon administration repeatedly eliminated requests for construction funds from the National Park Service's budgets, and refused to use such funds when Congress appropriated them. [92] The Park Service had more success in obtaining funds for the stabilization of historic buildings. During Williams' superintendency, nearly a third of all funding for development in Nez Perce National Historical Park was used for building renovation. A modest $300,000 was programmed for the Spalding visitor center and headquarters development, all of which went to planning. [93] Meanwhile, the high rate of inflation in the late 1960s and early 1970s made it evident that Congress would have to raise the ceilings on development and land acquisition funding for the park.

A gulf in NPTEC and NPS thinking first became evident in the winter of 1969-70. Disappointed with the park's makeshift visitor center in Spalding, NPTEC tried to obtain NPS support for a tribal tourist development on the outskirts of Orofino, Idaho. The proposed facility would have featured overnight camping and "suitable sales outlets for Nez Perce Indian arts and craft work or Nez Perce souvenir items." The plan envisioned a cluster of five or six tepees for nightly rental in addition to tent and trailer sites. It would be coordinated with the development of a marina concession by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the development of a visitor center by the Park Service (even though there were no park sites nearby). The tribe had the encouragement of the Clearwater Economic Development Association, Inc., and contracted with an engineering and planning firm to prepare a feasibility study. [94]

While Superintendent Williams had been aware of the proposal for some time, Pacific Northwest Regional Director John A. Rutter felt he had been ambushed. On January 29, 1970, NPTEC member Irvin Watters, accompanied by Executive Director E.L. Williams of the Clearwater Economic Development Association, and Roy M. Howard of the consulting firm Cornell, Howland, Hayes, and Merryfield, stopped by the Pacific Northwest Regional Office in Seattle to present their proposal. Rutter listened but declined to comment, saying that he needed time to examine it. He pointed out that the proposal represented a considerable departure from the master plan, but that the NPS wanted to cooperate as much as possible with the tribe. He offered to discuss it further with them on a planned visit to Spalding. When Rutter arrived in Spalding a few days later, he was surprised to learn that the tribal council would vote the next morning on whether to apply for a loan for the tourist enterprise, even though the feasibility study indicated that a Park Service visitor center at the Orofino site would be vital to its success. Rutter suggested that NPS planners review the proposal first. One member of NPTEC asked the consultants to explain how the tribe might go forward without the Park Service's help. After some discussion of this NPTEC decided to adopt a resolution asking for a loan of $750,000. [95] Although the plan was later abandoned, it signaled the divergent expectations of the park by the tribe and the NPS.

Meanwhile, Williams proceeded with his own plan for a temporary visitor center. The Watson's Store was far too small to hold the park's growing staff. The area of the building that had been set up for visitors was cold and dark. He moved the administrative offices and museum exhibits into the Blue Lantern Motel. This building stood between the former Spalding State Park and the railroad on land acquired from the James Albright family. By painting the long structure dark brown and posting some appropriate NPS signage, Williams made the building serve as a combination administration building, ranger quarters, and visitor center. [96]

Williams worked with NPS officials in the regional office to obtain congressional action on amending the park's enabling act practically from the start of his superintendency. For a while it appeared that increased budgets would be achieved through a park additions bill, as Oregon's Senator Bob Packwood expressed keen interest in getting the Nez Perce sites near Wallowa Lake included in the park. This led to a study of potential park additions in 1969 (see Chapter 8.) By the early 1970s, however, NPS officials regarded the master plan for Nez Perce National Historical Park as overly ambitious.

In 1973, Regional Director Rutter scaled back the park's development plans in order to increase the likelihood of early congressional appropriations for the park. Development of Nez Perce National Historical Park, together with numerous other relatively new areas in the national park system, received lesser priority behind those units associated with the American Revolution Bicentennial celebration scheduled for 1976. [97] Instead of three visitor centers at Spalding, East Kamiah, and White Bird Battlefield, there would be one main visitor center at Spalding and relatively inexpensive interpretive shelters at the other two sites. The Denver Service Center's final development concept plan of 1976 presented this new concept. [98]

Williams made some changes in the permanent park staff. Park Historian Earl R. Harris transferred out in 1971, and rangers Glenn L. Hinsdale and Steven T. Kernes transferred in. Williams appointed Hinsdale as his chief of interpretation and resource management. Thus, Hinsdale assumed Harris' duties. In two years Hinsdale transferred to the Pacific Northwest Regional Office, and Douglas J. Riley transferred in from Glacier Bay National Monument. Riley then became the new chief of interpretation and resource management. [99]

Nez Perces continued to find employment opportunities at the park to be limited to relatively low-paying seasonal positions. The superintendent recruited seasonal employees through the Idaho Employment Service and the Bureau of Indian Affairs rather than NPTEC. [100] A few Nez Perces worked at the park summer after summer as cultural demonstrators. Williams obtained a $45,000 grant for this purpose two summers in a row. A number of Nez Perce women regularly came to the park to learn cornhusk weaving, beadworking, and leatherworking from the cultural demonstrators. [101]

Williams formed close personal relationships with the two longtime cultural demonstrators, Ida Blackeagle and Viola Morris. He was also close to Angus Wilson and Wilson's mother, a tribal elder and matriarch whom Williams knew as "one of the last of the buffalo people." [102] Nevertheless, other tribal members came to dislike the superintendent and began to demand his replacement. Richard Halfmoon complained to Regional Director John Rutter, who agreed to transfer Williams to another park. Some of Rutter's correspondence with Halfmoon took place without the superintendent's knowledge. The transfer took place within six months. Williams was reassigned to Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, Colorado, and Nez Perce National Historical Park got a new superintendent — another man whose experience working in Indian country in the Southwest seemed to recommend him for the job. [103]

The Superintendency of Robert L. Morris, 1975-1981

Robert L. Morris had worked at several units in the Southwest, beginning with a ranger job at Canyon de Chelly National Monument in 1948 and ending with a tour as Superintendent of El Morro National Monument in the 1970s. [104] It was no secret in Park Service circles that the new superintendent of Nez Perce would be walking into a difficult situation, and Morris accepted the job with an important guarantee: Regional Director Russell E. Dickenson promised to put all his influence behind getting a new visitor center built at Spalding as soon as Congress raised the budget ceiling for park development. [105]

This promise strengthened Morris' position as he met with various interested parties upon his arrival. Not only were tribal leaders anxious for the NPS to initiate park development, but a number of other park supporters voiced similar sentiments immediately. These included Ted Little, Marcus Ware, faculty members of the University of Idaho, and Idaho Senators Church and McClure as well as Warren G. Magnuson and Henry M. Jackson of Washington. [106] To the local groups Morris tried to convey one important message: do not argue with each other about where the visitor center will be or whose history it will present until after Congress has approved the funding increase. These issues could be finalized after funding had been approved. [107] In October 1976, exactly one year into Morris' superintendency, Congress amended the Nez Perce National Historical Park Act by raising the development ceiling from $1,337,000 to $4,100,000. [108] Regional Director Russell E. Dickenson's pledge of support for the visitor center, Morris' efforts at consensus-building, and the 1976 act of Congress all seemed to place the park on a new and more advantageous footing.

During 1976, park staff worked closely with Nez Perce tribal representatives in planning new interpretive exhibits for East Kamiah and White Bird Battlefield. The East Kamiah interpretive shelter was built in August 1977, and interpretive exhibits were installed the following spring. The development also included a new 3,000-foot pole fence along the highway frontage, replacing some 2,000 feet of barbed wire fence that the Nez Perce Tribe had built under contract two years earlier. Other planned improvements, including additional interpretive displays and public restrooms with flush toilets, remained to be done. The White Bird Battlefield interpretive shelter was completed in July 1977. [109]

Meanwhile the NPS proceeded to develop plans for the much-anticipated visitor center at Spalding. Park planners suggested a bold exterior design that would emphasize the park's Nez Perce theme. At first they proposed a tall, conical building resembling a tepee. Then they agreed upon a simple triangle motif, a design element common in Nez Perce beadwork. Worked into the exterior design of the visitor center in the form of a gently pitching triangular slab roof, the triangle looked vaguely like an arrowhead. [110] The building would stand on the bluff above the river with the raised point of the roof directing the visitor's gaze up the Clearwater Canyon. The sloping triangular roof design was repeated at the East Kamiah and White Bird Battlefield interpretive shelters. A second motif, also repeated at these two sites, consisted of three slanting poles placed in the ground beside each highway entrance. The latter symbolized the traditional Nez Perce eagle staff. [111] The effect of the two motifs together was striking. These visual design features marked a significant step in bringing the park's wide interpretive orbit closer and closer to the central story of the Nez Perce Tribe. [112]

The decision to locate the visitor center on the bluff was also important. The two previous administrative headquarters and visitor centers — the Watson's Store and the former Blue Lantern Motel — were both situated below the bluff, inside the historic area. Park planners decided that the new, larger visitor center would intrude on the historic setting and negatively impact the historic resources if it were built in that area. Moreover, U.S. 12 had been rerouted along the top of the bluff shortly after the park was authorized in 1965, and park planners wanted the visitor center to be clearly visible to passing motorists. Locating the visitor center on the bluff had one rather ironic consequence, however. Most park visitors, after spending twenty to thirty minutes in the visitor center, would get back on the highway without going down to the historic area. [113]

The location of the visitor center had one very bitter consequence. On September 11, 1979, while putting in the access road for this development site, a construction crew inadvertently bulldozed through a tribal cemetery. Remains of a number of individuals were disturbed. The incident brought about a nadir in NPS-Nez Perce relations. Even after the remains were sorted out, identified, and reinterred a little more than three years later, the incident still cast a pall over Nez Perce feelings about the park and Park Service representatives. The decision to build the road dated from 1976, when planners saw a need to construct a direct road between the visitor center parking area and the historic area below. The road would traverse down the side of the bluff. Sam Watters, a tribal member, objected that the proposed road cut would intersect a tribal cemetery. Morris requested a consultation, and on March 18, 1976, Dr. Roderick Sprague, chairman of the Department of Sociology/Anthropology at the University of Idaho, inspected the site and the development plans with NPS officials and members of the Nez Perce Tribe. Even though there was a known Nez Perce cemetery at the top of the bluff, Sprague advised that the proposed road cut would not disturb any graves because graves would not extend down the slope. Nevertheless, he suggested that a trained archeologist should be present to monitor the initial phase of construction in case human remains were discovered. [114] With that assessment, and some archeological testing accomplished during the summer and fall of 1978, plans to locate the visitor center on the top of the bluff proceeded with the tribe's approval.

It was in the fall of 1978 that the NPS broke ground for the visitor center. Contrary to Sprague's advice, no archeologist was assigned to monitor the construction work. [115] The work on the road had barely begun when it was discovered that the bulldozer crew had unearthed a number of graves. According to Superintendent Morris, the burial remains were encountered about twenty-five feet outside the known cemetery. [116] Archeologist David Chance maintains that the actual road cut went outside the area shown on project plans. [117] The disturbance of the graves happened because the cemetery and the earthworks extended over a wider area than the park officials and archaeologists had anticipated. It caught both the archaeologists and park officials by surprise.

Morris contacted NPTEC the next day and sought to involve tribal representatives in the damage assessment. Despite this gesture, members of the tribe formed an impression that park officials underestimated the gravity of the situation. When NPTEC Secretary Silas Whitman arrived at park headquarters on September 13, he thought that the tone of the staff suggested that "seemingly the project was not of a significant problem other than a few graves being disrupted." He and Richard Halfmoon discussed whether there was a need for NPTEC to request an injunction in order to halt construction "until some positive action could be taken." [118]

Later that morning Halfmoon and Sam Watters, who had warned against the road in the first place, inspected the site with the superintendent, Park Curator Stephen Shawley, Cathy Spude from the Denver Service Center, Dr. Sprague, and some graduate assistants from the University of Idaho. Watters reported to NPTEC:

I observed three distinct piles of skulls and bones, some of which were in crushed condition, one with most of the larger bones intact. Cedar remnants and beads, with some remains of pottery and the remains of a headpiece were also in evidence. Mr. Shawley and myself then toured the area and observed other assumed grave sites which were either dug out by the machinery and crushed or covered by a considerable amount of dirt. There seemed to be another six or so probable grave sites that could be readily identified so. [119]

The following morning, Watters revisited the site with NPTEC Chairman Wilfred Scott, and found that the skeletal remains observed the day before had already been put in paper sacks and taken to the University of Idaho for study. Archaeologists were in the process of marking out additional sites for excavation. After briefing an afternoon session of the Reservation Development Subcommittee on the status of the graves, Watters, Scott, and three other tribal members returned to the site again "to obtain a firsthand look at the direction the Park Service and archaeologists were taking." They were dismayed to find that the archaeologists had disinterred three additional cedar coffins on the assumption that they must be moved. "The shock of seeing the ancestors in their last resting place and the prospect of seeing them destroyed to move them in the name of progress became too much for tribal people in attendance," Watters wrote. There was a meeting late that afternoon between tribal representatives, park officials, archaeologists, and Spude, followed by a conference call to the regional office. [120] After a further meeting on Saturday morning, it was decided to suspend all construction and post a security guard at the site until all the remains were reinterred in their original locations. The road alignment would be altered to avoid the cemetery, and the NPS would conduct archeological testing on the level ground to the west of the cemetery where the visitor center was to be located. Karl Gurcke of the University of Idaho assembled an all-Nez Perce archeological crew of thirteen and supervised the reinternment of the burial remains and the testing of the visitor center site during the next two weeks. [121]

In the weeks and months following this incident, NPTEC received letters from tribal members demanding the abolishment of Nez Perce National Historical Park. The disturbance and subsequent mistreatment of the graves seemed to confirm tribal members' suspicions that the park was a "white man's" idea. It acquired symbolic significance, unleashing other ill-feelings about the park. Tribal leader Jesse Greene, for example, objected strongly to the Park Service's display of a portrait of Henry Harmon Spalding in the temporary visitor center. For Greene and many other Nez Perces, Spalding was the man who had suppressed Nez Perce customs and whipped Nez Perce children. The Park Service removed the offending portrait, but Greene's displeasure ran so deep he wanted the Park Service removed from the area as well. [122]

The superintendent and staff continued to occupy offices in the former Blue Lantern Motel while the new visitor center was under construction. Superintendent Morris brought three Nez Perces onto the park staff. Former NPTEC Chairman Angus Wilson was appointed park technician in October 1976 and retired in April 1977. Albert Barros, a student at Lewis and Clark College, took a position as a general student trainee under a Cooperative Education Agreement. Maynard Holt joined the maintenance staff. Other additions to the permanent park staff included Stephen Shawley as park curator and Harold White as maintenance worker. Shawley, a University of Idaho anthropology student and specialist in Nez Perce artifacts, first began cataloguing the park's collections under contract in 1976. He was appointed park curator in October 1977. White had worked at Spalding State Park for the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation before 1965, and had worked for the NPS as a seasonal maintenance worker since that date. In June 1978, Chief of Interpretation and Resource Management (I&RM) Douglas J. Riley transferred out and the new chief, I&RM, Kenneth L. Adkisson transferred in from Sitka National Historical Park. [123]

Staff members spent most of their time at the Spalding unit, making infrequent trips to the other three NPS-owned sites and the numerous cooperatively managed sites. There was a growing concern with vandalism as interpretive signs were defaced at East Kamiah, White Bird Battlefield, and Weis Rockshelter in the mid to late 1970s, but the small staff primarily concerned itself with interpretation and visitor protection at the Spalding unit. Morris continued in his post until the visitor center was brought nearly to completion. In February 1981, shortly before Morris retired, park staff moved into the new building. [124]

The Superintendency of Fahy C. Whittaker, 1981-1987

Breaking with tradition, Regional Director Daniel J. Tobin selected someone without previous experience working with Indian peoples to be Nez Perce National Historical Park's next superintendent. He also decided to appoint the first woman to the position. Fahy C. Whittaker was schooled in history and trained in cultural resource management and interpretation. She had worked in various historical sites in the east before moving into park management, and was superintendent of the William Howard Taft National Historical Site in Cincinnati when Tobin hired her for the job in Idaho. [125]

Whittaker started at Nez Perce on March 8, 1981, less than a month after the park staff had settled into its new offices. A main focus at the beginning of her superintendency was to get the visitor center ready for visitors. A tangle of problems had emerged in the final construction phase: the lighting inside the exhibit room was disappointing, the paint was the wrong color, the plate glass did not fit the exhibit mounts, and there were problems with the roof. In addition, storage vaults had been added to the design to accommodate artifact collections that were currently stored in Lapwai, necessitating changes in the building's heating and cooling systems. [126] All of these problems caused delays in opening the visitor center. It finally opened to the public on June 29, 1983. [127]

With the new visitor center completed, Nez Perce National Historical Park experienced a surge in what park officials termed "non-recreational use." Non-recreational use referred to those park visitors who did not come primarily to use the picnic area. Park managers had consistently expressed discomfort over the large number of picnickers, or "recreational use" in the Spalding unit. Large crowds of picnickers could spoil the ambiance that was necessary to other visitors' enjoyment of the historic area. Whittaker acted forcefully to limit recreational use of the Spalding unit to certain well-defined areas. [128]

Whittaker also faced persistent staff problems. An operations evaluation team visited the park in July 1982 and found a variety of problems in the administration. The team described "a leadership void which has established bad habits and a certain amount of cynicism among key staff members." It suggested that troubles with the visitor center exhibits had been "a serious distraction from basic park operations." The park appeared to be understaffed, particularly in maintenance. The team learned that the superintendent, chief of IRM, and chief of maintenance spent little time outside of the Spalding unit, and it recommended that one of these people should visit the other units at least once a week. Overall, the team found the East Kamiah, Canoe Camp, and Spalding units "very shabby in appearance." [129]

The staff situation was complicated by a growing mistrust between the superintendent and the park curator. In 1984, Whittaker requested a performance review of the park curator by the regional curator. This led to an inspector general's audit of museum management at Nez Perce the following year, culminating in Shawley's resignation under pressure (see Chapter 6). This necessary but arduous task of housecleaning took its toll; a second operations evaluation in 1985 pointed to a definite need for improvement in the management of staff and routine inspection of outlying sites. [130]

Still another staff issue caused a breach between the superintendent and the tribe. Tribal members expressed dismay over the unrealized employment opportunities for Nez Perces in the national historical park. First, the tribe wanted a greater commitment by the NPS to hire Nez Perces for seasonal positions, pointing out that the tribe had agreements with the Clearwater, Payette, and Nez Perce national forests but it had no such agreement with the NPS. Second, the tribe wanted the park to maintain one or two permanent staff positions for Nez Perces and to provide career enhancement opportunities. Otherwise, there could be little hope for eventually filling the position of superintendent with a tribal member. Specifically, the tribe objected to the Park Service's plan to upgrade a GS-9 ranger position which would exclude likely Nez Perce applicants from competition. Complicating the situation, several tribal leaders believed that the superintendent herself, rather than the agency, was accountable for these perceived shortcomings. In June 1986, tribal representatives addressed their concerns to NPS Director William Penn Mott, Jr. [131]

With yet another superintendent of Nez Perce National Historical Park under attack by the tribe, Acting Regional Director William J. Briggle tried to intercede for Whittaker. His solution was to establish a memorandum of understanding between the park administration and NPTEC. The agreement, signed by Whittaker and NPTEC Chairman J. Herman Reuben on August 27, 1986, pledged the NPS to improve tribal employment opportunities and committed the tribe to assist park officials in recruiting Nez Perce tribal members. The NPS made a significant concession by including knowledge of Nez Perce history and culture as a desirable hiring criterion for all park positions. [132]

These peacemaking efforts notwithstanding, the tribe soon circumvented Briggle to get the superintendent removed. In late 1986, Deputy Director Denis Galvin initiated discussions with Whittaker and Roy W. Weaver, superintendent of Edison National Historical Site, New Jersey, about a potential job swap between the two of them. According to Weaver, Galvin was a personal friend who knew of Weaver's desire to get a transfer back to the west. After Weaver had agreed to the change, he met with Briggle in Washington, D.C., for a briefing on the park. Briggle told Weaver of the need to involve the Nez Perce Tribe more effectively in park management. The two-way transfer was accomplished in January 1987. [133]

The Superintendency of Roy W. Weaver, 1987-1990

Weaver had worked in a variety of functions, including natural resource management, interpretation, and park management, during his tenure with the NPS. He was the first superintendent of Roger Williams National Memorial in Providence, Rhode Island. Although he had never before worked in a park unit with a close relationship to an Indian tribe, Weaver maintains that his experience working with various ethnic groups on the East Coast served him well at Nez Perce. Weaver brought to the superintendency a "healthy curiosity" about Nez Perce culture, as well as a professional commitment to listen to tribal concerns and to make the park a good neighbor. One of his first acts was to tour the park with NPTEC members. [134]

From the tribe's standpoint, Weaver got the park administration moving in the right direction again with the appointment of two Nez Perces, Jesse Kipp and Kevin Peters, to permanent staff positions. In addition, the park still employed Nez Perces as cultural demonstrators and in other seasonal jobs, and Allen Slickpoo held a temporary position as a museum technician. Still, there were numerous frustrations. Weaver tried to get Slickpoo's position upgraded, but the regulations of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) barred the upgrade because Slickpoo, for all his expertise in Nez Perce culture, lacked the necessary formal educational credentials. Weaver also applied for "contiguous area" hiring authority — a special dispensation granted to some federal employers to circumvent standard OPM procedures and hire within local communities — but the OPM denied this request also. [135]

Weaver's impact in other areas benefitted the park. For example, Weaver gave a new impetus to resource management. With his degree in forestry, Weaver had acquired a strong background in natural resource management. It was his philosophy that national park managers should make resource protection their number one priority, ahead of visitor use and interpretation, even in a historical park such as Nez Perce. Prior to 1987, natural resources in Nez Perce National Historical Park received scant attention. Weaver established new staff positions, a natural resource management program, and a collections management program, obtaining political and financial support from the NPS regional office and technical assistance from Biologist Gerry Wright of the Cooperative Park Studies Unit at the University of Idaho. [136]

After improving tribal relations and boosting the park's resource management program, Weaver's third major effort was to resurrect the old movement to bring other sites in Oregon, Washington, and Montana that related to the Nez Perce story into the park. Citizens' groups were already raising the issue in 1986, and park staffer Art Hathaway had attended a few meetings concerning park additions before Weaver's arrival. Weaver held meetings with citizens in Oregon's Wallowa country and with Joe Redthunder of the Chief Joseph band of Nez Perce on the Colville Indian Reservation in north central Washington. The regional office assembled a team to produce an "additions study" and the prospects for congressional approval looked promising until two property owners in Joseph, Oregon, objected. As a result, Oregon's Senator Mark Hatfield withdrew his support for the bill. The movement stalled temporarily just as Weaver was seeking a transfer to another park in a different region. [137]

After Weaver's departure in July 1990, Museum Curator Susan Buchel served as acting superintendent for two months. During this interim, Buchel and other staff members developed a "yellow paper" which outlined recommendations for the new superintendent. These included improving the National Park Service image, working more closely with the Nez Perce Tribe, involving the staff more closely in park operations, and improving the quality of interpretation and resource management. [138]

The Superintendency of Frank C. Walker, 1990-

In September 1990, Frank C. Walker transferred to Nez Perce National Historical Park from Fort Clatsop National Memorial, where he had been superintendent since 1985. A second-generation Park Service employee, Walker had gone from Yellowstone to White Sands National Monument, Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, Gulf Islands National Seashore, and Carlsbad Caverns National Park. With a degree in biology, Walker also had a keen interest in history. By the time he came to Nez Perce country, his career path had already intersected the Lewis and Clark story twice before — first at the expedition's point of departure in St. Louis, then at Fort Clatsop near the mouth of the Columbia. [139]

Walker had some prior exposure to Nez Perce National Historical Park while he was superintendent at Fort Clatsop. He had helped in the preparation of a development concept plan for the Spalding unit some five years earlier and had observed the conflict between the tribe and the superintendent. Upon learning of Weaver's departure, he applied for the job because the concept of the park interested him and the prospect of town living was attractive. [140]

Walker and tribal leaders quickly moved to establish good communications. Within a week of his arrival, the new superintendent accepted an invitation from General Council Chairman J. Herman Reuben to attend the semi-annual meeting of the council that month. Following that meeting, Walker made it a practice to attend each General Council session and regularly report on developments in the park. This ongoing commitment was significant in establishing a relationship of trust and open communication with the tribe. [141]

The park additions bill consumed much of the superintendent's time and energy during the first two years of his tenure. President George Bush signed the park additions bill on October 30, 1992, authorizing fourteen new park sites in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Montana. (see Chapter 8). These additions mainly followed the pattern of the cooperatively managed sites rather than the NPS-owned sites among the original 24 sites. Implementation of the act required the negotiation of cooperative agreements with numerous individuals and agencies and the fostering of good relations with some 21 separate communities. As of July 1995 the park had 50 cooperative agreements in place. [142]

With the park additions, it became increasingly evident that the park administration would need to be decentralized in order to manage so many far-flung sites effectively. Walker encouraged the park management staff in developing a new concept for administration based on units rather than functions. The administration was restructured around four units (Spalding, Oregon/Washington, White Bird/Upper Clearwater, and Montana). Each unit had a unit manager whose primary responsibilities were to manage a local staff and develop community relations. Unit managers were based in Spalding, Idaho; Joseph, Oregon; Grangeville, Idaho; and Big Hole National Battlefield, Montana. In addition, the Bear Paw Battlefield in north central Montana had a site manager who reported to the Montana unit manager. A park-wide support unit was based in Spalding and included specialists in interpretation and resource management.

In many respects the staff reorganization at Nez Perce mirrored the reorganization of the entire National Park Service during 1994-95. The push to increase staff positions in the field benefitted from the agency-wide effort to trim support staffs in the regional offices. Nevertheless, the ambitious plan was not without risk. As the staff report on the unit organization concept pointed out,

One of the primary reasons for the decline in both government productivity and support is the continued use of top-down, centralized bureaucracies. They fail to adequately serve either the customers or the employees. Changing this environment will not be easy nor will it be painless, but if we are to truly better serve customers, protect park resources, save precious fiscal resources, and empower employees to be creative and productive; it must be changed. Early attempts at a unit concept in other NPS areas may well have been doomed from the start by changing only what would not threaten the status quo of a top-down, centralized bureaucracy. Truly empowering employees within a work unit can be very threatening to "command managers." At Nez Perce NHP we seek to implement a true "work team" approach to park management, based on managers serving as coaches and facilitators rather than controllers and commanders. [143]

Walker's other major management efforts to date have included the development of a five-year plan for the park in 1994, and the rejuvenation of Nez Perce tribal involvement in the park's interpretive program. In this latter endeavor, Walker has enjoyed greater success than perhaps any of his predecessors. A high point was the contemporary Nez Perce art exhibition entitled "Sapatq'ayn: 20th Century Nez Perce Artists," the first of its kind, held as a National Park Service 75th Anniversary event in 1991. The park obtained growing tribal support in the annual Nez Perce Cultural Days event as well as in its Spring Lyceum Nez Perce speakers series. Three more Nez Perces were hired into permanent staff positions. [144] Working with tribal elders, Walker considered the formation of an Elders Board. When fully developed, the board would consult with the park staff on a regular basis to assist with the park's resource management and interpretive programs. Walker is credited by the Nez Perces with finally opening communication between the park and the tribe. In the fall of 1994, the Park Service honored Walker and the Nez Perce Tribe with the Vail Partnership Award. [145]

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Last Updated: 01-Jun-2000