The Mission Era
Beginning in the 1830s and continuing for the remainder of the nineteenth century, Protestant and Roman Catholic missionaries spent time among the Nez Perce. Christianity was accepted by some and rejected by others and many of the active churches on the Nez Perce reservation today have their roots in these missions. It was the beginning of many changes that confronted the Nez Perce and their culture.
The Rev. Henry Spalding and his wife Eliza were the first to arrive in the Clearwater River valley and would remain until 1846. In the 1860s Spalding returned and his work would continue with Kate and Sue McBeth. Father Joseph Cataldo arrived in the 1860s and established St. Joseph mission that remained active until the 1950s. Some of the tangible reminders of this period can be seen at the Spalding site and at other locations in the park.
Did You Know?
For centuries the Nez Perce used Tolo Lake or Tepalewam as a gathering place. In June, 1877 the Wallowa Nez Perce paused here before their final move to the Reservation. Brooding over past injustices, warriors raided homes on the Salmon River, precipitating events that would trigger the 1877 War.