This exhibit celebrates the 25th anniversary of the return of the Spalding-Allen Collection to the Nez Perce Tribe. Reverend Henry H. Spalding acquired the artifacts from the Nez Perce (Tribe) between1836 and 1846. The Collection was sent to Spalding's benefactor Dr. Dudley Allen. In 1893, after Allen’s death, the Collection came to Oberlin College, and then to the Ohio Historical Society, now known as the Ohio History Connection. The items were loaned to Nez Perce National Historical Park for an exhibit. In 1993, the Ohio History Connection requested the return of the loan, and subsequently agreed to sell the collection to the Nez Perce.
At the 25th anniversary event in June 2021, the Collection was given a Nez Perce name, Wetxuuwi’itin’. The name, meaning “returned home after a period of captivity,” was an important step to reclaim a significant part of Nez Perce culture.
Ohio History Connection representatives attended the renaming event. “As delighted as I was to learn about the renaming of the Wetxuuwíitin collection, the invitation was also a painful reminder of the shameful mistreatment and marginalization of American Indians since the arrival of Europeans on the North American continent,” said Burt Logan, Ohio History Connection Executive Director and CEO. “Our leadership… was not aware of the Wetxuuwíitin Collection and its purchase by the Nez Perce Tribe until I received the kind invitation.”
In November 2021, Ohio History Connection representatives came back to the Nez Perce Reservation to return the $608,100 that the Tribe had raised in 1996 to purchase the Collection. Logan noted, “This summer we diligently sought to learn as much as possible, and to process what this means to our organization. If the Wetxuuwíitin Collection was in the possession of the Ohio History Connection today, we would freely return these items to their rightful home. With this clear conclusion, our Board of Trustees voted at its September 2021 meeting to return $608,100 to the Tribe.”
The Tribe accepted the reimbursement at a Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee meeting. Samuel Penny, Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee Chairman stated, “We are pleased to see this wrong corrected. …To us these are not pieces of art or décor, they are pieces of us and they retain the spirits of our ancestors. …These healing steps– bringing the items home, providing a fitting name and now reimbursement — give our people hope and build on that connection that’s been missing for far too long."