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Exploring the history and culture of the Nez Perce nation at Lapwai

Location: Hours: Fees:
39063 US Hwy 95
Lapwai, ID 83540-9715
Summer hours: 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM

Winter hours: 8:30 AM to 4:00 PM


Traveling through northern Idaho towards Washington we decided to stop at the Nez Perce National Historical Park at Spalding. This area was originally known as Lapwai by the Nez Perce, but was renamed Spalding after the Reverand Henry Spalding a missionary who came amongst the Nez Perce to convert them to Christianity. The Nez Perce were given this name, meaning in French being “pierced nose”, by early French fur trappers visiting the area – although they never had the tradition of piercing their noses! The name they give themselves in the Nee-Me-Poo. The Nez Perce were one of several Native American Tribes to be visited by Lewis and Clark, and their Corps of Discovery.

The Visitors’ Centre at Spalding is run by the National Parks Service, and as a consequence is wonderful. We initially visit the small museum showing the everyday artefacts of the Nez Perce; from toys played with by children to ceremonial head pieces. Thisphoto is of a fantastic wooden statue of a Nez Perce horse in ceremonial kit, recognition of the significance of horses to this Nation. The Nez Perce in fact were one of the few Nations to selectively breed horses, and they indeed created the strain known as Appaloosa. Today there are several school parties visiting the Visitor Centre so one of the Rangers puts on an interactive demonstration on building a Tee Pee. We slip in the back so Jack and Emily can join in – although Jack unusually is somewhat reluctant, feeling he is out of place in someone else’s show! Emily as usual has no qualms. After the demonstration has finished we go back inside the Visitor Centre and head for the theatre where they show a wonderful film covering the history of Nez Perce people from their early days, to meeting with Lewis and Clark, the battles of Chief Joseph through to the modern day. A proud people, the Nez Perce have suffered throughout the last hundred and fifty years, like all other Tribes, with their lands being taken for gold mining and homesteading.

We had a wonderful time here, but the storm clouds were gathering so we cut short out visit to the outside exhibits; some historical buildings from the time when Spalding was established nearly 170 years ago.








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