Nez Perce Wallowa Homeland
Captains Meriwether Lewis and William Clark and their Corps of Discovery traveled through Nez Perce country in the fall of 1805. After some initial apprehension, the Nez Perce embraced the Lewis and Clark expedition and provided help when the party was nearing starvation. After journeying further west, Lewis and Clark returned in the spring of to the 1806. They spent more time with the Nez Perce than any other tribe encountered during their expedition.
The Tribe’s original homelands included parts of present-day Idaho, Oregon and Washington. The Nez Perce people followed a cyclical, seasonal migration pattern throughout their homeland, traveling east to buffalo hunt along the Great Plains, and west to fish for salmon at Celilo Falls. In addition to seasonal journeys throughout this region, the Nez Perce people also traveled to what are now Montana and Wyoming to hunt, fish and trade.
The Nez Perce Wallowa Homeland stretches across 320 acres of lush, grassy uplands, the traditional summer camping and grazing areas of the Tribe. Rim rock bluffs feature spectacular views of the mountains, and below, the Wallowa River meanders across the pristine land. Located at strategic points of interest within the Homeland, twelve bronze interpretive plaques tell the story of the Wallowa Band of Nez Perce.
“This is where we were born and raised. It is our native country. It is impossible for us to leave.” – Ollikut, 1876
The Wallowa Band of Nez Perce Homeland celebrates the Nez Perce culture, and features a visitor center, hiking trails, a gazebo overlook, horse stables, a longhouse and a dance arbor. The Visitor Center is an excellent first stop for visitors to learn about the rich heritage of the Nez Perce. The center provides an opportunity to explore photos, artifacts, maps, art and informative videos. For family fun and education, there is a miniature tipi and activities for children.
Hikers can enjoy a four-mile loop trail that includes a summit to Tick Hill, with an optional trail to an overlook and gazebo. The overlook offers a view of the entire Wallowa Valley extending to Wallowa Lake, and the confluence of the Wallowa and Lostine rivers. Several interpretive markers can be found along the trail.
A series of historic steel-truss bridges span the Wallowa River to connect the Nez Perce Wallowa Homeland to the town of Wallowa. This enhanced pedestrian route has been designed as a tangible metaphor—a bridge between communities. The footbridge is open to the public and provides an easy shortcut to the town of Wallowa.
Equestrians will find an area with a circular exercise pen and six open-air stalls (two horses per stall). Water is available at the pumphouse, and a wheelbarrow and fork for cleaning stalls. An unfenced area is available for grazing and the nearby three-mile loop trail is a good choice for a ride. Local outfitters can provide horses for groups.
Also located on the Nez Perce Wallowa Homeland is the longhouse, an area dedicated to the native practices and traditions of the people of the Columbia River Plateau. It is a spiritual gathering place for the celebration of life and provides a space where families can share life’s milestones and give thanks to the Creator for all that has been provided. A kitchen building includes an industrial gas range, reach-in cooler, triple sink and is fully stocked with pots, pans and kitchen tools. The kitchen is a central hub of activity during the Tamkaliks Celebration.
The Tamkaliks Celebration is the largest and most popular annual event held in the Nez Perce Wallowa Homeland. The event is held in the dance arbor and the public is welcome to experience the singing, dancing and colorful regalia. It is important for visitors to remember that the Powwow remains a spiritual legacy that should be treated with respect and honor. It is a time for families and friends to re-unite, honor the past, and celebrate the future. It is a renewal of traditions and reinforcement of heritage.
The Arbor, outside of Tamkaliks weekend, is available for events and education. With shaded seating that can accommodate several hundred, it is the facility mostly used by the local community for weddings, funerals, reunions and fundraisers.
Nez Perce Wallowa Homeland enjoys strong local and regional support. Contributors include private citizens, representatives from business and economic development, local government, the visitor industry, historians, educators, representatives from the Nez Perce Tribe of Idaho, Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, the National Park Service, and the USDA Forest Service.