A decorated elk antler horse quirt or whip made by a Nez Perce man. The handle is formed of a piece of rawhide thong to which a forged iron ram rod is attached at one end. The ram rod was from an 1800 era firearm. The antler quirt shows considerable wear and patina from use prior to collection date indicating that it was made prior to 1845. The decorations include 6 circular incisions over which 7 bass rings are placed near the tip.
Nakia Williamson-Cloud describing Nez Perce collections:
"Here, unlike a lot of other places in Indian country, we retained a lot of these items, these heirloom items. A lot of the families had large collections of traditional regalia, horse trappings, that went back a long time. We don’t have the firm documentation like the Spalding-Allen Collection did to give it that provenance. But it was just things that were passed down generation to generation. So a lot of these items for a lot of the Nez Perce people aren’t just museum items. They’re items that represent our elders. They represent and memorialize our old people. And so that’s what they kind of mean to us."
Nakia Williamson-Cloud on the connection between the items in the Spalding-Allen Collection, the elders, and the land:
"We have to maintain connections to these things that tie us back to this land. And these things truly do that. And not only to the land, but to our experiences and our history that reinforces our identity. And so I think that I try to retain not only these items that were handed down from generation to generation and up unto myself, but also try to have understanding about how these things are made, how they’re put together and what that means to us as Nez Perce people. I try to have that kind of understanding as well. Not simply that I have the item and if I were to lose the item, then that’s it. I’m trying to retain the knowledge about a lot of these things as well. So again, that’s important.
I want my son and I want my nieces and nephews and someday grandchildren to understand what these mean to us. And that they have a deep meaning to us because of what they represent. And to respect them and not to trivialize them in any way.
As we’re told in our way of life, we’re taking care of our life as Indian people. And that’s how we do it is in a lot of these ways that connect us back to the land. That’s the way we take care of ourselves. And it’s a continual maintenance that we have to do. And it’s the work we have to put forth and the effort we have to put forth. And never forget it. And always hold onto it. And we have to keep that knowledge that ties us to this land. And that’s so important. Without that, like I said, you know, everything does not really matter as much.
Because these are, all the things that we have within our culture are just basically devices and ways in which we connect ourselves to our elders and to our land. And they’re reminders, constant reminders to us of our true value system and identity as Nez Perce people. And so when you surround yourself with these things and it continues to reinforces and reminds you on a day to day basis, you know, who you are and what you represent. And that’s really important. So that’s what a lot of these do for us is they remind us of the old people.
So they used to say this about how to be. Or they would say this of how to hunt. Or they would say this was the proper time to dig roots. It just allows you a way into, to tap in and to remember that knowledge.
And it’s knowledge that can never really truly be written down and encapsulated in a book or in any written form. And that’s what our old people talked about. It’s something you have to live and it has to be inside your heart. Because you can write it down, and write things down. And that’s good in a way. But unless you live it and believe it and do it, and it’s a part of you, when you write something down, it automatically limits it. Because it’s only limited to what’s on the written page. And there’s so much more to a lot of these things that our people understood. And so that’s a part of it. These are part of the ways in which we access that knowledge and access that type of understanding. And they’re reminders to us about the value system of our elders and everything else that are important to maintaining our identity."
"The Nez Perce people made special designed quirts (whip[s]) out of animal parts, such as antlers, or [the] carved wood of trees or brush. They became part of his or her horse. Each quirt, with the design, had a significant meaning to the owner and his horse. It was a special tool that he/she carried during the long family travels and for the hunter or warrior who, at times, depended on the speed of his horse. The importance of a quirt was treated in the same manner as a weapon." Allen Slickpoo Sr. 1995