Josiah Pinkham on Nez Perce design in the Wetxuuwíitin’ Collection

Pinkham interprets the Wetxuuwíitin’ Collection formerly the Spalding-Allen Collection

"When we make things, and we make them as a Nez Perce, it’s so that we can manufacture that and a Nez Perce person will wear that, and they’ll stand there and they’ll look like a Nez Perce. And that sets us apart from other people in our area. Not because we’re better, but because we have a unique place in this world. And part of that unique place is the visual appearance of what it means to look like a Nez Perce. We wear particular things and that’s what separates us. And it’s also because we have a unique way of putting those things together because it’s a reflection of our relationship with our landscape. 

And so another thing to back that up is that when we make things like this, it’s with hopes that when our future generations come along, they see that relationship and they want to embrace that relationship in a way that ensures their survival, too. Because one of the things that I know is that the Nez Perce people have been here the longest. And it’s because we have strived for generations to have a sensitive relationship with the landscape. And that landscape includes deer. It includes elk, plants, water, fish. You know, all those different types of things. We don’t get there on our own. We have a lot of help. We’ve got deer looking out for us. We’ve got elk helping us out. We’ve got buffalo feeding us. Salmon. All those things kind of culminate in a visual appearance that says look at the way that I am here. These are the things that take care of me. I’m not parading these things around because I’m a proud Nez Perce. I’m wearing these things as a sense of gratitude for what takes care of me. That’s a really different perspective than when people dress for occasions nowadays. I mean, it’s a way different perspective.

So when we manufacture things like this, it’s also a process of prayer. Because you’re praying that when your kids come to be and they have their grandkids, what you’re praying for is hey, I really want you guys to help me take care of this, because this is special. And I want you guys to take care of this because this is going to not only ensure that your kids have as good a quality of life as I do, but that their kids will have that quality of life, too. And that’s one of the things that we’re losing. And that’s what this stuff represents on a spiritual level is that it’s really important for us to carry that on and to maintain that visual appearance. Because it’s not about the striking visuals, it’s about the deeper meaning that that symbolizes. And it’s really hard to articulate."