This particular item is a very functional item that was utilized within original times of our people. Especially when they were traveling on horseback. And functionally it was used as a drinking cup especially by the warriors that would utilize these types of items and the men and also women had different types of utensils that were constructed out of natural materials. In this case, this item is made out of a horn of qoq’áalx̣ or a buffalo. And was fashioned and polished and decorated with brass tacks and also tied with this silk ribbon. And these items were utilized, especially on horseback when they’d be traveling and they would often have a large or a fairly long tie. And as they would be traversing across a river or a creek, they would simply drop it and scoop up water for them to drink. So it was kind of a handy canteen which they would utilize when they would be traveling. Other than that, it’s a fairly straightforward piece. There’s some ‘éet’is or perhaps trade red paint that decorates the rim. But other than that, it’s a fairly simplistic piece if you look at it purely from an aesthetic standpoint or a construction standpoint.
What makes this particular item more significant and historically significant to the Nez Perce people is that this item was owned by individual named huusus ‘ewylin’ or Wounded Head, who is from the Lower Snake River area, peluucpu area, and those Nez Perce speaking groups that were on the Lower Snake River, up into where the Palouse River comes and meets the Snake River.
And this individual was a warrior in the Nez Perce War that was in 1877. And at the time of the battle that had commenced at the place we know as ‘ickum’kiléelixpe, or Place of the Buffalo Calf, known, more widely known as the Big Hole Valley. And of course that was a very significant battle in terms of the loss of life. And many of the warriors, the prominent warriors that had died. But what makes this particular item so significant is that the dots that have been incised throughout this piece, I think there’s over sixty, was, and they’re marked and painted, incised and painted with red. This was the way in which this warrior who observed the loss of life. And this was the way he tallied how many people he had seen that were laying on that battlefield.
And it’s for that reason that that place is a significant place to us, because it signifies a place that is sacred to us because our people are still there. And it’s basically a cemetery for our people that still lay intact in that ground and have been a part of that ground for many years since that time of the battle. And in a similar way, this fairly mundane item, everyday item has been very significant in terms of the eyewitness account of this warrior and what he’s seen and what he observed. And that I think one can’t discount that these dots are just simply a tally mark, per se. But they represent actually individuals, families. Sometimes entire families that were wiped out during that time. Many, most of which were noncombatants. Women and children. Elderly people that had lost their life there. So for that reason, this is a very significant item in terms of what it means historically to us. And documents a very important time which our people were able to prove n to only their bravery, but also their resilience to survive that time and us successive generations that have come afterwards. And many of the lineage of this individual can be found on the Nez Perce reservation, this huusus ‘ewylin’. And I think he lived in the Spalding-Lapwai area later in life. so this is some of the information we have. Additional information would be forthcoming by some of the original descendants of this individual of what this man was and what he had accomplished in battle and what he survived. And the many people that had lost their lives and left their lives on that battlefield.