Nakia Williamson-Cloud interprets the wahiloskó’s (Quirt) in the McWhorter Collection

Cultural Narrative: 

[greeting in Nez Perce]

My name is Nakia Williamson. I’m the director for the Nez Perce Tribe Cultural Resource Program. And I’m here to talk about some of the items in the collection here at the WSU Manuscript Archives and Special Collections. And some of the ethnographic items that were collected by L.V. McWhorter in his association with our people, the Nimiipuu, the Nez Perce people.

This particular item is known in our language as wahiloskó’s, or a quirt. Which was an essential item for both men and women that was utilized particularly after the acquisition of the horse and used in conjunction with the horse. And many of these items were constructed out of different types of hardwood. Ash or perhaps seringa or yew wood. Or sometimes antler or horn. In particular, elkhorn antler, like this one is constructed out of that. we don’t know the attribution specifically of who may have constructed this. But generally speaking, these items were very personal items that had a very specific function. And they were, at the time of the horse were used as daily items, but were also heavily decorated. And a lot of time was spent in producing these types of items. Some of the wooden ones are very well carved. Some of the ones made out of antler were polished to a high, high shine, and decorated with the best trade goods that were available, or whatever might have been available at that particular time. And they had even a broader function within the community in terms of the times of war where there were certain leading warriors that were put in charge of the other warriors. And they had a position and it was their duty to urge the younger warriors into battle if maybe perhaps their bravery or their courage might be waning at a specific moment, their job was to use even the whip to whip them to get into battle.

And later on during the páaxam or the war dance, that function was carried over from the time of battle. Because the páaxam or the war dance now later known as the pow wow is a remnant of that particular ceremony. At one time was a very strict ceremony. And that was the function of the wahiloskó’sin or the whip person was there to keep order in the dance arena. Especially, again, as the time in earlier times when it was a very, it was more ceremonialized and it had a deeper meaning to a lot of our elder people.

But yet today that function is still reserved to keep general order on the dancefloor. And the Nez Perce people still have a couple of whip people that carry out that duty on our behalf.

But again, these items were personal items that were near and dear to individuals but also could be passed on in the form of those whips that were utilized at the war dances and were transferred through a particular family lineage. And those individuals that had the knowledge that had been passed on to those particular people to carry forward on the behalf of the discipline of an order that would happen in our social dances, the war dances and some of the things in ceremonies that were conducted on our reservation.

So with this one item, it can speak to a larger connection to our horse culture and the very important relationship we fostered with the horse. But also how that continued on and transferred over to the páaxam or the war dance.