Nez Perce chiefs


Stereograph of several Nez Perce are standing side by side

Nakia Williamson, Cultural Resources Program Director of the Nez Perce Tribe, discusses the group pictured, and identifies an individual.
Cultural Narrative: 


"This particular photograph in the National Anthropological Archives is titled, "Nez Perce Chiefs," a very early photograph, probably at least pre-1874, one of the earliest photographs of Nez Perce people in our land here, in our occupied land. It depicts a group of leaders that are gathered for some unknown activity. We don't have their names; they haven't been identified, but we know they are probably the leading men at that time - the pre-1877 war time. One of the individuals in the center is - they are all dressed in traditional clothing except for one that's toward the center and he's wearing a sort of frock jacket and a hat and using a cane. More than likely that is a man by the name of haláx‘úuc’uc, or ‘ilúuye, also known as Lawyer, who was Chief Lawyer who was a signatory to the 1855 Treaty. He was always known to have that hickory cane because he was wounded in a battle over there with the Blackfeet in years prior when he was still a warrior. But this is a very, very early photo taken at Uyama or near the mouth of Lawyer's Creek, in what is now Kamiah, Idaho and you can see the hills off in the distance. Those are the same hills that are known to especially to those Nez Perces who live in the Kamiah Valley. It depicts a large group of these leaders at that time, and they are dressed in very early type of garments. You know, two-skinned shirts, probably quill wrapped horsehair shirts, as well as pony beaded items, so they're very early types of clothing that were used by Nez Perce people - especially the leading men or the head men - and there's also three of these kind of gun cases that were known among the Nez Perce people that were made out of long fringe and were made out of typically elk hide. They had long fringe – sometimes like two feet long that's coming off of them. You can see three of the men holding those as well. So, there's a number of very important key items in that particular photo. We don't know why the photo was taken. It was obviously some significant gathering where a lot of these leaders had come together to talk about whatever they had to talk about at this specific occasion. We don't know who the photographer is, but it's part of a larger series that also includes some named and known individuals, in particular Spalding is in this particular series. Not in this particular photo, but in the series of photos that includes this photo. And you can think about the leaders at that time, tipiyeléhne tíim’enin’, you know, Spotted Eagle, ‘isxúutim, all these leaders that were alive, maybe even ‘apáswahayqt, Old Looking Glass, are probably within this particular photo but unfortunately it is not identified. And I have a pretty long history with this particular photo going back almost ten years when we were visiting the National Anthropological Archives and actually we were there to look at – we were there for a NAGPRA issue to review the collection, kind of a repatriation type issue, and we took kind of a sidetrack into their archives, which at the time I didn't know they had an archive, and we looked at a selection of items and these are one of the photos that I came across. And understanding the significance at that time, you know, I don't think it's really been a published image but it's probably one of the earliest images of Nez Perce people in our particular homeland here, again in the Kamiah Valley. " Nakia Williamson-Cloud