The People

Japan, 1945: "When the ship pulled into the harbor I could see bodies still floating, killed by the atomic bomb. I saw all the dead Japanese, the children, women and elders. I went to the crater where the bomb had landed and the devastation, the carnage, brought me back to the feelings of Big Hole where my great-grandfather fought in that war down there, and the way women and children and old people were massacred or killed (at Big Hole ). And that kind of almost a comparison to what I seen with my own eyes."

"Timlpusmin," Horace's great-grandfather ". ..lived through Big Hole by singing his power song but was killed later at Bear Paw. Yellow Wolf marked the spot where he was killed and I visit there every year. It is sacred ground to me." Horace is the Spiritual Leader of the Nez Perce (Nimiipu) and The Seven Drum Religion. His traditional name is lsluumnts from his grandfather. He served in the Army's 529th Engineer Unit.

Horace Axtell

Nez Perce Elder

Enrolled Member

The People

Claudia Kauffman was the first woman Native American elected to the Washington State Senate. She was raised in the Beacon Hill neighborhood of Seattle where her mother, Josephine, championed American Indian rights in the area. Kauffman, who is of the Nez Perce Tribe, spent her legislative career (2006-2010) serving the 47th district, taking a particular interest in issues of early childhood learning and education. Kauffman also founded the Native Action Network, a non-profit that supports female Native Americans. She lives in Kent with her husband and children.

An Activist Family

Claudia Kauffman was born in Idaho in 1959 to John and Josephine Kauffman. She was the youngest of seven children, and Kauffman's family lived in the Beacon Hill neighborhood of Seattle after moving to the area when Claudia was an infant. "Beacon Hill is a very diverse community," Kauffman said of her childhood in south Seattle. " Growing up, all my neighbors were all these different races. I actually thought everyone grew up having such a variety and diversity in your community"(ColorsNW).

An interest in child welfare, later to be a hallmark of her political career, was apparent in Kauffman's household at an early age. Remembering her childhood, Kauffman said:

"We lived in a small three bedroom house in the south end of Seattle. But ... we always had room for more kids. That was the values I was raised in. We always had room for more kids" (Dyson).

Her parents, both members of the Nez Perce Tribe, were politically active during Kauffman's childhood. Her mother, Josephine Moody Kauffman, was born in Kamiah, Idaho, but spent the last three decades of her life in Seattle. She instilled a sense of civic duty in her children with her active participation in the Seattle Indian Center, the Seattle Indian Women's Service League, and the Seattle American Indian Elders group.

Josephine Kauffman was also was one of the protestors who took over Fort Lawton in 1970, seeking to establish an Indian cultural center. Those demonstrations eventually led to both an Indian cultural center and the development of Discovery Park on portions of Fort Lawton's land in Seattle's Magnolia neighborhood.

Education and Involvement

Claudia Kauffman attended Cleveland High School and later studied at the University of Idaho and the Oglala Lakota College. Bernie Whitebear (1937-2000), who was an instrumental figure in the Seattle civil rights movement and who led the Fort Lawton invasion, became a mentor to Kauffman when she was a young woman. She recalls:

"The first time he took me to Olympia was in the 1980s. He was going to do some lobbying and had set up appointments. But his administrative staff couldn't go with him, so he called me. I'd known him since I was tiny. At this time, I was in my early 20s. He said, 'I'll pick you up at your office.' So I went to Olympia and I was just following him around. We went into a Senator's office and he said: 'Here's a need in my community. Here's how I believe we can fix it. Here's how much it's going to cost. Here are the reasons we should fund it.' Then we went to the next office and he said the same thing. Then the next ... . Finally, we got to an office and he said to the legislator: 'Here's Claudia Kauffman. She has something to tell you!' Then he just turned to me and I had to speak! In the end we walked out and I hit him on his arm. But he said, 'See. It was easy. We are people. They are people. We are having a conversation. There is no need to be intimidated'" (Washblog).

In 1999, Kauffman worked as a private consultant to the Oglala Sioux Tribe, coordinating the visit of President Bill Clinton (b. 1947) to the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota. And before her political career got fully underway, Kauffman was a foster parent to 10 children. Her passion for child welfare has stayed with her:

"Knowing and understanding things as a mother -- as a mother who cares deeply about her children and their education -- I've been to all the parent meetings, I've been to the classroom, I've baked the cookies. Knowing and understanding, when you get to that local level, you start to realize the little tiny things you can do to help out. And I thought, I could do more, on a broader scale" (Dyson).

Kauffman and Iris Friday, a member of the Tlingit tribe, founded the Native Action Network in 2002. The nonprofit organization's goal is to "provide an environment in which Native women  daughters, mothers, granddaughters, and great-grandmothers  can interact with one another, share knowledge, and honor Native women making a difference in their communities" (

A Run for Office

In 2006, Kauffman decided to run for state senator in the 47th District as the Democratic nominee, and she defeated ex-Kent police chief Ed Crawford in the primary. Only 1 percent of the constituents in the 47th district were American Indian. Kauffman recalls:

"I hadn't run for office ever, in my life. The opportunity was there, and I had a real grassroots campaign. I wasn't the selected one for the party, or for anything else. I was just out there marching along, saying 'I'm going to run for this office' ... . I'm sorry to say, I was asked once -- when I first ran -- a reporter said, ' Are you American Indian? How can anyone expect you to represent the rest of us?' And I said, 'If you go on that theory, how can anyone else represent me?'" (Dyson).

She collected endorsements from former governor Mike Lowry (b. 1939), King County Executive Ron Sims (b. 1948), and state Senator Jeanne Kohl-Wells (b. 1942), as well as The Seattle Times and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Her opponent in the general election was Republican Mike Riley. Kauffman was elected with 52 percent of the vote, becoming the first female Native American to serve in the Washington state senate.

Kauffman's interest in education issues was apparent even before her senatorial run. She served on Antioch University's Board of Visitors, was appointed by the governor to the Evergreen State College Board of Trustees, and served as chairman of the Kent School District's Indian Education Parent Committee. When asked about her passion for education, Kauffman notes that there is more than one reason she's drawn to the issue.

"I can give you the standard answer, that the more education you get the better person you become, and then you contribute to society and it promotes economic development, which creates ... well you know, that’s the big, big picture. But what I really look at, what you get back down to, is the lower performing schools, the low-income people who are struggling and recognizing the importance of education as an individual and as a family. This can become an issue for American Indians, who have a long history of not trusting educational institutions for a number of reasons.

"My grandmother was taken from Idaho and sent to Carlisle, Pennsylvania, to one of these schools. They would cut your hair, you would speak nothing but English or else you would be punished, sometimes severely. The Catholic Church, the Protestant church, all of these churches came in and said commandingly, 'We know what is best for you, we are going to take care of you, and this is what you are going to do. You are going to forget your religion, you are forbidden to practice any of your traditions,' and this was law, this was actually federal law. It created a sense that this ' education' takes everything away and is forced on me. Education became just another institution where American Indian children were forced into another culture. Historically, that is the way it has been" (Stuteville and Nelson).

 Making a Difference

Kauffman spent her years in the Senate working for education issues, serving on the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committees and sponsoring legislation to address educational concerns. One of those bills was to certify teachers of First Peoples language and culture. The bill was born out of a need for certification of tribal members to teach their language in the schools.

In 2007, Kauffman made it clear that she wasn't solely interested in educational and social issues when she penned a guest editorial in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer defending Initiative 747, which allowed property taxes to be raised by only 1 percent a year. Kauffman wrote at the time:

"The steady rise of property taxes, mainly based on the rapid growth of the housing market, has become more and more difficult for working families to afford. With gas prices double what they were four years ago, health care costs increasing three times more than inflation, and even basic living expenses more expensive than ever, some people, especially those on fixed incomes, are losing the ability keep their homes. That is unacceptable, and I've been a leader in the effort to make property tax collection fair and predictable for working families" (Kauffman, 2007).

In 2009, Kauffman also sponsored legislation to expand the Native American Scholarship Endowment, which Governor Chris Gregoire (b. 1947) later signed into law. She was a main player in forming the Early Learning Advisory Committee, which was created to design a plan addressing early learning issues in the state. Children's Alliance named Kauffman "Champion for Children" for her work sponsoring the early learning plan.

Kauffman also spearheaded legislation that strengthened burden of proof standards when it came to placing American Indian children in out-of-home care. "Indian children are overrepresented in our state’s child welfare system," Kauffman said of the legislation. "This bill is a safeguard against taking children out of a home unnecessarily or breaking parental bonds prematurely. This bill will make sure courts act in their best interest" (Washington State Democrats).

In 2010, Kauffman ran unopposed in the primary, but she was defeated in the general election by Joe Fain, a former chief of staff to King County Councilman Pete Von Reichbauer. Today (2011) she serves as the intergovernmental liaison for the Muckleshoot Tribe and lives in Kent with her husband and three children.

Claudia Kauffman

First Native American Female State Senator in Washington

Enrolled Member

The People

Nakia Williamson-Cloud lives in Lapwai, Idaho and is a member of the Nez Perce Nation. He was born and raised on his family's original Nez Perce allotment. His grandparents had a profound impact on his life. They never spoke English. They dressed traditionally in moccasins, braids and plateau wind dress. Nakia's parents were Lillian and Ben Cloud. His grandfather, Cloud Gatherer, was a prominent leader in the 1855 treaty. His Nez Perce family are descendants of the Dickson family from the lower Snake River area.

Nakia has completed a series of nine paintings for the Nez Perce National Historical Park, which are displayed on various sites along the Nez Perce National Historical Trail. This includes four paintings which document different aspects of the White Bird Battle, the first battle of the Nez Perce War in 1877. Two paintings were completed of the Canoe Camp in conjunction with the 1805-6 Lewis and Clark Expedition, including Oweipe Meadows where the Nez Perce first encountered Lewis and Clark in 1805. A series of three paintings were completed for the Bear Paw National Battlefield.

The multi-talented Nakia has become proficient in different beadwork, quillwork, and hide work techniques. In high school, learned the traditional method of carving drums out of a cottonwood tree trunk from a traditional elder, and how to cover them with buffalo hide, and paint them.

Nakia is a storyteller of historical events. Allan Slickpoo was his mentor while participating in a Cultural Service Program. He participated in the Pacific Rim Indigenous Art Gathering in Olympia, Washington, was one of four artists chosen to travel throughout the United States, attended the Institute of American Indian Art in Santa Fe, New Mexico, joined a group to represent the Nez Perce for the Native American Indian Grave and Reparation Act, belonged to a native delegation hosting the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial, and is helping a friend compile a book about Native American horsemanship, history of the horse among Indian people, and the role of the horse. Nakia is also a spokesperson for Clearwater Forest National Park Service. This park contains the bulk of the buffalo trail network, the Inipi trail, used by Lewis and Clark. He is featured in a short film, shown to people taking the trail, stressing the importance of these historical areas. Nakia has also become involved with traditional dances and ceremonies of his people.

Nakia Williamson-Cloud

Artist and Storyteller

Enrolled Member

The People

Miles was raised on the Nez Perce Indian Reservation and attended Lapwai Schools and later went on and attended and graduated Washington State University in 1997 with a Bachelor of Art's Degree in Criminal Justice. Upon graduation, she served as an intern at the Nez Perce Tribe's Environmental Restoration and Waste Management Program (ERWM). This Program provides oversight and planning for the cleanup efforts at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation based on the historical land stewardship principles of the Nez Perce Tribe. Miles credits the director at the time, Donna Olsen, for giving her the opportunity to take on leadership positions and get the work experience at a young age to help the tribe in the future.

During her time at ERWM, Rebecca began her work on a Master's Degree in Organizational Leadership at Gonzaga University. She received her Master's degree in 2002. At this time, Miles moved from the ERWM and into the position as the Multicultural Coordinator for the Lapwai School District. In this position, she worked on helping ensure that the education curricula and programs offered in the Idaho Public Schools was responsive to the needs of the Nez Perce Children attending those schools.

In May 2004, Miles was elected to the Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee (NPTEC), the governing body of the Nez Perce Tribe. In her first year on the NPTEC, she chaired the Human Resources Subcommittee and served as an Education Liaison. She was appointed NPTEC Secretary during this year as well. During her first year on the NPTEC, Miles worked extensively on the Snake River Basin Adjudication, including providing testimony before the Idaho Legislature and began to cultivate her reputation as a problem solver.

In May 2005 Miles was elected by her peers as the first woman Chairman of the NPTEC. She was re-elected as Chairman in May 2006 and is currently the youngest to ever be elected to that position. Miles was elected to her second three-year term in May 2007 and presently serves as Vice Chairman.

In her role as Chairman, she has represented the Tribe, locally and nationally, on many critical issues. She has provided testimony on behalf of the Nez Perce Tribe before Congress and the Idaho Legislature on a myriad of issues, including tribal gaming, tribal taxing authority, endangered species recovery and habitat restoration, and treaty reserved rights. Miles has also been a keynote speaker at conferences on issues such as education and leadership. In addition, based on her leadership in the cutting edge issues of tribal water rights and treaty fishery rights and species preservation, she has been asked to speak at national conferences and to governmental agencies, private organizations and colleges and universities.

Her work and leadership in areas of note in Indian Country and beyond has been featured by many national news organizations including the New York Times. In March 2006, Miles was selected the Woman of the Year by Washington State University Alumni Association. She also received the National River Hero Award in 2007 for her work on ESA listed species in the Columbia and Snake Rivers. That same year she was selected as a fellow for the German Marshall Memorial Fund and travelled throughout Europe learning government and economic strategies of other countries and exchanging her knowledge with leaders of those countries.

Miles resigned from the Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee to accept the position of the Executive Director for the Nez Perce Tribe, a position which she currently holds. She shares her life with her two sons, Tre and Ivory. She also spends her time assisting as a coach for LadyCats Basketball.

Rebecca Miles

Executive Director for Nez Perce tribe

Enrolled Member

The People

Elaine Miles portrays Marilyn Whirlwind, Dr. Joel Fleischman's Rob Morrow's quietly sage assistant. Marilyn's consistently calm demeanor accentuates Fleischman's neurotic behavior. From the moment they meet at Cicely's makeshift medical office, where Marilyn insists on applying for and accepting a job that Fleischman claims doesn't exist, the doctor knows he has met his match.

Born on April 7, 1960 in Pendleton, Oregon, Miles was raised outside the Seattle area as a member of the Umatilla tribe, one of three tribes on her reservation. Brought up traditionally with her parent's Indian heritage, Cayuse and Nez Perce, Miles learned her Native American culture through ancestral storytelling. Skilled in the traditional activities of her tribe -- beading, pottery and weaving -- Miles is also a prize-winning traditional dancer, placing second in the Women's Traditional Buckskin dancing in the Goodwill Games held in Everett, Washington. She has received multiple awards from the First Americans in the Arts and was named Native American Woman of the Year in 1993, and America's Celebrity Indian of the Year in 1995.

With no previous acting experience, Miles was discovered by Northern Exposure's casting agents when she accompanied her mother, Armenia Miles, and other local Native Americans to an audition for the part of Marilyn. After seeing her in the waiting room, the agents asked her to read for the part. They immediately gave her the role of Marilyn, and cast her mother in the recurring role of Mrs. Anku, Ed's Darren E. Burrows aunt and wife of the local medicine man. Miles spends her down time traveling in her truck to numerous parades and festivals, where she performs her native dancing. Since Northern Exposure, Miles has appeared in several films, including Mad Love (1994,) Smoke Signals(1997), and Skins (2002), with fellow NoEx cast member, Graham Green. She has also appeared on CBC's half-hour series The Rez as Etta the medicine woman.

One of her recent projects was RezRobics - a workout video to extoll the need for native americans to exercise and avoid health problems such as diabetes. Featuring Elaine and Drew LaCapa, the self-billed "300 pounds of love" Apache comedian, the video is the branchild of Pam Belgarde, a Turtle Mountain Chippewa health worker, and Gary Rhine, a producer/director. The exercise video won an award from the American Indian Film Institute. She also received the Eagle Spirit Award from AIFI in 2001.

In 2002, she also appeared in "The Business of Fancydancing," which debuted at the Sundance Film Festival. The film is the directorial debut of Smoke Signals writer Sherman Alexie. The film, based on Sherman Alexie's collection of poetry and short stories, The Business of Fancydancing, depicts the return of a successful Indian poet to Spokane for the funeral of a childhood friend and examines issues about the social identity of Native Americans and the concept of Indian "authenticity." She joins fellow NoEx cast member, Cynthia Geary, in both Sherman Alexie films.

She appeared in the movie Tortilla Heaven, which was filmed in 1999, but was finally released in March 2007 and is making the film festival rounds. She continues to be active in the PowWow circuit as an award-winning dancer. She participated on a panel with Native Lens, 911 Media Arts Center's film program for Native American teenagers. She was on the internet series "Home, Home on the Rez" on the Red Nation Media Channel. She also appeared in the Sci-Fi channel original movie,Wyvern, in early 2009 -- teaming up with fellow Northern Exposure cast mate, Barry Corbin.

Upcoming and Current Projects: She currently performs as a comedienne and an emcee.

Elaine Miles

Actress and Comedienne

1/2 Nez Perce

The People

Storyteller, author and teacher, Joe McLellan was born September 27, 1945, in Monterey, California."Monterey's actually where my mom was from. My dad was an officer in the Marine Corps, and he met my mom before World War II. They got married when he got his only leave during the war. I guess I was conceived on their honeymoon. The war got over just in time for my dad to get back and have my mom, eight months pregnant, greet him. They stayed in Monterey for a while and then moved up to Bend and Madras, Oregon, by the Warm Springs Reserve. My dad was originally from western Oregon, the area around Le Grand, Pendleton and the Umatilla Reserve. Often I spent time with my grandparents, and, through spending that time with them, I think I acculturated a little bit into the Nez Perce way. Having an aboriginal background and sort of an Irish-Catholic background always brought about great confusions. There's all kinds of contradictions and culture clashes."

"After my great-grandmother died, we moved to Wyoming and then to North Dakota. My dad had a job as a professor at North Dakota State University and did a lot of field work around in the farms. He'd take me along on trips all over North Dakota and show me what some of the plants were for. He had a couple of friends in southern North Dakota where we'd stop and sometimes have a sweat. Then, Dad would always say, "You know, you don't need to tell Father about this." It's kind of funny because today you can't go into a sweat lodge without tripping over a priest or a minister or a nun, but in those days it was taboo. I grew up with a lot of Irish-Catholic kids, German-Russian kids, Dakota kids, and Ojibway kids, who were called Chippewa in North Dakota. There were quite a few Métis people, but nobody would ever claim their Indian ancestry because, during the 50's, it was sort of, "If you looked white, you got by." There was still a lot of racism then."

"A few things were important to me growing up. One of them was stories. When I was young, my dad would always tell me stories, and my grandparents and great-grandma always told me both histories of the family and stories, and I'd sort of "trance-out." I think a good storyteller puts you in a "trance," and I'd go there. When I started school, I already knew how to read a little bit. A lot of things happened in school that I didn't like. It was hard for me to establish my identity, to know who I was, and seeing how Indian kids were treated was hard for me. I was sort of caught in between, the situation of not being respected by either because you're neither."

"When I was about nine, I started developing Tourette's Syndrome. It wasn't diagnosed until I was almost 50, but, as a child, I'd have ticks and twitches and a lot of eye-blinks, and I'd make little grunt noises sometimes that bothered people. Teachers told me to "stop making faces," or to "sit still and be quiet." I found that books were magic. They'd take me somewhere where I didn't have to deal with what was going on because it wasn't always pleasant. I found that I was much happier reading than anything else. In grades four and eight though, I met teachers who made me want to be smart and want to learn. They valued who I was and what I did, and I began to see that teachers had some magic too."

"Growing up, I wanted to be a magician, and so today I practise magic in the ways I know: by writing books; by telling stories; and by teaching. These are the three "magics" I've had in my life. I think it's important for me to pass on stories because I remember how important stories were for me. I can also see how the stories I heard, even when I was as young as six, are very valuable to me today, but not valuable in the same way they were then.""

""In an aboriginal view, a story first appeals to you physically because you get the physical warmth and closeness of the people telling you the story. You pick up how their voice changes when they're telling a story, and, for the rest of your life, your body reacts immediately to a story and opens up. Sometimes when I'm telling stories, there'll be people there in their 30's up through their 80's, sitting there with their mouths wide open and listening with big gleaming eyes just like the little five-year-olds. I can tell that these are people who were told stories when they were little."

"Then there's the emotional part of the story. When you get to be about 6-12, you wonder how to behave and act, and stories tell you how. People just didn't go up to kids and say, "Don't do this" or "Don't do that." They'd spot a behaviour and tell you a story, and the child would figure out the meaning from the story. "If you get too mad, this will happen" or "If you pick on people, this might happen.""

"Then you have the intellectual facet of the story. You get to be a little bit older, and you're going, "Oh, that's what that story meant," or "That's why my grandpa told me that story." All of a sudden, people start finding meaning in the stories. Now, there's a point where, if you over-analyze a story, sometimes you take the magic out and break it, and so you have to be careful. I believe that, if you write down a story, it's just waiting there to come back in somebody's breath. I think Terry Tufoya says, "Stories need to be wet with breath." Even though I really like my books, the stories are better told."

"And then the last part of a story is spiritual. I think you're only in your 40's and 50's before you start realizing that. When people ask me to explain what I mean by "spiritual," I say, "Look at the Bible. A lot of the Bible is stories, and those stories show us our relationship to God. The stories about Nanabosho show us the relationship between people and God, God and nature, and people and nature." The stories are a basic scripture. When you write them down, you run into the danger that some day people'll be going around, two by two, knocking on your door at seven in the morning and quoting Nanabosho tracts at you. And that's not what the stories are meant for. The story has to be taken holistically, in its whole entity, for its mystery to work on somebody. When you reduce it to one or two quotations, you are missing something."

"When you write it down, you're missing something too. There's a difference between the written and the spoken word, and there's a difference in how speaking and writing convey meaning. Much more with the spoken word, the meaning sort of drips in on the tone of voice and the look and the physical aspects of the teller and also the vibrations of the words as they enter someone else's heart because, when we are talking about these stories, we are not talking about them coming into the brain but into the heart. When a story comes into the heart, it's very important to realize it mixes with whatever's there, with whatever the listener brings over the course of his life. I could tell a story to a child, and that story'll go around in their heart for ever. It'll mix with other stories and characters from books and TV and the wisdom their parents and grandparents and other elders have told them. It will mix with the sounds of nature, the birds, the fire, the water, and it'll mix with how one makes up their own tunes that come from the way their heart vibrates with the creation. And when they need that story, it'll come out just like magic. That's why a lot of people, when they're in their 40's and get grandchildren, will suddenly remember what their grandmother told them 40 years before and will remember it better than they could have the day after she originally told them. So those are some things about stories."

"I grew up mostly in Fargo, North Dakota. I went to a boarding school, and, like the boarding schools of those days, it was a good place to get physically and emotionally abused. And then dealing with that gives you something to do for the next 20 years. When the war came in Vietnam, I decided in 1967 I'd come to Canada and teach children instead of going to Vietnam and be responsible for killing them. I taught in Melita, Manitoba, and then I worked at the Children's Home of Winnipeg, setting up an educational program. The program was sort of based on Summerhill, but people weren't comfortable with that and said, "You can't do this. We'll get somebody else to run it." I said, "OK" and took a year off and, already having an English and Drama degree from North Dakota State, I went back to the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba and got my teaching certificate. I met some wonderful people there and went back with enthusiasm to teaching at Luxton, Machray and Norquay and Aberdeen schools in Winnipeg and then in the Beedabun Junior High School program which we set up for aboriginal street kids. What's funny about Beedabun is that, in 1992, I was given the Hilroy Fellowship Award by the Canadian Teachers' Federation for the Beedabun program as being very innovative. I pulled out what I'd written up back in the Children's Home days, and it was almost the same thing, but now I was a "hero." I guess I spent all those years getting credibility."

"I've always integrated stories into my classroom, and I learned stories from everywhere. It seems like, if you decide to become a storyteller, stories find you. You can sit down on a train and have a six hour ride ahead of you, and, just by magic, the person sitting next to you has a whole circle of stories they just need to tell. When I was working on the basic research for what became Nanabosho & Kitchie Odjig, there was something that I couldn't quite get straight. I was going to set it aside, and we went down to the Roseau Pow-wow. As I was walking across the fields, I met this old man who said, "I want to tell you a story about Nanabosho," and he told me the story of Nanabosho and the Great Fisher. What was interesting was that the one part I was having trouble with became very clear when he told it that day."

"When you're a storyteller, you start out looking for stories, and the next thing you know they just drop on you from everywhere. I know a lot of stories from a lot of different cultures. I tell the Nanabosho stories because people, when they told them to me, made me promise to carry them on and tell them to kids. I didn't write them in books until I checked with four different elders who said it would be OK. One of the reasons that the elders thought it was OK to do that was that you used to be able to get all of your relatives into one little room, but now they're scattered all over the place, and children don't see all their relatives. There's Ojibway children in every continent probably except Antarctica. A lot of these kids got adopted out too, and they can't find their way back. Maybe one of these books will find its way into their hands."

"In the aboriginal culture, sometimes a storyteller will seek out someone and give them the stories because "these have got to go." The other thing is that there's a reciprocation. You take tobacco to somebody or give them cloth. You don't just go and say, "Tell me that story," and you don't hear a story and then go tell it without checking. For the stories, I would give somebody tobacco or a shirt, and then they'd tell me the stories. Nobody would ever say, "No, I'm not going to tell you a story," but sometimes some stories have a great spiritual significance. For instance, the story may be very important for a ceremony, but, if you're not doing a ceremony, then you don't really need to know it. There's some stories where, culturally to Indian people, it would be appropriate, but it wouldn't be appropriate to people that didn't have a keen understanding of aboriginal culture. The story might have to do with what people think is 'dirty'. In one story, for example, Nanabosho falls into a pile of shit. If I put that story into a book for Grade 1 kids, I don't know if I would have him fall in a pile of mud because that's not how I was told the story. In some of the other nations, there are stories that stay in the families, and so I could never tell them because I don't belong to that family. The story is important for that family because maybe the images or the semiotics of the story carry out clan teachings that aren't evident to anybody who can't combine it with other relational activities. So you do need to be careful."

Becoming an author was not actually Joe's idea. "The Manitoba Department of Education approached me. They had been working with a Winnipeg-based company, Pemmican Publications, and they said, "We know you know the stories. Would you write them?" Pemmican wanted to do a series of 12 books, and so that's what we're doing." The first two books, The Birth of Nanabosho and Nanabosho Steals Fire, are chronologically the first stories, and Nanabosho's still a child while in the rest he's a grown man. But the aboriginal mind doesn't work like that. These stories come in a circle, and so you can enter the circle anywhere you want as long as you enter it with respect. The Eurocentric mind, however, needs to start at the birth. The most important thing for Indian people is balance whereas for the Eurocentric person maybe the most important thing is order, and order and balance aren't the same things. You can put something in order, and it will be out of balance, and you can have something in balance, and it can look like a nest to somebody that has order. But to someone where balance is important, it's the most beautiful thing they've ever seen. It's more than looking; it's feeling and the senses come into that."

"After the first two books, I didn't want to do things that way anymore, and I thought, "Nanabosho dances." I wanted something like that because there weren't any books for a lot of the young kids that get into dancing. The next one was Nanabosho, Soaring Eagle and the Great Sturgeon because I thought there should be some kind of book for kids that's a little bit explicit about ecology. Nanabosho & Kitchie Odjig, which has a tie-in with singing, was going to be the fifth book, but Sesame Street, the TV show, wanted me to tell two stories, and they asked Rhian Brynjolson to illustrate them. One day, Rhian and I looked at each other and said, "Hey, wait a minute. We've got two stories with pictures. Let's do these now." And that's why How the Turtle Got Its Shell and Nanabosho and the Woodpecker came next."

"Nanabosho's capable of great things. He's part spirit, part Manitou, part man, and he was sent to teach the people. Early on, he found out that you can't tell people anything. They don't listen. You can't tell them to do something, and you can't tell them not to do something, and so he thought, "If I act real stupid, they'll see that and laugh at it, and they'll remember not to act like that. And if I do the wrong thing, they'll figure it out. If I just do the right thing, they'll just say, "I can't do that, but you, Nanabosho, you can do because you're a spirit." What Nanabosho does then is take all of the silly stupid things we do and magnifies them and lays them out there for us to look at."

In creating his books, Joe explains, "My books are like sandwiches." And by "sandwich", Joe means that his books always begin in the present with a boy, Billy, and his sister, Winona aka Nonie, going to visit relatives, usually their grandparents. Either the children ask for a story or something in the environment triggers a story from the relative. The story then becomes the sandwich's filling with the other bread slice being the children again back in the present. Joe explains that he deliberately uses this stylistic device because "I didn't want to write just a legend and have a picture of Indian people as they were. If you just have Indian people in the old days, then that perpetuates the myth that Indians were "then" but are not now"."

"I purposely wrote parts where we could have children doing things today and pictures of people today, like "regular" Indian children. When I was little, there were never Indian people in books, except maybe Hiawatha, and then Longfellow had taken Iroquois names and an Ojibway myth and mixed them together. It doesn't help a child's self-image if they just see people like themselves 500 years ago. For that same reason, when I'm telling stories, I have two or three modern stories that I put in for the kids. "People like themselves" also means today, now, and so in the books we've taken care to be as realistic as we can in both the pictures that illustrate Nanabosho's older times and the children today." Billy and Nonie can be found both on their home reserve and visiting family in the city.

While Billy is older than his sister, he is not always the central character in the "bread" portion of the story sandwich. In Nanabosho, Soaring Eagle and the Great Sturgeon, for example, it is Nonie and her city cousin, Bonnie, who go fishing with grandfather while Billy stays home to help with the laundry because his mother thinks "he should learn how because some day he will be on his own and he'll have to do his own laundry." While the text doesn't say anything more about Billy's carrying out the chore, Brynjolson's illustrations of the girls' ice fishing each contain an insert which shows Billy's "progress." This wordless story Joe claims as his idea. "I wanted to sort of bug some sexist little boys."

Joe acknowledges that his wife, Matrine, has played an important role in the books he has written. "Ojibway is Matrine's background, and a lot of these stories I owe to her relatives. We talk about the stories and give each other feedback. Matrine always helps me with words here and there. With Nanabosho & Kitchie Odjig, she had quite a bit of creative input, and so I said, "You're not getting any credit for what you've been doing," and so she's shown as the co-author on that book. The next one is 'Nanabosho and the Cranberries.' The body of the story is written up, but Matrine and I are still talking about what goes around it. While we have a creative partnership, Matrine prefers that I be the performer. I'm introverted, but I have extraverted behaviours because I've always been a teacher, and so it's easy for me to go tell stories. It's harder for Matrine to tell stories, but she really does tell them better than me because she can tell them in Ojibway."

Joe's writing regimen is simple. "I just go by Hemingway's dictum: I wait until I'm inspired. The act of inspiration is the act of attaching the seat of my pants to the seat of my chair. I have to discipline myself to do that, and in the last couple of years I haven't written as much. Getting a new job and having some religious duties to do have cut into my time, but I'm always writing." While Joe's illustrators have always been close at hand, Joe says, "I'm very careful not to tell them what to do because I don't like people telling me how to write, and I know they wouldn't want people telling them how to draw. If they ask me questions, I'll tell them what I think, but I don't direct them.""

For Joe, the "story" is always central. "I go to different schools and tell stories, and people will warn me, "This is a hard class." When I go in and tell the stories, the kids sit and listen perfectly, and then the teachers say, "That was really great. You held their attention." But I have to tell them, "No. It was the story," because anybody could tell that story and hold the children's attention. People have gifts, and the gifts come from the creator, and we have to use them to put back. The world can go on without me, but it can't go on without stories. When I'm gone, there'll be another storyteller. Part of my job is to tell the stories, but another part of my job is to make other people yearn to be a storyteller. That's why storytelling, writing and teaching all go together."

Joe McLellan

Children's Author

1/4 Nez Perce

The People

William Penn, author of The Absence of Angels (Permanent Press, 1994), doesn't look like an Indian. His life would be so much easier, and so much less interesting, if he did.

Penn is a Native American writer and professor of English at Michigan State University in Lansing, Mich. He likes to use the term "mixblood" to describe his own background, which is a mixture of Nez Perce, Osage and English. He's a human reminder that America is the place where mixed blood is the norm.

"I'm not an imagined stereotype," he says.

Penn is a big man with brown hair and green eyes. His skin is, well, pale. A graduate of UC Davis, he came back to Northern California recently and gave several public talks at UCD. When he was introduced to an English class as an important Native American writer you could almost see the mental balloon appearing collectively over the heads of the students in the classroom: "Gee, he doesn't look like an Indian."

But, as Penn points out, there are relatively few Native Americans today who are 100 percent Indian. Instead of counting drops of blood as a measure of authenticity/ethnicity, he prefers to look at a person's identity and culture.

"Who determines the authenticity of a Native American?" he asked. "That identity depends on imagination and fantasy, on upbringing, culture, language and the continued process of being. I don't think that anyone can say: "You are and you aren't.""

Penn celebrates the oral tradition of his grandfather's Nez Perce family and teaches a class on storytelling, but he also appreciates the written tradition of the Anglo culture.

"I am very connected to Native American writers," he says. "And when I say Peter Blue Cloud is as great a poet as John Donne I'm not trying to erase John Donne but to bring others in."

Penn said he would like to teach a cross-cultural class that swirls different ethnic identities together focusing on stories from North America and South America told in the oral tradition. "Coyote and Christ can exist side-by-side in stories and myths," he said. "Fighting is a waste of time."

Penn (who carries the extraordinarily WASPy name of the English Quaker who founded the state of Pennsylvania) was raised in Southern California where he attended Claremont College. He earned his undergraduate degree at UCD and stayed on for three years of graduate school, from 1970 to 1973. He later earned his doctorate at Syracuse.

"Bill is living proof that there are jobs for English majors," said Jack Hicks as he introduced his former teaching assistant to a UCD class.

Penn is a novelist, essayist and editor as well as a teacher. Angels was his first novel and it tells a fictional but autobiographical coming-of-age tale. The story's hero, Alley Hummingbird, adores his Nez Perce grandfather and has a less straightforward relationship with his own father who married an eccentric white woman.

In fact, Penn's father, William S. Penn Jr., lives in Davis and his sister, Anne Hamilton, lives in Woodland.

All My Sins are Relatives (University of Nebraska, 1995), a collection of 10 essays, was his first nonfiction book and was nominated for seven major prizes. As We Are Now: Mixblood Essays on Race and Identity (1998, UC Press) is his most recent book. It is a collection of original non-fiction by writers of mixblood North and South American heritage, commissioned, edited and introduced by Penn. He also is the editor of The Telling of the World: Native American Stories and Art (1996, Tabori and Chang), an illustrated collection of contemporary Indian art and classic tales.

His inclusive attitude toward mixblood writers makes you wonder who is on the other side. Who is insisting that the only good Indian is the fullblood Indian?

The answer comes when a woman asks Penn about Native American writer Sherman Alexie, author of The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven. Alexie is a proponent of essentialism, says Penn.

"The essentialist is the person who comes along and makes a bigger blood claim than you and says: "I'm more Indian than you are." Essentialism is a game and one that is not worthwhile," says Penn.

William Penn

Writer and Professor

1/4 Nez Perce

The People

Ta-Ma-We-Ta-Lote also known as Wendy Lynn Thomas, age 31, was born to Harriet (Judy) Allen and Roger Thomas. She is an enrolled member of the Nez Perce Tribe of Idaho. She is a descendant of the White Bird Band of Nez Perce and born for the Redhouse (maternal) and Salt (paternal) clans of the Navajo Nation. Wendy was raised by her mother and step-father Brian McConville as well as her aunt Stella and her late uncle Kenny Charles. Her grandparents are Beatrice McAtty Lawrence and the late Mathais Allen of Idaho; and, Mary and the late Cowboy Thomas of New Mexico. Wendy is a proud mother of three children, her sons Azavier and Zaidyn Thomas and daughter, Aniya Nunez.

Wendy attended and graduated from the Lapwai High School in 1996. She received several academic scholarships and attended Lewis-Clark State College (LCSC) where she earned a Bachelor's Degree in Social Work. She was actively involved with LCSC Indian Club and Student Organization of Social Workers (SOSW). In the Spring of 2001 she received notification that she had been accepted and received the Kathryn M. Buder Scholarship (stipend and full tuition) to attend Washington University, George Warren Brown School of Social Work in St. Louis, Missouri. She graduated with honors in May 2003 with her Master's in Social Work and an individualized concentration of Program Development and Direct Practice with American Indian children, youth and families. In addition, Wendy is near completion of earning her second Master's Degree in Public Administration from Eastern Washington University, Riverpoint Campus in Spokane, Washington.

Wendy's work experience involves working and advocating for children, youth and families. She has been employed in several capacities for the Nez Perce Tribe such as, Family Intervention Specialist, Senior Program Specialist and the Director of the Early Childhood Development Programs (Head Start, Early Head Start, Child Care Development Fund, State of Idaho TANF, Johnson O'Malley, Higher Education). Wendy is currently the Interim Social Services Manager for the Nez Perce Tribe and most recently held the position of the Deputy Executive Director (supervising Plant Maintenance, Information Systems, Community Centers, Housekeeping, and Safety) and previously the Interim Education Manager (supervising Vocational Rehabilitation, Students for Success, Adult Education, Tribal Employment Rights Office). She also has had the opportunity to work with African American youth for the YWCA of Metropolitan St. Louis and taught a Sociology course for Northwest Indian College. She has experience in direct practice and psychosocial rehabilitation as well.

Wendy hopes to use her knowledge and skills to advocate for our sovereignty, treaty rights, education, tribal elders, children, youth, and families at the Tribal, Local, State and Federal levels. Thank you in advance for your vote and your confidence. We are Nimiipuu! ~Qeci'yewyew!

Wendy Thomas

Public Administration

Enrolled Member

The People

Elmer Crow waits patiently while a crowd of fifth-graders settles on the lawn outside the Morrison Knudson Nature Center in Boise, Idaho. One by one, the students stop squirming as they realize that the Nez Perce elder is watching them, hands folded behind his back. Crow's face is solemn but his eyes are playful. The students stare up at him expectantly.

"Am I supposed to do something?" he says finally, pokerfaced. The kids sit frozen. Crow puts his hands on his waist and grins, wiggling his hips in a little dance. "How about that?" he says, pausing for effect. The students erupt in giggles. Crow laughs, too, his leathery wrinkles deepening.

Then he reaches into a canvas bag and dramatically produces the star of the show: a three-foot-long brown rubber lamprey. The students respond to the snake-like fish with squeals of disgust.

"Mr. Lamprey is actually pretty neat," says Crow, suddenly serious. This misunderstood species is about 200 million years older than the dinosaurs. Like salmon, lampreys hatch in freshwater, migrate to the ocean and then return to their birthplace to spawn. They're a choice meal for whales, salmon and seals. In adulthood they become parasites, suctioning onto ocean mammals or fish and using their raspy teeth and tongues to feed.

Their freeloading habits haven't won them many champions, but they've found one in Elmer Crow. Crow talks about lampreys like they're members of his family, punctuating his stories with deep belly laughs. One moment he's explaining their complex physiological transformation into parasitic feeders; next he's telling a Nez Perce tale about how Lamprey lost his scales and bones into Suckerfish in a stick game.

Years ago, while most tribes and scientists were focused on salmon, Crow helped organize the first formal meeting on lamprey between federal agencies, scientists and the Nez Perce Tribe. Today, he heads up the tribe's lamprey recovery program in Lapwai, Idaho, working with agencies to modify dams and leading efforts to reintroduce lampreys into Idaho streams. The Nez Perce will bring lampreys from other Columbia River tributaries to spawn in streams near Idaho this spring.

It all started one morning in 1972. Crow was fishing along the banks of the South Fork Salmon River when a lone lamprey came into view, dark and lean against the sandy river bottom. He watched as it swam upstream in graceful "s" strokes. When it reached him, he says, it seemed to pause. Crow put down his fishing gear and followed the fish until it disappeared into a deep pool.

That was the only lamprey he saw in 1972. In earlier years, he would have seen hundreds, maybe thousands, in a single fishing season.

"I knew then that we had a problem," Crow says. "He was trying to tell me something."

As a kid, Crow divided his time between relatives from the Cayuse Tribe in Oregon and the Nez Perce in Idaho. Summers were spent fishing in the Columbia Basin. The lamprey's oily meat was a staple in his tribe's diet and important in many ceremonies. "They used to be in our country by the millions," Crow says.

Returns have declined ever since dams went up on the Columbia and lower Snake rivers. Lampreys range from Canada to California, and were once especially abundant in Columbia River tributaries. In 2010, only 15 lampreys returned to the entire Snake River Basin in Idaho. "Each time one of those dams went up, a piece of me went with it," he says.

But convincing others that this uncharismatic fish is worth saving has not been easy. "He's not all cute and fuzzy," says Crow, who regularly corrects misconceptions: that lampreys are an invasive species, that they kill salmon or other hosts, even that they prey on humans like leeches.

Crow notes that such myths make it even harder to protect the species -- an especially urgent task these days, with so few remaining. Lampreys suffer from the impact of dams as much as salmon do, maybe more. Juveniles get stuck in dams and reservoirs on the way downstream, and adults can't climb fish ladders designed for salmon. In fast water, the ladders' angular corners make it nearly impossible for lamprey to suction their way upstream.

Although most Columbia River salmon species were designated as threatened or endangered in the 1990s, Pacific lampreys are still not protected, despite an effort by environmental groups to get them listed in 2003.

"How many times have I heard, "Well, you don't understand"'?" says Crow. "And no, I don't understand. (Federal agencies) have millions of dollars to work with, but they don't want to touch the dams."

Crow worries that his grandkids will never get to experience fishing for lamprey and salmon like he did. "The smell of the river, the roar of the rapids ... the feeling of getting soaking wet without even getting into the river. How do you explain all that?" Crow says.

If he can inspire a little reverence for the unlovely lamprey, perhaps he won't have to. "How old is salmon?" Crow asks the fifth-graders. "10,000 years. How old is lamprey? 450 million years." He lets this sink in for a moment. "Now, how old is human? We're still in diapers. We need to take care of our elders."

Elmer Crow

Nez Perce Elder, Nez Perce Tribe Department of Fisheries

Enrolled Member

The People

Storyteller Rosa Spencer Yearout, 65, is an enrolled member of the Nez Perce Tribe (Nimiipuu) and lives on the Nez Perce Reservation in Idaho. She and her husband, Jon, own the M-Y (McFarland-Yearout) Sweetwater Appaloosa Ranch located near Lapwai. She is the mother of nine children and 22 grandchildren. Her Nez Perce name is We-ste-sa, which is translated as "born and reborn," a name handed down to her from her mother and great-grandmother. Rosa is a descendant from the White Bird Band of Nez Perce (Salmon River-Seven Devils country), which includes Chief Pah Wyanan. His son was Chief Red Grizzly Bear (xaxaac ilp'ilp), who Lewis & Clark met in 1806. Chief Red Grizzly Bear's son was Black Eagle (tipyehlehne cimuux-cimuux), who was one of four Nez Perce warriors who traveled to St. Louis, Missouri in 1831 in search of "the good book." He and another warrior became ill, died and are now buried in Calvary Cemetery in St. Louis. Black Eagle's son was Wottolen (Hair Combed Up Over The Eyes), who was a prophet and a warrior in the 1877 Nez Perce conflict. Wottolen and his wife We-ste-sa's son, Sam Lott (Many Wounds or ilexni ´┐Żeewteesin'), was a tribal historian and one of the main interpreters for L. V. McWhorter's books, Yellow Wolf, His Own Story and Hear Me, My Chiefs, which document the Nez Perce version of historical events. Rosa's mother was Rena Katherine Lott Ramsey, an expert cornhusk weaver and instructor, storyteller, and was fluent in the Nez Perce language. Rena's parents were Sam Lott and Cecelia Showaway Williams, whose mother, Ida, was Yakima, and whose father, Paul Showaway, was part Nez Perce and the last hereditary chief of the Cayuse Tribe.

Rosa's father was Titus (Tiger) Spencer (lapit sux'latamo or Two Owls), who had a lifelong career as a movie extra, primarily in Indian roles. His parents were Mary Penney and Johnson Spencer. Mary's father, Ben Penney, was a gold miner and soldier from Arkansas and her mother, Elizabeth, was Nez Perce and Flathead. Rosa was raised by her maternal grandmother and learned that side of her family history well. However, she's continuing her lifelong quest to learn more about all of her other relatives, especially her father's and the history of the other tribes and relatives in her lineage.

Originally, the Nez Perce Reservation had thirteen millions acres of land located in eastern Washington and Oregon and north-central Idaho. Today, there is only 10% of the original acreage. To the east of the reservation are the Bitterroot Mountains separating Idaho and Montana. In the west are the Blue Mountains and the Wallowa Mountains along the Idaho-Washington and Oregon borders. In the north are the Clearwater Mountains and in the south there are the Seven Devil Mountains and the Snake and Salmon Rivers. Elevations vary from very high peaks to sea level. There are prairies and valleys and it's fairly isolated.

The legends Rosa shares tell about the horse's role with the Nez Perce. Although the earliest Nez Perce traditional stories didn't mention horses until the late 1600's or early 1700's, she has various stories of how the Nez Perce came to get the horse. Maamin is Nez Perce for the Appaloosa horse (derived from "a Palouse horse"). It is believed that this word came from "Mormon" because Nez Perces had traded with some Mormons for horses of this type. The Nez Perce was noted as the first tribe to selectively breed horses, especially the spotted Appaloosa, because they revered their gentleness, endurance, surefootedness, speed and beauty.

In presentations, Rosa discusses the different cultural artifacts, arts and crafts, tribal dances and music, health and healing and the environment. She learned about medicine dances, sweat lodges, pow wows, and root feasts from her traditional grandmother, Cecelia. Rosa has horse trappings and regalia handed down from her great-grandmother and her grandmother. The Nez Perce had parades to show off their regalia, horse trappings and their horses. Audiences are interested in crafts so Rosa relates how dresses are made by the old method (from deer skin hides and brain tanning), beadwork and cornhusk bags. On the topic of horses, she relates her experiences of growing up with horses, riding trails with the Nez Perce Appaloosa Horse Club and on the Appaloosa Horse Club's Chief Joseph Trail Ride. In 2005 she received an award for completing 13 years (1,300 miles) on this ride that follows the Nez Perce National Historic Trail, on which she has made presentations.

Foreign groups from Spain, Holland, Belgium, France, Japan and Austria, American tour groups, horse fanciers and the general public that come to the reservation compile some of her audiences as well as youth from the local area. She's also traveled and done presentations for the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Park Service, private tour groups and during religious retreats on religious topics and/or pilgrimages that she has made.

Among some of Rosa's accreditations: She was a recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2004, which was presented by the Native American students at Lewis and Clark State College in Lewiston, Idaho. She assumed her mother's traditional role as the Whipwoman for the annual Chief Joseph and Warriors Pow Wow, which is held at Lapwai during the 3 rd weekend in June; was an advisor to the Pleasant Company (American Girl) for their Nez Perce Kaya doll and books; serves as the Native American Representative on the Idaho Catholic Diocesan Pastoral Council, an advisory group to the Bishop of Idaho. Rosa retired from the Bureau of Indian Affairs in 1994 after working at the Northern Idaho Agency in Lapwai for 35 years, mostly as a Forestry Accounting Technician. She served ten years on the Lapwai School Board and a term on the board for the National Tekakwitha Conference, which is an organization focusing on Native American Catholics. Rosa is an officer and past president of the Nez Perce Appaloosa Horse Club.

Rosa Yearout


Enrolled Member

The People

ORANGE PARK -- To those who knew him best, Maynard H. Cox, also known as "The Snake Man," was one amazing story after another.

Cox, who passed away Oct. 13, has long been known as one of Clay County's most colorful characters.

"To know Maynard was an adventure," said his longtime friend Bill Shearin.

In fact, his whole life was one adventure after another. From gaining world-wide recognition for his work with snakes and snake bites to helping establish scuba search and rescue units throughout the Northeast Florida region, Cox's life reads like a novel.

Cox passed away Oct. 13 at his Orange Park home due to complications from a rare disease known as myasthenia gravis, a neuromuscular disorder, his eldest son, Orange Park resident Henry Maynard "Bud" Cox, said. Cox's official birthday is listed as Dec. 4, 1932, but his actual age is unclear because like the rest of his life, there's a story there.

A descendent of Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce Indian Tribe, Cox's father was Nez Perce and his mother was Cherokee. He was born in a snowstorm on the Nez Perce reservation in Northwest Idaho. But when he joined the Navy after the close of World War II, he had no records to prove his birthdates because they had been lost in a fire. Although he had been told by his people that he was born in "the year of the great snow (1929-1930)," a Navy supervisor randomly assigned him the birthdates of Dec. 4, 1932, and it stuck.

Spending most of his youth split between the Nez Perce reservation and a smaller reservation in Washington state, Cox's interest in snakes first took hold when he was just a child, his son said. "He was bitten by what they think was a Western rattler. They took him all over, but couldn't find any treatment. He just got lucky and survived," Cox said.

That was the first of at least 300 snake bites Cox would survive as he ended up spending much of his life studying snakes and how to treat their poisonous bites. His book, the Snake Bite Protocol Book, which prescribes aggressively pushing antivenin into a victim over cutting the wound open or applying a tourniquet, can be found in emergency rooms all over the world, his son said. He often received calls for help or advice from faraway places, but among those locally who say they are forever indebted to Cox for his work is Joan Peoples, owner of Clark's Fish Camp in Mandarin.

After her son was bitten - in an artery - by a pygmy rattler in 1988 and doctors told her there was literally no hope, a family member recalled talking to Cox at the restaurant, but couldn't remember his name. But Cox was so well known, the information operator knew instantly who they were talking about and they were able to reach Cox, who came immediately, Peoples said. "He absolutely saved my son's life," she said.

Among his many other accomplishments dealing with snakes were a National Geographic special, hundreds of books, scores of lectures and appearances, many lives (and limbs) saved and the founding of the Worldwide Poison Bite Information Center.

But snakes weren't all Cox was about. He was very proud of his Navy career as a diver in Underwater Demolition Teams - the predecessor to Navy SEALs - and his work diving and helping to establish scuba diving search and rescue teams throughout the area, his son said. After his retirement from the Navy, Cox got his degree in clinical pathology and worked at the Florida State Prison at Starke as a clinical pathologist. Eventually, he went back to work at NAS Jacksonville in the Safety Office, finally leaving for good in 2010.

He had an abiding affection and respect and for his Indian heritage, his son said, and passed those traditions on to his family. In fact, a traditional Indian ceremony was performed after his passing, Bud Cox's wife, Melody, added. "It was beautiful," she said.

Viewing for Cox will be from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 20, at Calvary United Methodist Churchat, 112 Blanding Blvd. Services will be Oct. 21 at 3 p.m. at the church.

In addition to his son Bud and his wife, Cox is survived by Gloria, his wife of 55 years; children Naomi Seamen (Terry) of North Platte, Neb., Paula Pope of New Mexico, Walter Cox (Anna), Marlynne Wisniewski and Phillip Cox, all of Orange Park; nine grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Maynard H. Cox (1930-2011)

"The Snake Man"

1/2 Nez Perce

The People

My dad's father, my Granddad, was George Oscar Watson (b.1915-d.2004)(original last name was Hahn). He was born in Colfax, WA, and died in Spokane, WA. He had an older brother, Sam, who died in a logging accident after WWII. We believe he had a sister who died before he was born or when he was very little. His mother's first name was Winifred (went by Winnie) and she was half Nez Perce. He could have applied for tribal status, but didn't, most likely because no traditions were passed down to him; the only thing he felt was Native American about him was that he had no problem being in the wilderness for weeks at a time by himself. However, as he aged, his Nez Perce ancestry became very prominent in his facial features.

His father, we believe, was an immigrant from Germany and had the last name Hahn; he and Winnie divorced when my Granddad was very little. He served in the army during WWI, though we don't think he was ever deployed. Winnie then married Tom Watson, and we believe she died sometime during my Granddad's childhood. Her death was originally thought to be due to consumption, but we now be believe she died from cancer that spread to her lungs.

His family had no money and didn't own any land, and he was the first one in his family to graduate from High School at the age of 20 or 21. Before WWII, he did some farm/ranch work, periodically worked in the logging industry, and was even a sheriff. During the 30's, he was also a bull rider on the professional rodeo circuit. In 1940, he joined the National Guard and was called up for active duty after Pearl Harbor; they sent him to sheet metal school in Los Angeles and then shipped him out to England to be a sheet metal mechanic on the bombers. His base in England was near my Nan's, who was in the RAF, and that's how they met; they got married in 1943. He made it to the rank of Sergeant and applied for officer candidate school late in the war; he served in the infantry and saw heavy combat in Europe, and participated in the invasion in Germany.

After the war, he returned to U.S. and became a policeman in Baltimore, MD; there was some incident with a U.S. senator, and he ended up asking for his military commission back. He served in the Army of Occupation in Germany from 1946-1949. He would see combat again in the Korean War where he was an infantry company commander; this would be the first time he fought alongside African Americans. After the Korean War, he would be a ski instructor for the army at their Ski Trooper School in Ft. Carson, CO. He would retire as a Major in the 7th Calvary regiment after 20 years of service, and attend college in order to become a high school/middle school history teacher. He later became a ROTC instructor at the high school level, was called up by the military to train recruits/draftees in rifle during the Vietnam War, and even later in life, did some casino security in Reno, NV.

George Watson (1915-2004)

U.S. Army Veteran

1/4 Nez Perce

The People

American leading man of silent Westerns whose career was much overshadowed by that of his more famous brother Jack Hoxie. He grew up in the backwoods and mountains of Idaho. His older brother had become a champion rodeo rider, a talent he parlayed into early success in cowboy movies. Following in his brother's footsteps, Al Hoxie moved to Los Angeles, not yet twenty years old. His brother Jack soon got him work as a stuntman and wrangler, and Al doubled for his brother and other actors in numerous films of the early 1920s. He began to get bit parts, and then bigger roles, in his brother's films and then on his own. A Poverty Row studio called Anchor Films saw potential in the strapping cowboy with the famous (last) name. They signed him to play the lead in a series of Westerns, which then led to a new series contract with producer Bud Barsky. None of these pictures ventured far beyond mediocre, and with the coming of sound in the late 1920s, Hoxie, with no great following, quit the business. He returned to his Northwest roots for several years, then returned to Los Angeles, this time to work as a conductor on the Red Line streetcars. For a few years he was a forest ranger, then went into law enforcement, first for the Anaheim, California, police department, and then for the Patton State Hospital. While there, Hoxie regained some public attention by disarming a deranged man with hostages. He was presented California's highest award for bravery, the California Medal of Honor. He retired thereafter and spent his remaining years in Redlands, California, where he died in 1982, seventeen years after the death of his more famous older brother.

Al Hoxie (1901-1982)


1/4 Nez Perce

The People

As a child, Chaske Spencer had dreams of becoming a photographer. He never imagined he'd find himself in front of the camera as a successful Native actor with a role in one of the most anticipated movies of summer 2010.

Chaske (pronounced Chess-kay) Spencer is a Sioux, Nez Perce, Cherokee and Creek actor who is originally from Tahlequah, Okla.. He'll reprise his role as Sam Uley, the lead wolf of the Quileute tribe's wolf pack, in the Twilight Saga: Eclipse, June 30.

Spencer scored the role of Sam after an audition for the second movie in the series, Twilight Saga: New Moon. According to the movie news site, Box Office Mojo, New Moon shattered the box-office record for biggest opening day gross by making an estimated $72.7 million the first day of its November 2009 release. Since then, Spencer's been inundated with interviews, photo shoots, auditions and projects.

Right now, he's getting ready to do a lot of press for Eclipse, which Spencer said is way darker than the prior Twilight movies.

"Get ready to be blown away," he said.

The movie is the third of four movies based on the hit Twilight Saga books by Stephenie Meyer, which focus on ill-fated lead character Bella Swan, who's a teenage Washington high school student who finds herself in a love triangle with a 17-year-old vampire and a 16-year-old werewolf. Meyer's books are a continuous tale of love, loss and even horror told through the eyes of Bella, who is hunted by evil vampires and rescued and protected by the good vampires and her werewolf best friend.

Spencer's character, Sam, and the rest of the wolf pack will have to step up in Eclipse to fight side by side with the good vampires to protect the humans who live nearby from the bad vampires.

The Quileute characters in the book live on the La Push Indian Reservation in Washington and New Moon director Chris Weitz insisted on authenticity when casting the characters for the movie.

"They had to have papers that proved their heritage," Weitz said in a 2009 interview with USA Today.

Though many fans now see his face and automatically think of him as Quileute alpha wolf Sam Uley, that's OK with Spencer.

"It's great," he said. "Sam is a great character. It is great to do something beyond the leathers and feathers roles that are often available," he said.

Spencer, who's appeared in Skins, Dreamcatcher and the TV miniseries Into the West, said it's been very exciting to him to see such success in the entertainment industry.

"(It's) a dream come true," Spencer said. "It was nice to act in a movie as a Native American minus the stereotypes."

Through the whirlwind of fame, traveling, events and shooting for the next movie, Spencer recalls his most memorable moment up to this point.

"Probably when my manager called to tell me I got the role (of Sam Uley,)" Spencer said. "And I couldn't tell anyone!"

He now resides in Brooklyn, New York, and his work calendar is filling up faster than he can keep up with.

Spencer is currently finishing a film called Shouting Secrets which is scheduled for a 2011 release. He has a lead role along with other Native actors. Shooting will be wrapping soon, then Spencer has other projects lined up including Winter in the Blood, and the fourth movie in the Twilight saga, Breaking Dawn.

"I'm also launching my Native American water rights project on June 14 in L.A. called Shift the Power to the People," he said. "It's all very exciting."

His production company plans on shooting The Block later this year as well.

The Block is a feature-length documentary and feature film that Spencer teamed up with his manager Josselyne Herman and veteran producer Ted Kurdyla to feature Spencer's passion for making a difference with all people in the area of reducing poverty and creating sustainable communities. His production company, Urban Dream, is developing the project.

At the end of the day, Spencer said he's just a normal guy who loves apple pie and French fries and maintains Facebook and Twitter accounts to let fans keep up with him and vice versa.

"It is my lifeline to the fans for sure," he said.

Spencer said he appreciates all the Twilight Saga fans.

"Thank you to everyone who has been following the Twilight Saga," he said. "You guys are the reason it is a success and we appreciate your loyalty."

But Spencer said he does have things that keep him grounded as a Native actor in the entertainment business - strong family bonds.

"I know where I came from, and I know who I am."

Chaske Spencer


Sioux, Nez Perce, Cherokee, Creek

The People

A greeting to all, my name is Allen P. Slickpoo Jr. aka "Hodge."

My parents are Allen P. Slickpoo Sr. and the late Ernestine Slickpoo. Lineal descent is of Slickpoo/ Thomas and Hayes/ McConnville Families. Married to Lisa M. (Jim) Slickpoo with 6 children and numerous nieces/ nephews with 22 grandchildren.

Goal: to represent the Nez Perce Tribe, consulting and having open communication with all available resources to bridge the cultural/generation gap to strategically move forward for future existence. Culturally, traditionally and financially!

Allen is: friendly, fair, and honest and will promote/advocate for continued achievement and excellence for the Nez Perce Tribe and its members!

Allen Slickpoo, Jr.

Public Administration

Enrolled Member

The People

Mary Jane Oatman-Wak Wak, Appointee for Member, National Advisory Council on Indian Education

Mary Jane Oatman-Wak Wak is a member of the Nez Perce Tribe. Ms. Oatman-Wak Wak was appointed Idaho's first Indian Education Coordinator by State Superintendent Tom Luna in 2007. She has since worked with state education and tribal leaders to raise Native American student achievement. In 2009, Ms. Oatman-Wak Wak was elected President of the National Indian Education Association. She is a graduate of Lewis-Clark State College with degrees in Justice Studies and Nez Perce language. Ms. Oatman-Wak Wak is currently working on her Ed.D. at the University of Idaho, College of Education.

Mary Jane Oatman-Wak Wak

Presidential Appointee (Obama Administration)

Enrolled Member

The People

Angel Sobotta, Ta-lalt-lilpt Sunset is a member of the Nez Perce Nation, the Nimiipuu people. She comes from a line of historians and storytellers. Ancestors from her mother's side come from the White Bird, Salmon River, and Seven Devil's country in Idaho and Oregon. From White Bird of the Wallowa area they're also related to Chief Lawyer and Twisted Hair. They included Chief Pah Wyanan who was a prophet and medicine man. His son, Chief Red Grizzly Bear, was a renowned warrior and prophet. Red Grizzly Bear's son, Black Eagle, was one of four Nimiipuu warriors who went to St. Louis in search of the Good Book. Black Eagle's son, Wottolen - Hair Combed Up Over the Eyes, was also a warrior and prophet in the 1877 Nez Perce War. Wottolen's son, Sam Lott - Many Wounds, was a noted Nez Perce historian who helped interpret the books, Hear Me My Chiefs and Yellow Wolf's Own Story, for author L.V. McWhorter and Yellow Wolf. Sam Lott's daughter, We-tse-sa - Rena Katherine Ramsey, is Angel's grandmother. She was a whip woman, cornhusk weaver and storyteller. We-tse-sa's daughter, Rosa Mae Spencer Yearout, is Angel's mother who now carries the whip of her mother as well as her name We-tse-sa. The Wallowa band is on her father's side, from Wallamutkin and his son was Old Chief Joseph. His daughter and sons were Sarah, Ollokut and Chief Joseph. Sarah married into the Black Eagle family. Rebecca Black Eagle married Francis McFarland. They had a son, John or known also as Jack, who married 'eele', (paternal grandma) Louise High Eagle Matthews, and had Angel's father, Larry Laverne McFarland, Sr.

The aboriginal homeland covered about thirteen million acres, which was in Idaho, Montana, down into Oregon and Washington. There were vast high mountain, deserts and valleys. With the treaties of 1855 and the discovery of gold that land base shrunk dramatically. Today the Nez Perce Reservation is located in north central Idaho and it covers about ninety thousand square acres.

As a storyteller Angel shares her Nez Perce family history. Depending on the audience, her venue may be the creation story - Heart of the Monster, Nez Perces legend stories, or stories of when Lewis and Clark came here in 1805. Nez Perce children get to act out the stories and learn some Nez Perce language with it hopefully so they will retain the information better.

The Coyote and Monster is an example of a creation story that Angel tells. Before there were Netiitelwit, human beings, there were animal people, like 'iceyeeye, Coyote. Fox went to seek Coyote for help. He told Coyote that all the animal people were swallowed by 'ilcweewcix, Monster. Trickster Coyote had a plan. He had Monster inhale him so that he could cut out Monster's heart from inside. Before the monster died all of the animal people ran out of his body. Coyote then threw pieces of the monster in all directions and where they landed the Titooqan, human beings, were created. Coyote then sprinkled blood from the heart of the monster onto this weetes, the land - the most beautiful place of all - and created the Nimiipuu, the people. The Nimiipuu were to be small but brave and powerful in war, skilled hunters and fishermen. They were to have good hearts, a friendly people.

Angel discusses tribal cultural artifacts such as the ones in the Nez Perce National Historical Park and Big Hole Battlefield museums. They have drawers full of different artifacts including a pipe of Chief Josephs and some beautifully designed cornhusk bags. She also shows and demonstrates the cornhusk weaving. Traditionally the Nez Perces' woven bags were of hemp and bear grass and were used when picking berries and digging roots. The bags were very large.

Angel is the chairperson of the Nez Perce Arts Council and has written many scripts for them. Some of the scripts are Nez Perce legends combined with the Nez Perce language because she also works for the Nez Perce Language Program. She's a member of the Nez Perce Appaloosa Horse Club and the M Y Sweetwater Appaloosa Horse Ranch. She was a member of the Mashantucket Pequot Foxwoods Dance Troupe and got to travel around the world. Angel received a grant from the Idaho Commiossion of the Arts to write a play Bright and Beautiful 'oykaloo. She wrote a script entitled "'ipsqilaanx heewtnin' weetespe" which is "Walking on Sacred Ground" and that's for the Nez Perce Lolo Trail video which recently won a gold award at the Aurora Television/Video Awards Contest in Salt Lake City, Utah. One of her biggest projects was for TNT's Lakota Woman. She played Barbara, sister to Lakota Woman, who was played by Irene Bedard.

Angel Sobotta

Chairperson of Nez Perce Arts Council

Enrolled Member

The People

I am Nimipu (Nez Perce) of Chief Joseph's band on my mom's side, enrolled at the Colville Confederated Tribal Reservation in Washington. My grandparents were Thomas and Alice Andrews. My uncle Frank Andrews teaches language lessons in Nespelem and he is active with the Nez Perce historical commemoration projects. My aunts, Iva Saxa and Inez Cleveland live in Seattle. I cherish the teachings I've received from my uncle and my aunties, including my aunties Tillie Red Elk Bob and Dawn Bierle, both of whom have passed on. I have lots of relatives in Nespelem, Seattle, Yakima, and thereabouts. I live in Woodland, California, with my husband Juan Avila, who follows the Yoeme (Yaqui) traditions which come to him from his mother's side. My mom, Janice Andrews Hernandez lives in Woodland, with my oldest son Rudy, his wife Joanna and my grandkids. My youngest son, Tom, lives in Palo Alto with his wife Gabriela.

On my dad's side I am of Mexican descent. I grew up in Galveston, Texas, and I'm from the Hernandez family. My father (now in the spirit world) was Rodolfo Hernandez; there are many Hernandez's in Galveston, but people know our family by the fact that I have twin uncles. My paternal grandparents, Sabas and Iné Hernandez, immigrated from Piedras Negras, Coahuila, to Eagle Pass, Texas, then to Galveston, in the 1920's. On my dad's dad's side, we are originally from the area of San Luís Potosí My grandparents taught me that I was "mexicana," the Texas-Mexican community taught me I was Tejana, my father taught me that I was American, and my mom taught me that, as an American Indian, I was one of the "first Americans." I was an activist in the Chicano movement, and I always identified as Nez Perce and Chicana, but honestly, I didn't grow up using the term " Chicana." It was a political choice for many of us to employ the term, which has its roots in the Nahuatl language ("mexica, meshicano, Chicano"). I don't identify with the term "Latina" but my work has appeared in collections that are called "Latina," and I participate in a wonderful group of writers and scholars known as the Latina Feminist Group.

My parents met after World War II, when my father, a Marine, was stationed on Bremerton Island, and my mom was working at the Boeing Aircraft Factory in Seattle. When my dad was on leave and visiting Seattle, he met my mom and began courting her. He eventually returned to Texas, sent for her, and they were married in Galveston. That's how a mountain woman of the Nez Perce people ended up in a Mexican community in Texas. All my life I've encountered persons who get frustrated with me because I don't hide or deny either aspect of my identity. My answer is simple: I have a mother and a father, I love them both, and I love both their peoples. At the same time, I recognize that my "Mexicaness" is really a "Mexican indigenousness." I am a Native woman of these Americas.

My B.A, M.A. and Ph.D. are all in English (from the University of Houston), but my work, my writing, and my teaching have always been in Native American Studies and Chicana/o Studies, although in the area of Chicana/o Studies my focus has primarily been on the indigenous aspects of Chicana/o culture and identity(ies). More specifically, my research interests include Native American women's literature, especially poetry and essay; Native American religious traditions (such as the Conchero dance tradition of Mexico); and Native American and indigenous/Chicana feminisms, womanisms, and spiritualities. I focus on issues of identity(formation), community(building), representation, and intellectual sovereignties, with a particular attention to the linkages between the fields of Native American Studies and "estudios indígenas" in Mexico, and Chicana/o Studies. One of my current research projects focuses on Escritores en Lenguas Indigenas, which is a movement of writers in indigenous languages in Mexico. Because I believe it's extremely important for Native writers from the Americas to be able to read each other, one of my current projects is an anthology of indigenous literature representing Native writers from the U.S. and Mexico (in translation). I am thankful that my life-long fluency in Spanish is allowing me to produce this project. On a personal and creative note, I am devoted to the recuperation of my own Nimipu family story(ies), and I look to my family members in Washington to guide me and teach me in my endeavors. I am a poet and cultural worker as well as a scholar.

I arrived at UC Davis after a stint at DQ University in the mid-80's (I lived on campus, as an instructor and board member). I won a tenure-track position in NAS in 1989, and received tenure there in 1995. I served as Chair of our Department from 1996-1998. During my term as chair, the department completed a successful proposal (approved in fall 1998) to establish an M.A. and Ph.D. program in Native American Studies. This is the first Native American Studies graduate program in the country with a hemispheric perspective. As of July 1, 2002, I was promoted to Full Professor of Native American Studies at the University of California, Davis. For academic year 2003-2004, I am the Interim Director of the Carl N. Gorman Museum (which is a part of our NAS program). Since 2002-2003, I have been the Director of the Chicana/Latina Research Center on our campus (which also supports research projects of Native women faculty and graduate students). I am active in the academic senate side of shared governance on our campus.

I'm on the advisory board of Wicazo Sa Review, and a member of the board of directors of Frontiers: A Journal of Women's Studies. I'm currently a member of the National Caucus of the Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers. I participate when I can in the American Academy of Religions, the Society for the Study of Native American Religious Traditions, the Association for the Study of American Indian Literature, the American Studies Association, and the National Association of Chicana and Chicano Studies. I served as a consultant for the Smithsonian Institution to help envision and elaborate the inaugural exhibits for the opening of the new National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. (scheduled for 2004). I am also a Ford Foundation Fellow. I am committed to helping to build the area of Native American Studies, and to strengthening the pipeline of Native scholars in our communities and across campuses in this country. In 1998, I was a Juror for the Premio Canto de America de Literatura en Lenguas Indígenas (a $20,000 prize co-sponsored by UNESCO, the Mexican government, and the Casa de Escritores en Lenguas Indiacute;genas)

Ines Hernandez-Avila

Director of the Chicana/Latina Research Center at UC Davis

1/2 Nez Perce

The People

With the ease of an old friend, HollyAnna "Cougar Tracks" DeCoteau Pinkham, 42, sidles up to a table laden with colorful beadwork at her Wapato home. And soon, stories as colorful as the beads she weaves with begin to flow. The artist and Yakama tribal member's tales are punctuated with laughter and told in Pinkham's characteristic style, a fusion of stubborn confidence and glee. She tells of camping trips, of lessons learned, legends and fables - some recent, others historical.

One story begins with an heirloom: her great-great grandmother's antique, plateau-style saddle. It was a saddle that had been captured in time by the famous Western photographer Edward S. Curtis, and passed down through generations.

Though she appreciated its beauty, Pinkham felt there was something not right with the saddle - it creaked and clicked under the weight of a rider.

Pinkham, who always has been interested in figuring out how things work, had never repaired a saddle. But, she thought, "I can fix this."

She knew permission would never be granted for such an ambitious task. So, when her parents left town to visit relatives in North Dakota, Pinkham took advantage of their absence.

With a scalpel, Pinkham carefully peeled away the leather covering. Her efforts revealed a cracked saddletree - the wooden "backbone" of the saddle.

Pinkham set to work. Soon, pieces of the priceless family heirloom were dissected and lined up along her basement workbench - "So I would remember exactly what order to put them back," explains Pinkham.

It was then that her parents made an unexpected early return home.

"She was not happy," Pinkham grimaces as she recalls her mother's response to the scene. "She didn't speak to me for a while."

Despite the silence, Pinkham persisted with her repairs, crafting a new rawhide covering and inlaying wood into the damaged tree frame. She finished the saddle in time for the family's annual trip to the Pendleton Roundup, though Pinkham had not gained her mother's forgiveness.

As roundup preparations were being attended to, one of the event's assistants noticed the repairs. With Pinkham's family within earshot the attendant asked, "Who fixed the saddle?" No one responded to his question - including Pinkham, who admits, "I was scared I had ruined it." But after careful inspection the man responded, "This is some of the best work I have seen."

"I just smiled and walked away, never saying a word," says Pinkham.

Soon, she was filling repair requests from family and friends back home. But Pinkham had grander aspirations: to create a saddle from start to finish, using traditional plateau methods.

So, one step at a time, Pinkham began.

She cut down trees whose wood was strong enough that it could cure through the winter without cracking, and then carefully crafted saddletrees. She hunted deer and elk to make their hides into buckskin, which she used to create sturdy saddle coverings. The labor-intensive process took up to two years to complete, with some saddles taking much longer depending on available natural resources. Finally, Pinkham hand-finished each saddle with intricate beading, using the leftover leather pieces to craft bridals and regalia to complete her vision.

This year, Pinkham is in the process of completing what will be her fourth double-horn women's plateau saddle, made - as she says - "from scratch."

Her work, and the fact that she is one of few within the tribe who still creates using traditional methods, has earned Pinkham widespread praise. Her saddles and elaborate beadwork have been showcased at Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture in Seattle, Yakima's Larson Gallery and the Yakima Valley Museum, among others.

But as one tale ends and the next begins, Pinkham's tone sombers. She begins another without an ending.

In 1993, just before her 23rd birthday, Pinkham was diagnosed with cancer. Pinkham's Native American culture (her heritage includes Yakama, Nez Perce, Cayuse, Umatilla, Grand Ronde and Cree) consider thought and language to have the power to influence reality. It is believed that even speaking the word "cancer" has the power to bring the disease into being. Because of this, Pinkham (who, because of her beliefs, still prefers not to reveal the type of cancer she had) told no one of the diagnosis or the yearlong treatment that followed. Not her mother, sister or husband.

"I worked 24-hour shifts (as a structural and wildland firefighter), so it wasn't uncommon for me to be tired or not eat," says Pinkham of her efforts to conceal the nausea and fatigue the treatment caused.

Pinkham completed the oral treatments and was in remission for 10 years. But in 2003, she was diagnosed with melanoma again. This time Pinkham picked up the phone to tell her sister about the challenge she faced. "She told me, "You must not have done something the first time that you need to do.""

Pinkham, who was working as a federally certified law enforcement officer in Oregon, took her sister's words to heart. "I quit my job," she says, "and hit the ground at a full sprint."

Having discovered firsthand the challenges of receiving cancer treatment while living in a rural area, Pinkham decided to help others in the same position.

After first getting permission from her tribe to speak out about cancer, Pinkham sewed a jingle dress with the initials LAF (Lance Armstrong Foundation) on the sleeve.

Armstrong's Tour de France comeback and unprecedented winning streak after his own cancer battle created a wave of media attention, and Pinkham felt a connection to the cyclist who never seemed to quit. At each tribal dance, Pinkham used her dress as a conversation starter to talk about the foundation, which supports people affected by cancer, as well as the importance of early cancer screenings.

Pinkham was elected to the Yakama board of Native Cancer Survivorship and soon began lobbying for health care reform and cancer research in Washington, D.C., and Olympia - even crafting a black jingle dress for a formal lobbying soiree.

And as she dipped her toes into political waters and continued her own cancer treatments, others began to take notice of her efforts to bring adequate cancer care to rural areas.

Pinkham was elected as Washington state co-chairperson for the National Patient Advocate Foundation, which works with officials to outline legislative priorities. She was asked to serve as an advocate for the American Cancer Society. And she also began working closely with the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, Seattle Children's Hospital and her long-admired Lance Armstrong Foundation.

"When I started cancer work, (my focus) was "cancer in Indian country,"" says Pinkham. "But now it's about cancer in rural America."

Her simple but firm message was clear. Everyone "deserves the same treatment as the next person, with respect to their individual beliefs."

As she continued to lobby, however, a scheduled check-up brought disheartening news: another cancer site had been found. "I had it again," sighs Pinkham.

Pinkham, who counts among her ancestors a long line of warriors, never lost her fighting spirit. "I can't say I was ever scared - to die." She pauses at this statement and then begins to laugh. "I was mad. It was annoying. You can't run from it - it follows you."

Remission after this round of treatment lasted for nearly four years. But on June 4, 2008, Pinkham was diagnosed with cancer for the fourth time, with new primary sites including her vocal cords. She was also diagnosed with several autoimmune disorders, including polymorphous light eruption (PMLE), a rare allergy to sunlight that was slowly causing her to lose her vision.

The news hit Pinkham hard.

"I called my mom and just bawled "How (expletive) strong do I have to be?" Then I laid in bed for two days and stared at the TV."

On the third day, Pinkham was ready to fight once again. "(I said) that's over now. I'm not going to let (cancer) govern my life."

Pinkham once again underwent treatment that included five surgeries over 10 weeks. After speaking with her oncologist, she began supplementing the prescribed western medicine with native herbal medicines and as many "sweats," powwows and dances as she could attend.

"My traditions and culture taught me to adapt," says Pinkham, who in March was declared clear of all cancer.

Throughout her own trials with cancer, Pinkham has remained clear in her mission to improve care for others as well.

"It's not just my story, it's the story of every single person who has walked a similar path and faced the challenge called cancer...they are why I lobby. I speak for those who can't or don't know how to speak."

And as she looks toward her future, Pinkham remains cautiously optimistic.

"After working in public safety for most of my life I've learned to prepare for the worst, hope for the best and pray you get something in the middle," says Pinkham. "At 36, they said I wouldn't live to be 38," she adds, grinning triumphantly. "I consider myself to be 3 (years old) - it's all about perspective. Today is a good day."

Pinkham now has more than enough to fill her days. Between her artwork, lobbying for cancer care, working as a Yakama Nation homeland security emergency management planner and even going back to school - she's pursuing a degree in social justice - the vivacious Pinkham continues to add chapters to her already remarkable life.

"Cancer taught me a lot of things," she says. "I don't like to waste any time. There's always something that needs to be done."

HollyAnna Pinkham

Rural Healthcare Activist

Yakima, Nez Perce, Cayuse, Umatilla, Cree, Grand Ronde

The People

American cowboy star of silent films, Jack Hoxie was raised in the Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) and in Idaho, learning riding and roping at an early age. He became a popular and successful rodeo star, winning national championships. In 1914, after touring the U.S. in a Wild West show, he came to Hollywood and got work as a stuntman. He had a handsome, stalwart quality that, along with his skills as a cowhand, quickly gained him the attention of producers and studios. Born John Stone, he changed his name to Hartford Hoxie and then to Art Hoxie when producer Anthony J. Xydias of Sunset Productions signed him for a series of low-budget Westerns. By 1921 Hoxie was successful enough to catch the eye of Universal Pictures, which hired him away and placed in him in more prestigious westerns. Although not a star of the magnitude of Douglas Fairbanks or Charles Chaplin, Hoxie was a prominent name among western stars. His career faded quickly after sound, as even though he looked the part of a cowboy, his skills did not extend to sounding like one (he could barely read). He continued to appear, albeit in smaller roles, well into the 1930s, when he left Hollywood to star in his own western-style circus. By the end of the 1930s he had retired to a ranch in Oklahoma, where he lived out his days in obscurity. He died in Kansas in 1965 at the age of 80. He was survived by his brother, lesser-known cowboy actor Al Hoxie.

Jack Hoxie (1885-1965)


1/4 Nez Perce

The People

Ranch-raised in the orchard and wine country of eastern Washington, Pepper not only knows her Cabernets from her Syrahs, she knows her horses. A lifelong horsewoman, she has competed in cutting and other ranch horse events. She studied horsemanship with renowned trainer Ray Hunt, and his protege Buck Brannaman, subject of the award-winning documentary, Buc, who served as technical consultant for the movie The Horse Whisperer. Pepper has hosted numerous training clinics at Cherry Wood, where some of the country's most admired trainers have come to share their knowledge and love of horses.

Pepper Fewel

Award-winning Entrepreneur

Distant Ancestry