JOSEPH, Ore. (AP) — The Nez Perce Tribe is reclaiming an ancestral village site in Eastern Oregon more than a century after being pushed out the area.
This month, the tribe purchased 148 acres of an area known as “the place of boulders,” or Am’sáaxpa, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported.
Chief Joseph once held council on the ridge above, before a sweeping view of the Wallowa Mountains. Tribal members would camp there and catch sockeye salmon along the Wallowa River.
“We feel fortunate to be at this juncture in time to be able to say that we are on our way home. We feel the landscape misses us, and we miss the landscape,” Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee Chairman Shannon Wheeler said.
The land was part of an 1855 treaty that granted the tribe millions of acres and the right to fish and hunt on lands ceded to the U.S. government. But then the U.S. Army forced the Nez Perce to leave the area in 1877, in violation of that treaty.
Nakia Williamson-Cloud, cultural resource program director for the Nez Perce Tribe, said many history books are wrong in saying tribal members never returned to the area. Those who returned were often harassed or cited for trespassing, Williamson-Cloud said.
“It’s been a long struggle for our people to maintain that connection, but they did,” he said.
The purchase consists of farmland located behind the Joseph Rodeo Grounds. It includes Wallowa River frontage and some water rights.
The land has changed dramatically. Now, there’s a dam blocking sockeye from swimming up to Wallowa Lake. Williamson-Cloud said the tribe is hoping to reintroduce sockeye to the area and create fish passage into the lake.