By JENNIFER K. BAUER
LEWISTON — In the Nez Perce language, calling someone an artist is a foreign concept.
“It’s really not in our language to call them artists,” tribal member Lynn Pinkham said about those who craft things like intricately beaded moccasins, woven corn husk bags or carved flutes. “We’re creators and makers, primarily because we don’t put things on walls to look at.”
Instead they are to be used and passed down, she explained.
“From the time we are born, to being a toddler, up until being an elder in our tribal community, we’re always learning something and taking care of it and the process is to hand it down to our children and our grandchildren so that those practices are handed down to perpetuate our culture.”
That cultural transfer is the idea behind “Nuunimnix, Our Very Own,” an exhibit of work by more than 40 Nez Perce on display at the Lewis-Clark State College Center for Arts & History.
The exhibit features contemporary pieces, the evolution of centuries of traditions passed down. Close-up views are available of ceremonial items like a white buckskin dress with beaded Appaloosas and a grand headdress of 40 golden eagle feathers wrapped in ermine fur and accented with horse hair. Among a range of other things are a dance staff, pipe bag, drums, hats, a cradle board and a painting of a modern-day trickster coyote, a key figure in Nez Perce legends.
Many items were created by multiple generations working together. The exhibit details the importance of those exchanges and also features short interviews with several creators done by Lewiston filmmaker Patricia Keith. A reception at 4:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 11 will include the release of an exhibit catalog. A series of artist demonstrations is planned through the exhibit’s end Dec. 19 (see below).
“It’s a rare opportunity,” Pinkham said. “Not too many people will (put their work on display). Usually they keep it in their homes or for their family.”
The exhibit is a collaboration between tribal members, the Nez Perce National Historical Park, which is marking its 50th anniversary, and the LCSC Center for Arts & History.
Pinkham assisted in the creation of several items on display and helped gather items from tribal members. She works for the tribe maintaining the Cultural Walk at the Clearwater River Casino, a display of much older items that includes war bonnets, horse trappings and moccasins. Some pieces are so old they cannot be dated, she said. The exhibit at the center focuses on work by younger tribal members carrying on the traditions.
“It helps strengthen the ties we have to one another that you help teach and instruct on these items to use in our ceremonies,” she said. “All of this strengthens our people.”
If you go
“Nuunimnix, Our Very Own,” an exhibit of contemporary Nez Perce cultural items, will feature a variety of workshops and other special events at the Lewis-Clark State College Center for Arts & History.
Friday — A free
Cultural Celebration and Artist Reception is at
4:30 p.m. at the center.
Saturday — Kevin Peters will teach flute making from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the free Second Saturday family activity.
Oct. 10 — Nez Perce elder Allen Pinkham Sr., will lead a tour of the landmarks of the Nez Perce Reservation, from Coyote’s Fishnet to Heart of the Monster. Cost is $16 and includes transportation and lunch in Kamiah. Pre-registration is required through LCSC Continuing Education, (208) 792-5272.
Oct. 29 — 5:30 p.m., corn husk weaving with Jenny Williams.
Nov. 12 — 5:30 p.m., tule weaving with Marjorie Waheneka.
The exhibit runs through Dec. 19. Workshops on beading and discussions on story telling and Nez Perce language are also planned. Gallery hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday through November at
415 Main St.