By Michael Wells
For Inland 360
Henry Spalding has been branded both hero and villain because he was an agent of change during an era of profound transition for the Nimiipuu people.
Christopher R. Schlect, a senior fellow of history at New Saint Andrews College in Moscow and former Nez Perce National Historical Park ranger, will tell a story of conflict, harmony and the negotiation of two cultures by exploring three time periods when Spalding came to live with the Nez Perce.
“It’s hard to look at Henry Spalding and the Nez Perce people from the perspective of that time,” Schlect said, noting that subsequently the culture experienced major shifts because of the Nez Perce War, the reservation allotment period and boarding schools.
“When we look back in hindsight, it’s very easy for Spalding to become a metaphor for all those things,” Schlect said.
Spalding arrived at the Lapwai village with his first wife, Eliza, in 1836 as a missionary for the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, which was based in Boston. He moved to the Willamette Valley area near Portland, Ore., in 1847 after the attack on the Whitman Mission near Walla Walla. The board decided to pull its missionaries out because of the Whitman killings, Schlect said.
Spalding later returned to Lapwai as a government school teacher in 1862-63. He had married his second wife, Rachel, after Eliza died in Oregon. His stay was short-lived because Spalding didn’t get along with his government bosses, Schlect said.
Spalding returned again as a missionary for the Presbyterian Church from 1871-74. It was post-Civil War America, and the federal government had changed its policy for dealing with American Indians. The government started an effort to “civilize these people,” Schlect said. Churches were assigned to Indian reservations during this period, Schlect said.
The historical presentation is scheduled to last about an hour with questions from the audience. Schlect’s presentation is designed to show how the history of Spalding and the Nez Perce at Lapwai reflected local, U.S. and world history.
If weather permits, Schlect will lead an outdoor walk to point out some features from the Spalding era at the park. He will discuss various monuments and how the land was converted into a park.
IF YOU GO
WHO: Chris Schlect on “Henry Spalding, Cultural Change and Competing Memories.”
WHEN: 11 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 8.
WHERE: Visitor’s Center, Nez Perce National Historical Park at Spalding, 39063 U.S. Highway 95, Lapwai.