The legacy of Henry Spadling will be discussed Saturday at Nez Perce National Historical Park at Spalding. If weather permits, the talk will include an outdoor tour of some of the park’s historical features, including a monument erected by the Daughters of the American Revolution in the 1920s.
In 2009, Nez Perce elder Allen Pinkham told the Lewiston Tribune the backstory behind the monument and why it remains a controversial reminder of the past. The following story was published Aug. 7, 2009 in the Lewiston Tribune.
Rock sacred to Nez Perce was moved to Spalding Park in 1920s
By JENNIFER K. BAUER
SPALDING — To the Daughters of the American Revolution in the 1920s, it was just a rock, the perfect thing for a plaque marking one of Idaho’s most historic sites. To the Nez Perce Indians it was a sacred landmark, now standing in cement as a reminder of a painful history.
The 11-foot-tall basalt column in Nez Perce National Historical Park at Spalding bears a bronze tablet marking the location as the 1836 site of the first home, school and church in Idaho.
Nez Perce tribal historian Allen Pinkham recalls first hearing the stories of the rectangular stone as a child when he came to the area to hunt and fish with his father, Alex Pinkham.
“He’d point and say ‘Oh, look what they did to Coyote’s Babyboard.’ He’d always complained about it,” Pinkham says.
Nez Perce have lived at the Spalding site for more than 11,000 years, and the area supported a village of more than 200 people. The 18-ton rock, which was moved by the DAR from a nearby hillside, goes by three names: Ice ye ye Tekash, or Coyote’s Cradleboard; the First Man; and Old Man Stone, Pinkham says.
Stories that taught cultural values, history, ceremonies and traditions for centuries are attached to each name. Tribal members would go to the stone with their questions, Pinkham says. “To me that’s meditation. That’s what this stone was used for.”
The stone might not have been as attractive to the DAR if they knew that one of its names, the First Man, referred to its resemblance to a penis, Pinkham says.
The DAR dedicated the memorial to Presbyterian missionaries Henry and Eliza Spalding on June 1, 1924. More than 3,000 people, including Idaho’s Gov. C.C. Moore, attended the ceremony. At the time, the tribe was fractured between its Christian converts and those practicing the traditional religion. It was only 47 years after the 1877 war in which non-treaty Nez Perce bands attempted to flee to freedom in Canada.
“In those days, we couldn’t complain about a heck of a lot because it wasn’t acceptable to practice our traditional ways,” Pinkham says. “We practiced by going from house to house, secretively. … All these practices that we had, white men wanted to wipe out. If we became like them we would be accepted, but there was this glass ceiling.”
Documents about the dedication ceremony make the split clear.
“The Christian Indians will seat in a body with Miss Crawford, their missionary, and Mr. Lipps, their superintendent,” wrote Mrs. James Babb, the 1922 state regent of the DAR, in a letter stored in the park’s archives. These Indians were to sing hymns at the ceremony. “The pagan Indians are now assembling for their annual fourth celebration and will probably be in war paint and be spectators, as they never join the Christian Indians,” she wrote.
DAR members were passionate about local history. In 1922, Babb went to the site of the Spalding mission and bodily positioned herself in front of surveyors who planned to build a road through the site. They agreed to relocate the highway 50 feet to the east. The Alice Whitman Chapter of the DAR was instrumental in establishing a park there and later museum of Indian artifacts. It became a national park in 1965.
DAR member Margaret Nell Longeteig of Lewiston first heard about the pillar’s Nez Perce history about 10 or 15 years ago.
“I walked into the museum and asked about the rock. There was an Indian clerk behind the counter and he gave me heck about it. I just stood there and took it and said, ‘Oh my,’ ” says Longeteig, who does lineage research for the organization. “I’ve been thinking for several years we ought to give it back.”
Every few years there is talk of doing something to mark the stone’s Nez Perce history, says Robert Applegate, an archivist at the park. That decision is the tribe’s, he says; park officials are merely custodians.
“Whites are aware only of whatever is on the plaque,” Applegate says. “Because it’s one thing to the Nez Perce, it’s a reminder to some of them of what was taken away, and it’s a piece of the land.”
More than altering the stone, Pinkham’s desire is that people know the story of this landmark and others and their importance to the Nez Perce. This stone was one of three like it in the region called the Original Old People.
One, which stood by the old Alpowa Bridge near Chief Timothy Park west of Clarkston, disappeared around the time the highway was moved, he says. Another, which is 20 to 25 feet tall, is located on the Salmon River. There are stories of the tracks of the first human in the hills around Spalding. He’s not sure if these are actual tracks or rock formations.
“Each monument tells a story,” Pinkham says. “If it’s not there, people forget. They don’t pass the story on.”