Now is the time

Page 4 of 18

Part 4, "Do them no harm"

A Tsoopnitpeloo Legend

As Told by Otis Halfmoon Of the Nez Perce Tribe


Word spread from Weippe Prairie on down to the place we now call Orofino. That's where the old lady was now, Watkuese. And she heard about these people, heard the news about a strange race of people showing up. Had hair on their face, had hair on their bodies. They looked like animals, but yet they walked on two legs. Then she turned around, and said, "Now, now is the time. It is these white people. Help 'em. Do what you can. Feed 'em. Because it was these people here that helped me when I was a slave. When all the other Indian people treated me so bad, these people were the ones treated me well. Feed 'em. Do what you can." And so what the Nez Perce did, with her advice, they said, we will treat 'em well. And so they fed 'em.

It was an interesting time, because the Nez Perce treated them so well—they helped them out all they could. The chiefs that showed up there—they were very cautious, because they weren't too sure. They had these weapons, though. They wanted the weapons. They saw the material wealth that these people had, and they saw the strength, as well. They kind of wanted to get to know these guys a little bit. To guide 'em.

So they started working again. They had guides for them down at the Canoe Camp, down at present day Orofino. And the Lewis and Clark crew started making these canoes in their own fashion. The Nez Perce had to help them do that, because they showed them a different method—burning out the log to make canoes.

And so the Nez Perce guided 'em all the way down the Clearwater River, towards present-day Lewiston, and continued on down the Snake. They got down towards The Dalles, Oregon, and the Nez Perce turned back around and came back home.