Personal Connection

Page 6 of 18

Part 6, Personal Connection

A Tsoopnitpeloo Legend

As Told by Otis Halfmoon Of the Nez Perce Tribe


It's kind of interesting as far as my family is concerned, with Lewis and Clark. In the diaries they speak of two warriors that came back from fighting the Shoshones. And one was named Heyuumpahxit-timna and the other one was called Xah-xahs ill-pillp. Xah-xahs ill-pillp means "the red grizzly bear." And Heyuumpahxit-timna—the diaries don't spell it, all the way through. Heyuumpahxit-timna—that means "grizzly bear's five hearts." Now, the reason why I say it's interesting to my family—'cause Heyuumpahxit-timna, he had a son who took the name of. . . . Eventually that son had a son by the name of Otis Half Moon. Otis Half Moon and Richard Half Moon. And then to myself. I'm a direct descendant of one of those warriors that came back. And that always intrigued me that these two warriors the diaries speak of, and they had these necklaces made of fingers of the enemies that they killed. They spoke about that in the diaries. Made me feel pretty proud. My great-great-grandpa was a true warrior.

But, you know, we talk about these things. Old time stories.

When they were with the Nez Perce, though, in 1806, it was quite interesting times. They got to know each other—the Nez Perce and the Corps of Discovery. They played. They had foot-races. They had horse-races. They had other games that was going on in the valley at Kamiah.1Kum-ah-ghx, as we call it. It's a beautiful time. I mean, they actually got along so well, the white people and the Indians, the Nez Perce. And later on, Lewis and Clark knew they had to get going over the mountains, to come back home. 'Cause anybody. . . . You get homesick.

And so they worked their way up to Weippe. And the Nez Perce kept telling them "It's too early. Snow's too deep up there anyway. You can't go up there. It's too deep." So Lewis and Clark went on up there. They didn't believe the Nez Perce, I guess. And they got up there, and they realized it was really deep snow, and they thought they could go through it. And they started going through it. And that's the only part in the whole Corps of Discovery where they retreated. They had to retreat, and that's the only part in the whole story. And so they came back down.

1. Kamiah—pronounced KAM-ee-eye—is a town of about 1,300 inhabitants situated at the mouth of Lawyer's Creek on the Clearwater (Kooskooskee) River about seven miles downstream from the confluence of the Middle and South Forks of the Clearwater. –Ed.