Page 7 of 18

Part 7, K'useyneiskit

A Tsoopnitpeloo Legend

As Told by Otis Halfmoon Of the Nez Perce Tribe


The Nez Perce guides that were there with them, they kept trying to entertain them in a lot of ways. And what they done, they went out to the trees, and they set some of these trees on fire. Set 'em on fire. And again that was kind of the old time way to make the weather change. It was like the old-time belief, too—if you see an ant pile, you go over there and kick the ant pile up, you're going to make it rain. Or as the white people say, you kill a spider, it's gonna make it rain. Or if a black cat crosses your path you're going to have bad luck. That's superstitions here and there, but the Nez Perce believe these things, as far as the prayers and things that we had.

And so these Nez Perce guides that were there, they helped them across that area. They worked their way towards what we call Koosaynu-Iskit. Koosaynu-Iskit is now called the Lewis and Clark trail through the Lolo country. They went all the way across that area, and stopped at a place called "Smokin' Place," and smoked their pipes there as well.

And so they continued on over towards the pass, and they came towards Travelers' Rest, as we call it now. The Nez Perce warriors and Lewis and Clark—it was a tearful parting, and people wonder about that. They really wonder about that because what took place then was an old-time ceremony.

Like, for instance, if I'm a friend with somebody, a really good friend, and not necessarily my blood relative, but my good friend—what I would do is, if I'm going to part from them and maybe not ever see them again, is that I would turn around and give that person my name, and he will give me his name. And they had that ceremony down here in Travelers' Rest, where Lewis and Clark traded names with these Nez Perce warriors.1 And these Nez Perce warriors proudly took those names. And they wept, and they cried. And they left from there, and they never saw each other again. That was the last time, as we say, we saw Lewis and Clark.

1. On July 2, 1806, at Travelers' Rest, Lewis wrote: "In the course of the day we had much conversation with the indians by signs, our only mode of communicating our ideas. . . . I gave the Cheif a medal of the small size; he insisted on exchanging names with me according to their custom which was accordingly done and I was called Yo-me-kol-lick, which interpreted is the white bearskin foalded."