Part 9, The Book of Heaven
A Tsoopnitpeloo Legend
As Told by Otis Halfmoon
Of the Nez Perce Tribe
There was one thing the Nez Perce did notice, the prophecy that was even coming true even more. The prophecy that was saying even so many years back, before. They talked about the Bible. They talked about the white man's religion. And they noticed that these white people do have a religion. They also noticed too that these white people have their religion, and they have a God that sure gives them a lot of material wealth. They have metal, they have rifles, they have—these wonderful things that they have. The Nez Perce thought to themselves, maybe this prophecy song may have something to it. We want to know more about it.
And so what they did is, they got four warriors, and they sent them—it was in 1829—and they sent them back east to go look for this "book of heaven"—actually, the white man's religion. It wasn't the book, yet, because the prophecy songs talk about a tee-mas. But yet they wasn't quite sure what they were looking for. They just wanted to find something for . . . the white man's religion. Well, these four Nez Perce warriors end up of all places in St. Louis, Missouri. They got to St. Louis, Missouri, and now Clark was even still there. Clark was head of Indian Affairs, or whatever it was called, and he was there to greet them. Word spread through town real fast. It's interesting, because some mountain Indians had arrived in town, and no one could understand them. And Clark identified them, who they were. They met with Clark.
People debate if anything was ever told to him about his son. It's my contention, though, that these warriors probably did tell Clark about his son. That his son is doing well, he's a strong warrior. That was, again, to show that tie with the white people. That's what you would do. This is our tie. Like, if I'd meet somebody, I'd bring up something mutual. And that son was that tie.
Then later on it spread through St. Louis that these four mountain Indians were looking for the Bible. Actually, they just wanted to understand the white man's religion. Not so much the Bible, but they wanted the material wealth that came with the religion, not necessarily Jesus Christ.
In that time period they spent there in 1829, 1830, 1831. They were there, in fact, that whole winter. During that time, two of the warriors died, there in St. Louis, and the other two warriors came back home. One died on the way home, the other one stayed on the Northern Plains, and got killed fighting the Blackfeet. But yet they came back, and saw other Nez Perce, and told them they thought they were unsuccessful. "We're sorry we did not come back with any of the missionaries of the white man's religion, just only the words.
But those two warriors that died, they were buried by Father Rosata there, by the Catholics. The Black Robes buried them. And again, Clark was there.