Wetxuuwitin Museum Collection Reaquisition
With funding help from Wiste'neemit, the Nez Perce Tribe Secures earliest and largest documented collection of material culture and held a renaming celebration June 26, 2021.
Donations were sought out to help host a series of workshops and other events leading up to the 25th Anniversary and Renaming celebration. These funds were used to purchase materials for making ribbon skirts and shirts; pay honorariums to artists, speakers, and cultural teachers; to purchase items that will be available to the public; and for accommodations and gifts for honored guests. We are grateful and open to future donations, as the intent is to mark this date every year with an event to celebrate the new name. Send donations to:
“Renaming Legacy Project"
PO Box 503
Lapwai, ID 83540
The Nez Perce Tribe commemorates the 25th anniversary of the return of the Wetxuuwitin Museum Collection with a renaming celebration at the original place of acquisition by Reverend Henry H. Spalding from individual Nez Perce tribal members. The collection has been renamed Wetxuuw’itin (pronounced watt koo wee tin).
Nakia Cloud-Williamson, Nez Perce Tribal member and Director of the Nez Perce Tribe Cultural Resource Program explains, “The renaming of this collection is a significant step to reclaiming ownership of one of the most significant ethnographic collections in existence. More importantly, renaming helps us in rejecting colonialism and its impacts on our 'way of life'.”
The Nez Perce will always be a people deeply rooted to the land from which they come. The Wetxuuwitin Museum Collection demonstrates how embedded even the material items of the Nez Perce, those that traveled the longest of colonial journeys, will eventually find their way home.
From 1836-1846 Spalding acquired 21 Nez Perce artifacts traditionally worn, or used by, men, women, children, and horses, which were later sent to Spalding's benefactor Dr. Dudley Allen. In 1893, after Dr. Allen’s death, his son donated the Collection to Oberlin College, who later loaned most of the collection to the Ohio Historical Society, now known as the Ohio History Connection (OHC). In 1976, Bill Holm, Curator of the Burke Museum at the University of Washington informed the curator at the Park about the Spalding-Allen artifacts at the OHC. The Park reached out to the museum and after some negotiations, OHC agreed to loan the collection to the Park with an annual loan renewal agreement starting in 1980.
In 1993, OHC demanded the return of the collection. Rather than donating the items to the Tribe, OHC eventually agreed to sell the collection at its full appraised value of $608,100. The Tribe was given a six-month deadline to provide the money. With the help of thousands of donors, the Tribe was successful in raising the full amount, and on June 26, 1996 the Tribe brought home the oldest, largest, and most well preserved artifact collection of the Plateau people.
“These items traveled extensively before finally returning home 25 years ago. We want to honor that journey and recognize the tremendous amount of effort that was required to make it happen. Without the help of thousands of people, the reacquisition would not have happened. We look forward to presenting this collection with a name that is representative of our culture and way of life,” stated Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee Chairman, Shannon Wheeler. “We know there are other lost artifacts out there; hopefully they can return home someday as well.”
The collection, owned by the Tribe, is physically stored by the Park in a dedicated space designed to meet museum standards and requirements for the best preservation, protection, and accessibility of the collection. The majority of the collection will be on display at the Park’s Visitor Center from June 19, 2021 to September 19, 2021.
Wisteqn'eemit works to develop a strong organizational structure in order to benefit quality of life for Nez Perce Tribal members and their communities; Tribal sovereignty is respected in all Wisteqn'eemit efforts; Wisteqn'eemit encourages giving and sharing among Tribal members.
Wisteqn'eemit supports activities to benefit Tribal arts and tradition, past and present; Tribal arts and culture are respected in all Wisteqn'eemit efforts; Wisteqn'eemit encourages a deep cultural connection among Tribal members.
Wisteqn'eemit supports projects to benefit our natural resources; the environment and its abundant resources are respected by Wisteqn'eemit efforts; Wisteqn'eemit encourages a strong sense of place among tribal members.