PULLMAN, Wash.— On September 11, 1805, explorer William Clark made his first entry in an elk skin-bound journal which was to serve him through December 31, 1805:
we Set out at 3 oClock and proceeded on up the Travelers rest Creek, accompanied by the flat head or Tushapaws Indians . . . Encamped at some old Indian Lodges, nothing killed this evening hills on the right high & ruged, the mountains on the left high & Covered with Snow.
Thus did the first Americans enter Nez Perce country…
This is how Encounters with the People: Written and Oral Accounts of Nez Perce Life to 1858, an edited, annotated anthology of unique primary sources related to Nez Perce history, begins. Most of the selected material—Native American oral histories, diary excerpts, military reports, maps, and more—is published for the first time or is found only in obscure sources. Complete documents are included wherever possible, and any excisions carefully noted. In addition, generous elders contributed their collective memory of carefully guarded stories passed down through multiple generations.
For compilers/editors Dennis Baird, Diane Mallickan, and William R. Swagerty, the newly released reference represents the realization of several goals. First, they sought to produce a volume that would have long-term worth for the Nez Perce. Second, they wanted to provide a solid starting point for scholarly, culturally informed, modern histories of the people. Third, they hoped to find a respected, scholarly Inland Northwest publisher, and met that objective when they partnered with Washington State University Press.
Baird, Mallickan, and Swagerty organized Encounters with the People both chronologically and thematically, beginning with early Nimiipuu/Euro-American contact and extending to the period immediately after the Treaty of 1855 held at Walla Walla. They requested and received formal research permits from three tribal entities: the Nez Perce Tribe of Idaho, Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, and Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation, eventually asking elders from each to examine the draft manuscript and collecting pages of comments. Some were included in the final version, but all will be retained in the University of Idaho Library’s Special Collections.
Despite their own strong qualifications, the co-editors deliberately avoided drawing cultural conclusions and hope that as a result, they have produced a volume that will have long-term worth for the Nez Perce as well as offer a solid starting point for scholarly, culturally informed, modern histories of the people.
The book is part of the Voices from Nez Perce Country series and also includes a thorough, up-to-date, annotated bibliographical essay. It will be particularly valuable to anyone interested in the Nez Perce, Native American studies, Lewis and Clark, early missionary work, and Inland Northwest settlement.