At Tamkaliks, Wallowa Nez Perce come to compete, connect, and commemorate
After a two-year pandemic hiatus, a large cultural gathering returned to eastern Oregon this past weekend: the 30th anniversary Tamkaliks celebration.
Dozens of dancers dressed in feathers, beadwork, and porcupine quills marked each pow-wow’s grand entry. Regional drum groups played as well, with a procession of Appaloosa horses circling the gathering for other events. Beyond the covered gathering area called the Arbor, vendors selling fry bread, Indian jewelry, blankets, and clothes showed off their wares to visitors.
The Tamkaliks gathering is for descendants of the Wallowa Band of Nez Perce who were forced off their lands in 1877 and pursued by the U.S. Army, before surrendering just shy of the Canadian border. Many historians and Old West aficionados consider Chief Joseph the Younger's surrender speech one of the most eloquent and moving chapters of the 19th century. Joseph and many other Nez Perce were never allowed back to the Wallowas, and spent the rest of their lives exiled to reservations.
Bobbie Conner is one of the event organizers.
“We believe the land hears our prayers. Feels our footsteps on the earth. And the land is happy to welcome us back," Conners told KLCC as she prepped her horses. "But we also believe that there is a light in the earth, that lights up when we bring ceremony to the landscape. And it lights up our hearts when we gather to celebrate this magnificent country that we come from.”
Another event commemorated Native children who went missing during the boarding school era. Recent investigations have turned up scores of burial sites for children sent to the schools in the U.S. and Canada between roughly the 1850s through the 1960s (though a handful do remain today.)
One cause for celebration this year besides renewing Tamkaliks, is the Nez Perce Tribe’s recent acquisition of 148 acres that formerly formed an ancestral village in the town of Joseph.
Note: KLCC reporter Brian Bull is a member of the Wallowa Band of Nez Perce.
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