Otis Half Moon

Otis Half Moon is a Nez Perce tribal elder. The Nez Perce assisted the Lewis & Clark expedition in the fall of 1805 and again in the spring of 1806. These excerpts are taken from an interview conducted in 2002.

Otis Half Moon, Nez PerceIt is mentioned in a publication that when Lewis and Clark entered the Weippe area that they saw one of the hatchets they had left in one of the Mandan villages, and the hatchet made it over here faster than they did. So they knew about this race of people.

When the Nez Perce saw these people, they weren't quite sure. Some of them wanted to kill them because they were strange creatures to them. They saw these wonderful objects they had, the gunpowder, the rifles, and they wanted to liberate them of those items.

It took a lot of encouragement but the Nez Perce helped them out a lot. I think a lot of that was shown in 1806 on the return journey, when they camped at Long Camp at present-day Kamiah. The Nez Perce really helped them out a lot and in fact guided them back to Montana. When they got to Lolo, they actually had a ceremony and they traded names. It's a very old ceremony you don't see any more, it's about like you and I were brothers, good friends but not by blood. I will give you my name and I will take your name. This is the ceremony they did with Clark once they got to Montana. That's how close they became in that short period.

It goes further than that. They talk about a child that was left by Clark by a Nez Perce woman conceived in 1806, who was left in Kamiah. The Nez Perce knew where Clark was. That is one of the things that prompted them to go to St. Louis in 1829 or 1830 to see Clark. History says they were seeking the Book of Heaven, but they told Clark about his son, and so he was very much aware of the child he left behind.

A lot of entities today use the word "reconciliation." I don't use "reconciliation." If you decipher that word, it means "the books are balanced." The books will never be balanced as far as the tribes are concerned. Never be balanced. Will we get back all of our land? I don't think so. But we must heal. What has happened has happened. Let's move forward.

We must heal. Healing is a very simple word, but it is a very powerful word. Perhaps now here in the 21st century we need a healing connection for this country of ours.

I am angry about some things, and I debated the idea of whether we should even acknowledge Lewis and Clark, but another concept . . . is protection of the resources. Back in 1855, one of our chiefs said, "Who is going to speak for the land?" We now must all speak for the land, no matter what color we are. We are human beings here walking on the earth. We must protect those resources. We all must speak for that.


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