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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


August 11, 2001 - Issue 42


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Riding Club, Nez Perce Seeking Peace on Trail


 by Vin Cappiello Cody Enterprise-July 27, 2001


photo of the Beartooth Mountains

Bonnie Ewing hopes the trail she leaves behind is filled with anything but tears.

The Nez Perce woman from Lapwai, Idaho, is one of 175 riders and 12 tribal members who this week mounted their appaloosas to retrace 100 miles of the Chief Joseph Trail.

This is Ewing's 10th year taking part in the commemorative event sponsored annually since 1965 by the National Appaloosa Horse Club. She speaks with noticeable emotion about not only this year's ride but the devastating flight of her people in 1877.

"I visualize how it must have been for them and what they went through," says a glassy-eyed Ewing, glancing at the top of the Beartooth Mountains to the west of the group's camp near Clark. "I don't think I can even describe the feeling. It's something inside.

"Obviously I wasn't involved way back when. But every Nez Perce family that survived was involved. It has affected us for so long it still hurts to talk about it."

Again pausing, Ewing focuses and says: "This is my ride of healing."

Discussing the specifics of this year's five-day ride that covers a portion of the Chief Joseph-led 1,170-mile flight that ended at Bears Paw Battlefield near Chinook, Mont., Ewing turns her attention to the Nez Perce children.

As a founding member of the Chief Joseph Foundation, she says the group's goal concerns more than just preserving the history of the trail.

"We've basically always focused on youth," Ewing says. "You have to get kids involved."

This was made possible 12 years ago when 13 appaloosas were donated by New Mexico rancher Bob Browning. This breed of horses, ridden by the Nez Perce while fleeing the 8th Cavalry, is known for their speed and agility.

The horses and their training are a couple of the keys to getting the youth involved and keeping them involved - a mark Ewing would like to leave.

"We saw a dream back then," Ewing says. "In 15-20 years, I hope to see more of our people on this ride. I would like to see Nez Perce scouts."

As motivated as she is, though, Ewing is careful to note and thank the National Appaloosa Horse Club and local organizer Rita Lovell.

"This is a national trail," the prideful Ewing says. "And we don't want to take the ride away from the club. They kept it going.

"We need to work together."

It's obvious the tribe and riding group are in harmony as evidenced by their gathering Sunday evening in which speakers covered everything from trail etiquette to history to hydration.

This year's 100-mile stretch began Monday morning along the base of the Beartooths to Line Creek and ended at Robinson Draw. It ends Friday near Laurel.

Along the way, though, you won't find Ewing wearing traditional Nez Perce garb.

"Our family things were burned," says Ewing, who does own a dress she purchased five years ago from a friend. "The clothes are priceless."

She said it takes at least an hour to dress. But the main reasons she chooses to wear a more general riding outfit is because the clothing is both hot and expensive.

Ewing instead prefers to wear the dress for more formal occasions and hopes to add to her collection for a simple reason: "I want to build it up and pass it on to my grandkids."

  Maps by Travel

Chief Joseph Foundation
The Chief Joseph Foundation was established on the Nez Perce reservation of Idaho in 1991. The philosophy of the Foundation is to promote Nez Perce cultural preservation, community pride, and community healing through activities primarily centered around the Appaloosa horse. The Appaloosa horse and the Nez Perce people have cultural and emotional bonds that have historical prominence and significance.

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  Canku Ota is a free Newsletter celebrating Native America, its traditions and accomplishments . We do not provide subscriber or visitor names to anyone. Some articles presented in Canku Ota may contain copyright material. We have received appropriate permissions for republishing any articles. Material appearing here is distributed without profit or monetary gain to those who have expressed an interest. This is in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107.  

Canku Ota is a copyright © 2000, 2001 of Vicki Lockard and Paul Barry.


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