Nimiipuu: Children of the Coyote
A Symbol of Peace
My name is Allen Pinkham. I’m a Nez Perce or Nimiipuu person. My Indian name is Pax ut hi ka tin as given to me by my father, which means five rays of light. My father’s name, Qel qel qinewho, (old man spider), was the son of Eloo si le katsit,(sending message from a high point), who was involved in the 1877 War. From my mother’s side, she was Wi in ton, (singing while going to mountains). She’s a Black Eagle. The Black Eagles are descended from the Red Bears, who had met Lewis and Clark in 1805 and ’06. I partly grew up on a Nez Perce reservation and partly over at the Yakama Reservation also.
Coyote, he’s along the Clearwater there. He says, “Oh, I want to catch salmon.” So he makes a salmon trap, a net. He puts it in the water and he’s fishing. He’s fishing away there and he doesn’t catch anything. Frog is there. Frog is watching Coyote.
Finally Frog asks Coyote, he says, “How many fish you caught?” Says, “Oh, I haven’t caught anything.” Says, “Well, salmon already went up the river.” Says, “What you fishing for?” That’s what Frog said. “There’s all the fish are coming up. They’re already coming up.” Frog says, “Oh no! They already went by.” Coyote keeps fishing. You know, he’s waiting for salmon to hit his net. No fish. Frog says, “Well, what are you fishing? You know, hey, you’re not going to catch any salmon. They’re already gone.”
So Coyote he gets mad. He throws his net up on the hillside and he grabs Frog and throws him across the river. He hits the ground on the other side and he’s facing up the hill. Coyote says, “Oh, since you’re arguing with me, telling me there’s no salmon, you’ll just be a stone now and when the people come by they’ll say, ‘Oh, there’s Frog right there.” So that’s where Frog is today.
So Coyote goes back to fishing. He doesn’t catch anything. “Oh, that darn Frog, he must have been right.” So he throws his net back up on the hillside. You’ll see the net up on the hillside there. So then Coyote, he goes on up the river. So that’s a story about Coyote’s Fishnet and Frog.
You know that Samuel Morris collection, it’s a really unique collection. It’s a wax cylinder.
Sam Morris had the foresight to acquire an Edison machine, a recording machine. I think it’s very unique that Sam had the foresight to record some of the songs of the Nez Perce. He would go to various pow wows, War Dances, some ceremonies or where people would just gather in a house and talk and sing songs. He would record them.
WAZU, the Washington State University, and Loren Olsen acquired the wax cylinders and they made recordings of those, put them on tape and probably CDs. I think they do have them on CDs. So in that way those songs are preserved. These songs are well over a hundred years old probably even two hundred years old. It’s very unique. I certainly appreciate what Sam had done and what Loren Olsen has accomplished with those.
I occasionally listen to them. Some of those old songs you still hear them. They’ll be sung at some ceremonies or maybe at powwows. Some of our own people will sing these songs. Some of these are so well known that other tribes sing them as well. So that way they’re really being preserved and passed on and I really appreciate that.
One song is “My Man Went Along”. This song is about a woman lamenting about her husband going on an expedition, either hunting or maybe even a war excursion. He’s going to be gone for a long time. He may not come back. He may get wounded or killed. So she sings this song-“My Man Went Along” and that means that he is going along with this expedition. That became a very popular song and it’s used at pow wows now. Once in a while, I hear that song and it really sounds good.
Tribal historian and storyteller, Allen Pinkham, is Nez Perce (Nimiipuu) and great great-grandnephew of Chief Joseph. His Mother, Annett Black Eagle, is a descendent of the Red Bear Band. His Father, Alex Pinkham, is a descendent of Alpowa (Chief Timothy) Band. Originally the tribe was geographically located on 13 million acres of land in N. Central Idaho, NE Oregon and SE Washington. Today, the tribe is on 750,000 acres of land in N. Central Idaho, just east of the heart of the Rockies and Bitterroot Mountains.
Allen’s accomplishments and memberships include Board of Trustees and Secretary, National Museum of the American Indian at Smithsonian Institution; National Council of the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial; Idaho Governors Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Committee; founding Chairman, Chief Joseph Foundation; Vice-Chairman, Nez Perce Tribal Health Board; Chairman, Cultural Committee of the Wisdom Keepers; board member of Morning Star Foundation; presenter/speaker at Executive Leadership of Political and Social Forces in Natural Resources Management; storyteller/presenter at American Indian Basket Makers Gathering; presenter/lecturer, “Horses and the Nez Perce”, at the Heard Museum and New Mexico State University. He is co-author with Dan Landeen of “SALMON AND HIS PEOPLE” published in 1999 by Confluence Press, Lewiston, ID. Presently he is conducting research with Dr. Steve R. Evans about the oral history of the Lewis and Clark Expedition with the Nez Perce Tribe. He’s also been Nez Perce tribal liaison, forest fire fighter and a corporal in the US Marines, receiving an Honorable Discharge for duty in Okinawa, Japan.
Allen is a gifted tribal storyteller. He shares creation, coyote and Stoneface stories and legends about landmarks and travel. He is also a tribal historian and likes to recall stories about elders, Red Bear, Cut Nose, Timothy Wahitits, Red Moccasin Tops, and, of course, Chief Joseph. He discusses the Lewis and Clark Expedition and the 1877 Nez Perce War, and issues involving salmon and other natural resources. He has given lectures and other presentations at public forums and symposiums at Smithsonian Institution, and in Canada, France, and Japan. Allen will be featured Wisdom of the Elders Radio Series Three (Turtle Island Storytellers in Program Two) at www.wisdomoftheelders.org
Allen Pinkham, Sr.
32153 Pinkham Lane
Lenore, ID. 83541