We Are in a Heritage Generation
My grandparents are Shoshone Paiute. So I have a lot of family down in California and Nevada, and my mother was Nez Perce. So we were raised actually in both places. We lived in the Lochsa area up here. That’s all National Forest in there. We spent our winters up here and our summers down in northern California.
A lot of the influence in my life came from my Shoshone grandfather and I know that the way they deal with things is very different than in the Nez Perce. Their history down there with interaction with White people was very different than ours. Although a lot of the American focus has been on the Nez Perce because of Lewis and Clark.
When we look at Nez Perce history, we had dealt with early explorers like Lewis and Clark and course they were commissioned by the president and they were on a military expedition actually. We dealt with missionaries and some of the early settlers who were all family men, all family people. It wasn’t until 1860 that we actually dealt with a class of people we had not dealt with before, and that was the gold miners
But as far as resources go, natural resources in particular, it’s really interesting because people can say, “Well, Lewis and Clark came here two hundred years ago and that’s past and done.” But the very impact of their coming is the reason today that we have to fight so hard to bring the salmon back and bring the wolf back and hopefully the grizzly bear.
They’re certainly symbolic of the end of our lifestyle as it once was. But in spite of the grief and the sorrow that we have from our wars that ended our life and so forth we continue today. We have our families. We raise them and we want the best for them. We want them to be happy.
This is how I was raised and it’s how I tell my grandchildren. I tell them the truth. I don’t want them to grow up and study so-called Indian history in school and hear a whole different version. I want them to know and then when they go to school they can measure against that. In the 1950s it was very different. I’d come home from school and I’d say, “You know, either all my teachers are liars or my grandfather’s a liar,” because there was no connecting. I do think today that the American public and the teachers in particular are working harder than they ever have.
We still have a ways to go and every generation has to be educated. You can say, “Well, we got that job done,” but no, you get a whole new crop of people and we have to go through the learning process again. It’s kind of funny. I think back of the decades in this country. I came in on the tail end of the time when it was really bad to be Indian. It was not only reproachful, but it was almost scary and so I felt hints of that during my childhood.
Today is very different. It’s the Historical institutions in the country or things like the Bicentennial that want the Indian story. We know that just as those times are here today, we know that that pendulum can swing. Statistics show that we are in a heritage generation. I think, “Well, if this is the heritage generation, what are we going to do when it’s not the heritage generation?” Will that pendulum swing way over again? So if it does, it doesn’t change who we are. We’re still Indian people. We’re still Nimiipuu.
Regardless of our history and regardless of the challenges we have in today’s world, there’s no way that I could possibly think that I’d want to be anybody else. The Creator has made everyone so unique and who we are that no matter what the circumstances, there’s no way I would want to be non-Indian. I think that’s really the story. It’s the story of survival. It is a proud history in spite of everything.
Diane Mallickan is Nez Perce or “Nimiipu, meaning “real people” or “we the people.” Her dad, Glen Wasson, is Piaute and Shoshone and her mother is Nez Perce. Her grandparents on her fathers’s side were Tom and Sadie Wasson. Tom was a descendant of the Piaute Chief Winnemucca. Her mother’s parents were Bill and Nancy Corbett. The Corbett family is buried on the old buffalo trail that’s now a part of the highway between Idaho and Montana. The grandparents were very traditional. The women became good gardeners and raised fruit along the Salmon and Snake Rivers. They were the horticulturalists. The tribe is located in north central Idaho, southeast Washington and northeast Oregon, which is the aboriginal area.
Diane is a park ranger/cultural interpreter at the Nez Perce National Historic Park and discusses history with the public on a daily basis. Working at the NPS she has learned about collection gourds, tipis and how family’s burnt many possessions when converting to Christianity. She has received National Park Service awards, served on the Nez Perce County Historical Society, and is part of a team producing three to four volumes of unpublished Nez Perce history. Diane’s presentations review the seven-drum song, sweathouses and the sweat bath, stories of health and healing, and special stories for children. Diane speaks mainly at the NHP, but she has spoken to college classes and was on the speaker’s bureau for the Lewis and Clark Commemorations of Idaho.
A grandmother, Diane is a spokesperson for the environment and our natural resources, especially when it comes to saving the salmon. She appreciates her spiritual side, and is very connected to the outdoors. She will be included in the Historical Intro feature for Wisdom of the Elders Radio: Series Three.
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