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Public invited to annual Nez Perce ceremonial at Fort Vancouver

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Since 1998 members of the Nez Perce Nation have come to Vancouver, Washington for a memorial ceremony. There is reason for this annual event. It continues a process of healing between the Nez Perce and the people who now live in the Vancouver, Washington area.

The Nez Perce, traditionally called the Nimi'ipuu, lived in groups traveling seasonally with the deep canyons cut by the Snake, Clearwater and Salmon rivers. They traveled across Oregon, Washington, and Idaho. The traditional homeland of the NiMiiPuu is North Central Idaho, including areas in Southeastern Washington, Northeastern Oregon with usual and accustomed areas in Western Montana and Wyoming.

The Nimi'ipuu aboriginal territory was approximately 17 million acres or approximately 70 thousand square kilometers or 27 thousand square miles; including the Clearwater River Basin, the South and Middle forks of the Salmon River Basin and their tributaries. (Source: Nez Perce Nation)

In 1877, 33 members of Chief Redheart's Band of the Nez Perce Tribe were captured under the direction of General O.O. Howard. Even though this band of the Nez Perce neither fought in the Indian Wars nor committed any crimes, they were kept prisoner at Fort Vancouver until April 22, 1878.

In 1998, the Nez Perce returned to Vancouver Barracks for the first time since leaving in 1878. There they performed a reconciliation ceremony to honor the memory of their ancestors and to heal old wounds.

This year, the representatives of the Nez Perce Indian Nation will again present their traditional memorial ceremony on the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site. The three-hour ceremony will begin at 10 a.m., Saturday, Apr. 19, across 5th Street from the reconstructed Fort Vancouver. The ceremony pays tribute to tribal ideals, honors tribal ancestors and helps to heal old wounds.

Ceremonial activities begin with singing, speeches, a Riderless Horse ceremony and a traditional passing of the peace pipe. All U.S. military veterans are invited to join the ceremonial circle and be recognized. There is no admission charge, but donations are welcome. Refreshments at the ceremony will be provided by Meals on Wheels.

Visitors should bring blankets and lawn chairs. There is no charge and ample parking is available on 5th Street. After the ceremony, the public is encouraged to attend a traditional Native American meal, prepared and served by the Northwest Indian Veterans Association ,located in the Artillery Barracks at 600 E. Hatheway Road.

The public is invited to participate in the ceremonies which occur each year in April. It is an opportunity to pay respect and to see members of the Nez Perce Nation in traditional dress. You'll also be able to see the famous Nez Perce Appaloosas.

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