Nez Perce Tribe of Idaho


About 60 people were on hand Jan. 9 as tribal elder Horace Axtell led a traditional blessing ceremony for a new higher education center that will focus on helping adult professionals. The center evolved with technological help from Lewis-Clark State College and a grant from Bellingham, Wash.'s Northwest Indian College. "We are all striving to reach common ground," said Kay Kidder, interim director of adult education for the Nez Perce tribe. The program aims to help professional people, although unemployed or traditional college-age students may also take advantage of resources. About 30 people, all employed by the tribe, are expected to take part in courses. Kidder said most work in the tribe's fisheries resource department, but have reached the professional ceiling because they lack higher education. Classes begin on Jan. 22. The four courses offered this winter will be taught live, but by spring, Lewis-Clark should have technology in place to provide interactive video conferencing.

Between Kamiah and nearby Kooskia rises a giant rock the tribe calls the "Heart of the Monster." Now part of the Nez Perce National Historic Park, the formation has long been the center of the tribe's story of creation. In it, the trickster Coyote slays a giant monster, forming the many peoples of the West with the monster's hair, body parts and blood. The monster's heart turned to stone. But to defeat the beast, Coyote had to plan his attack, fooling the monster into sucking him into his body where Coyote could kill him, using all five knife blades he made beforehand. The lesson, park historian Otis Halfmoon says, is that everyone faces monsters - and defeats them if they plan and prepare. These two north-central Idaho towns, like scores throughout rural Idaho, face a new monster in changing economies. As old agriculture, mining and timber systems give way to new ones, most Idaho towns are being left without their traditional stability. Kamiah and Kooskia largely avoided the downturn with an effort to look forward, to build needed emergency dispatch centers, libraries and health clinics. Today, leaders focus on the 200th anniversary of the Lewis and Clark trek west - what Halfmoon calls "the greatest camp-out in history."

Trial of a teen-ager accused of participating in an alleged rape has been called off, at least temporarily, so the court can work out some jurisdictional questions. The victim, a 17-year-old girl, is a tribal member. The teen accused of participating in the incident, 15-year-old Buck Wayne Basey, is not. His defense attorney asked Magistrate Stephen L. Calhoun to dismiss the charges because the state has no jurisdiction. He says that because the alleged incident involves both Indians and non-Indians, any charges should be made through federal court. Calhoun canceled the trial so attorneys on both sides could submit briefs on the issue. They are due in three weeks. The trial could be rescheduled in 2nd District Court in Lewiston if Calhoun decides the state does have jurisdiction. If not, the charges would have to be dismissed completely and a federal prosecutor would decide whether to re-file. Basey was charged with two counts of rape, and his 13-year-old brother, Kenneth W. Basey, with a single count of sexual penetration with a foreign object. Court documents show five or six teen-age boys allegedly were present and involved in the Oct. 19 incident in Lapwai. The others are tribal members and possible prosecution would occur through the tribal government.