Nez Perce Wallowa Lands Fund information Summary
The Nez Perce National Historic Park currently manages the Old Chief Joseph Cemetery site located near Wallowa Lake in Wallowa County, Oregon. Old Chief Joseph was a leader of the Wallowa Band of the Nez Perce at the time of the 1855 and 1863 treaties. The property is held in trust by the Bureau of Indian Affairs for the benefit of the Nez Perce Tribe and the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation. Each year, thousands of visitors come to the cemetery to pay respects to a renowned Nez Perce leader, learn about the area's rich history, and enjoy the natural beauty of the Wallowa Lake area.
The Wallowa County Planning Commission recently approved a preliminary plat for the development of a subdivision on the Marr Property, 60-acres of lands adjacent to the cemetery, into 5 acre lots. The Marr Property is located on the banks of the Wallowa River downstream of the Wallowa Lake Dam. The subdivision would consist of eleven 5-acre luxury home sites. This property is currently vacant.
This site is of significant cultural and historic value to the Nez Perce Tribe and the general public. Two prior surveys have revealed the presence of two archaeological sites. Additional survey work is needed to fully understand the nature and extent of these sites. Development of this site will detract from the natural viewshed, as well as increase noise and inappropriate traffic at the cemetery site.
On February 12th, the Wallowa County Board of Commissioners denied five separate appeals filed by the Nez Perce Tribe, the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, the City of Joseph, and a group of local citizens. These appeals raised concerns with protection of cultural resources, as well as consistency of the proposal with the City of Joseph’s land use laws.
The Nez Perce Tribe is actively working with many local residents, local organizations, land conservation organizations, and others to develop broad support for the acquisition of this property for the benefit of the public.
Local county officials, including county commissioners themselves, have expressed publicly a hope that purchase and protection may resolve the dispute. There has been national media attention on the issue. Public ownership of this land will ensure protection of the cemetery, cultural resources, as well as protect important riparian areas along the Wallowa River.
September 21, 2004 is the centennial of the death of the renowned Nez Perce leader, Young Chief Joseph, son of Old Chief Joseph, who died in exile in Nespelem, Washington. Memorializing Young Chief Joseph’s death with the preservation of this property would gather broad support from local government, the community, and local businesses dependent on a tourist economy significantly based on the Nez Perce history of the Wallowa Valley.
It is common knowledge that the landowner is willing to sell, and if a sale were concluded at a fair market price, there would be broad community support, almost certainly including the landowner, for memorialized preservation of the property on this important centennial.
It is our hope that action by the Tribe and by those interested in protecting this important piece of land will help protect this important property and ensure that its resources are protected from now and into the future.
The Nez Perce Tribe has established a fund dedicated to support acquisition of the land near the Old Chief Joseph cemetery site in Wallowa County, Oregon. Anyone wishing to contribute to the effort may send check to:
Nez Perce Tribe Wallowa Lands Fund
Nez Perce Tribe
P.O. Box 305
Lapwai, Idaho 83540
Donations to this effort are completely tax deductible and will be used solely for its efforts to purchase the Wallowa property. If you have any questions, please contact Darren Williams at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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