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Nimiipuu Canoe Project
The Nimiipuu Canoe Project was the brainchild of a number of Nez Perce Tribal members and canoe carvers after much discussion on why we (Nez Perce) didn't have or discontinued carving our own canoes. The loss of the canoe in our culture seemed to be a major cultural issue and we felt that bringing the canoe back was something that is critical to our culture and being a part of this was a wonderful experience for all.
The idea came about after many Nimiipuu had paddled with tribal members from the Kalispel, Colville, Coeur d’ Alene and Spokane tribes at the 2016 Free the Snake Flotilla, an annual event which pushes for the removal of the four Lower Snake Dams.
After paddling with our fellow tribal members we became inspired and determined to carve our own traditional Nimiipuu canoe.
The first step for the “Nimiipuu Canoe Project”, after acquiring a piece of land from our Tribal council, was to find a proper tree to use for the canoe, preferably Cedar. We had two tree candidates that were located in the Selway-Lochsa Wilderness area and after a meeting with our Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee they submitted a Special Use Permit to acquire the logs as they were located in the Wilderness area. We had to use a Yellow Fir log and had this transported to what became known as the “Nimiipuu Canoe Site” next to our Tribal clinic in Lapwai, Idaho. We began acquiring the tools and in July of 2017 we commenced carving the first Dugout canoe on the Nez Perce Reservation in 110 years.
Everyone was invited to come and help on this project and we had many visitors from all over the US and Canada come to take a look and support our efforts.
The Nimiipuu Canoe came to full fruition in an area behind the Nimiipuu Health Clinic in Lapwai, Idaho where a diverse group of Tribal and non-Tribal “carvers” adults and youth, worked together as we literally “chipped” away on the log. The carvers including the youth came every Wednesday at 4:30 and worked through the dark winter days/nights and despite cold weather!
The community event welcomed youth and elders, family, friends, neighbors, tribal and non-tribal supporters. Food was provided and cultural art projects were held for the young ones.
We also made/carved canoe paddles every Wednesday so the youth could get used to woodworking and using the tools.
The first test launch of our canoe came on Sept 7, 2018 at the Middle Hog Island boat ramp and was paddled approximately 25 miles to Chief Timothy Park East of Clarkston, WA where the 5th annual Free the Snake Flotilla took place.
Watch the trailer for our upcoming video and view the slideshow below for a timeline perspective of this inspiring and healing cultural journey!
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