Place Name Initiative honors Nez Perce history of local National Forest lands

Release Date: Nov 8, 2021

A young Nez Perce child looking over their shoulder while walking with 2 adults in traditional wear

Stacia Morfin, Nez Perce tribal member working with the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests on the new Place Name Initiative, says that she is honored to be working on a cooperative that will “add a deeper layer of connection to the places Nimiipuu call home–not only for future generations of Nimiipuu, but with hopes to provide educational and authentic experiences for our traveling guests.” Photograph by Jennifer Rapoza, provided courtesy Nez Perce Tourism, LLC.

KAMIAH, Idaho: November 8, 2021—The Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests recently received $50,000 in funding from the Native American Tourism and Improving Visitor Experience (NATIVE) Act that will be put towards the implementation of the Place Name Initiative, a collaborative project proposed by the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests and Nez Perce Tourism, LLC of Lewiston. The project will identify and sign certain areas within the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests with their Nimiipuu (Nez Perce) place names.

For countless generations, the Nez Perce have shared an intimate relationship with the land and the life sources it provides. Place names often assigned a special significance to sites. The Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests contains many culturally significant locations for the Nez Perce people, as it encompasses 4 million of the 7.5 million acres of Nez Perce Tribe homelands ceded to the United States in 1855.

As the area was settled, many places were renamed and signed by newcomers. The new signs created through the Place Name Initiative will co-exist with modern signs and provide historical context that many forest visitors seek while giving recognition to the Tribal history of these special places.

The idea for the Place Name Initiative came from a recommendation made to Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests Supervisor Cheryl Probert by a tribal member during a 2020 meeting with the Nez Perce Tribe’s General Council. The suggestion was to identify and sign some of the historic Nez Perce place names on National Forest System lands within the Nez Perce Tribe’s homelands.

Stacia Morfin, member of the Nez Perce Tribe and founder of Nez Perce Tourism, LLC, heard the tribal member’s request during the meeting and was eager to offer her assistance in the project.

“The request to initiate a place name project across our homelands will add a deeper layer of connection to the places Nimiipuu call home–not only for future generations of Nimiipuu, but with hopes to provide educational and authentic experiences for our traveling guests,” said Morfin. “It’s an honor to be a part of this cooperative.”

“While we regularly work with Nez Perce Tribal leadership and technical staff, we don’t have as many opportunities to work this closely with the Nez Perce people on matters so close to their hearts,” said Probert. “This is an exciting opportunity to partner with a local Certified Indian Business on a project suggested by a tribal member that will benefit everyone.”

Morfin will be working closely with the Nez Perce Tribe, Circle of Elders and the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests to ensure sacred and undisclosed place names remain protected, while those appropriate to share with the public are promoted.

“We are looking forward to seeing this project completed. It has been needed for some time and will add significant context that has been missing on the history of this area,” stated Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee Chairman Samuel Penney.

The NATIVE Act was established to enhance and integrate Native American tourism, empower Native American communities, increase coordination and collaboration between Federal tourism assets, and expand heritage and cultural tourism opportunities in the United States. To learn more about the Act, visit https://www.aianta.org/understanding-the-native-act/.

For more information about the Place Name Initiative, please contact NATIVE Act Project Coordinating Team members Christine Bradbury, Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests (208-816-6822) or Stacia Morfin, Nez Perce Tourism, LCC (208-790-8873).

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