While growing up in the county the only presence I knew of the tribe was the statue at the head of Wallowa Lake and when the Nez Perce would show up for the Chief Joseph Days rodeo.
The Tamkaliks Celebration is the return of the Wallowa Band to the valley. The celebration is held on land they now own near Wallowa. It is slowly being made into an interpretive center where visitors and the locals can learn about the people who first inhabited the fertile valley raising fast, sure-footed appaloosas and living off the land.
The celebration opened with the entrance of the riders who rode their horses from Umatilla to Wallowa for the event. They rode around the round house and then dismounted. One man led a horse. This symbolized a tribal member who died this past year. After a prayer to the horses, the riders entered the round house and more prayers and thanks were given. I enjoyed the mixture of Christian prayer with prayers said in Nez Perce.
There was a break as they worked on the parachute covering. The strong winds the night before had ripped it in several spots. This gave me a chance to check out the vendors and visit. The craftsmanship of the items for sale surpassed anything you see in stores that proclaim they are selling "Indian" jewelry. I enjoyed a visit with a husband and wife. She was Cherokee and he was Choctaw. They invited me to their powwow in September in Idaho. I'd love to go but doubt I can fit it into my schedule.
The afternoon was filled with dancing and dance competitions. The beat of the drums felt like the heart beat of the earth as the dancers moved to the pulse and language of their ancestors.
Unfortunately the heat, and I believe the meal I had the night before, took a toll on me and I didn't stick around for the adult contests, though I saw some wonderful costumes and individuals I would have liked to see dance. I had a two hour drive back to my daughter's and left to make sure I made it back.
I was invited to come back next year and I've already marked it on my calendar.
If you haven't been to a powwow, I highly recommend you go. It will fill you with a new gratitude for life, nature, and people.