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Heart of the Monster: Nez Perce legend offers history of Nimipuu people

James Wheeler, Sr., of Kamiah plays a flute he hand carved. He made his first flute when he was 12. He taught himself to both play and make the instruments. “I taught myself with some help,” he smiled, pointing skyward. Wheeler played the flute pictured here as well as his first flute.

Photo by Lorie Palmer
James Wheeler, Sr., of Kamiah plays a flute he hand carved. He made his first flute when he was 12. He taught himself to both play and make the instruments. “I taught myself with some help,” he smiled, pointing skyward. Wheeler played the flute pictured here as well as his first flute.



KAMIAH – At the heart of every culture are the stories and places that sustain them as a people.

For an up close look at local history and Nez Perce legend, be sure to stop by the Heart of the Monster site on U.S. Highway 12.

This site includes a large parking area, interpretive center and restrooms. The paved walking trail leads to the large, fenced mound that is where the “Heart of the Monster” landed.

“The creation legend tells the story of Coyote defeating the monster, and, as he dripped the blood and tossed the heart said, ‘Where this blood lands and with this heart will grow a people. They’ll be strong. They’ll be brave. They’ll have good hearts. They will live good lives. And these will be the Nez Perce.’ And that’s where the Nez Perce came from.’” (Taken from Coyote and the Swallowing Monster told by Mari Watters, Nimipuu, 1991).

A recorded message at the site tells the entire story of the Nez Perce creation legend and can be listened to while viewing the area. Bird watchers may see wood ducks, osprey, gray catbird, and cedar waxwings in the area.

This year, Nez Perce Tribe member Marcie Bailey put on a program at the site for local school children and the community.

“I walked here at Heart of the Monster with my grandkids last year and they had so many questions for me – creative, amazing curiosity,” said Bailey of Kamiah. “I knew then I wanted to do something to help all kids better understand the history, the Nez Perce culture.”

Bailey organized “Tim’neepkinix,” translated to “From the Heart,” a day of activities in April sponsored in part by the National Park Service.

Bailey said she hopes to offer this every year and include the same types of living history which included teepee story telling featuring Nez Perce American Girl doll Kaya, cultural displays, a fun run, drumming, flute playing, arts and crafts, traditional food display, information on drug and alcohol abuse prevention, storytelling and a Nez Perce language demonstration.

For details on programs contact the Kamiah Chamber of Commerce, 208-935-2290 or log onto http://fishandgame.idaho.gov/ifwis/ibt/site.aspx?id=41, or https://www.nps.gov/.



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