Born in 1860, Lucullus Virgil McWhorter had an early appreciation for the plight of Native Americans oppressed by the Federal government. In 1903, as soon as it was financially possible, he moved his family to the Yakima River Valley to take a more active role in Indian affairs. From this point on, he ardently fought for Native Americans' land and water rights, and used his writing and research abilities to record and publish their stories. Quickly making friends in the Yakama community, McWhorter became an adopted member of the Yakama Nation. Then in 1907 he had a chance meeting with Yellow Wolf, a respected chief and veteran of the 1877 Nez Perce War. In the annual visits that followed, McWhorter documented and eventually published Yellow Wolf's oral account of his war experiences in Yellow Wolf: His Own Story (Caxton, 1940). Posthumously, his son V. O. McWhorter, with the assistance of staff members of Washington State College (later renamed Washington State University), completed the elder McWhorter's more general account of the Nez Perce War, entitled Hear Me My Chiefs: Nez Perce Legend and History (Caxton, 1983). L. V. McWhorter's decades of research are evident in the massive collection of documentation, photographs, books, and artifacts that were donated upon his death to WSU.
The L. V. McWhorter Native American Artifact Collection contains cultural and historical relics of the Yakama, Nez Perce, Bannock, and Flathead tribes. Between 1926 and 1935, L. V. McWhorter accompanied Nez Perce warriors Yellow Wolf, Peo Peo Tholekt, and Many Wounds on visits to battlefield sites of the Nez Perce War. Some of the artifacts in this collection were found on these trips. Other war relics in the collection were donated or traded by the participants or their descendants. In most cases McWhorter was able to document other information regarding their derivation as well. The remaining artifacts are of varying significance and provenance, some having been made specifically for McWhorter as gifts or trades.
The Nez Perce War:
In 1863 the Nez Perce's vast stretch of land in the region between the borders of Washington, Idaho, and Oregon was cut to one tenth its original size. This occurred by way of a treaty signed by a group of Nez Perce with little authority over the tribe as a whole. Bands that were opposed to the treaty's signing included those of chiefs Joseph, Ollokot, White Bird, Toohoolhoolzote, Looking Glass, and Hahtelekin. When on May 3, 1877 General Howard summoned these chiefs to a meeting at Fort Lapwai, Toohoolhoolzote voiced his opposition to Howard and was immediately imprisoned. This incarceration was seen by many Nez Perce as an inexcusable show of force and, as a result, young warriors of the White Bird band killed White settlers that were believed to have wronged them in the past. The Nez Perce elders, expecting retaliation, rounded up their people and fled with hopes of seeking refuge with their friends the Crows. When they arrived on Crow land however, they were attacked by Crows who had allied with the federal government. They then turned towards the Canadian border, beyond which Sitting Bull had been living since he became a refugee the year before. With him they were sure to find safe harbor.
Throughout their journey, the Nez Perce were pursued by troops under the command of Generals Miles and Howard along with the Indian scouts they employed. The Nez Perce possessed superior strategic abilities but were vastly outnumbered. And, because their few warriors were responsible for many tribal members that were too young, old, or weak to fend for themselves, their progress through rough terrain was often slow. The federal troops found themselves outmatched at the battles of White Bird Canyon on June 17 and Clearwater Creek on July 11 and 12, but had some success in the notorious surprise attack that occurred in the early morning hours of August 9. When unsuspecting Nez Perce were camped in the Big Hole prairie, Howard's men charged, shooting at and setting fire to tents as they ran, until they were repulsed by the remaining Nez Perce warriors who managed to keep them at bay just long enough to give the others a chance to flee. Soon after, the Nez Perce passed into the newly established Yellowstone Park, famously encountering unwitting tourists along the way. Their next run in with the troops was several weeks later, on September 13, at Canyon Creek. There, neither force suffered many casualties. Finally, when the Nez Perce were but two days from passing into Canada they made the error of assuming it would be safe to rest a while. Consequently they found themselves surrounded by General Howard's troops and were forced to dig in for a prolonged siege. What ensued was a fierce and lengthy battle, at the end of which many on both sides lay dead. It was there on October 5, the last day of the battle, that Chief Joseph surrendered on behalf of his band. Most of the remaining Nez Perce laid down their arms, but others, including Chief White Bird's entire band, slipped away into Canada. Among the refugees were Helping Another, Peo Peo Tholekt, and Yellow Wolf.
Nez Perce Contributors:
Chief Joseph - Born: 1840, Died: September 21, 1904.
Chief Joseph, otherwise known as Heinmot Tooyalakekt (Thunder Travelling to Mountain Heights) was among the most respected Nez Perce leaders at the time when war broke out. He was strongly against the 1863 treaty and others that reduced the size of Nez Perce land. Although he had hoped to resolve the land disputes peacefully, Joseph was forced into battle. He was a gifted orator and statesman but also commanded some of the most legendary warriors in American history. Chief Joseph was best known for leading his band across several states during the war, and for his famous speech at the Bear Paw battlefield upon his surrender during which he vowed to “fight no more forever." Subsequent to the war, Joseph was separated from his followers and sent first to Kansas and later to ‘Indian Territory’ in what is now Oklahoma. After finally being allowed to return to the Northwest in 1885, he resumed leadership of what remained of his band on the Colville Reservation at Nepselem. He resided there until his death in 1904.
Yellow Wolf (Hemene MoxMox) - Born: 1856, Died: August 21, 1935.
Like most of the other Nez Perce in Joseph's band, Yellow Wolf was born in the Wallowa Valley. A young warrior at the time of the Nez Perce War, he took part in every major battle and was wounded five separate times. For his contributions in the war, Yellow Wolf was given the rank of Chief. He chose not to surrender with Chief Joseph after the Bear Paw battle, and subsequently spent two years in Canada before returning to Idaho, at which time he was arrested and sent to the Indian Territory of Oklahoma. When he returned to the Colville Reservation in Washington State, he supplemented his income by picking hops in the Yakama Valley. It was on one of these annual trips that he encountered L. V. McWhorter for the first time. At his death in 1935, Yellow Wolf was buried on the reservation next to Chief Joseph, his uncle. Yellow Wolf's war relics in the L. V. McWhorter Native American Artifact Collection include his war club, rifle, and war whistle.
Band of Geese (Peo Peo Tholekt) - Died: 1935.
Peo Peo Tholekt was a warrior of the Looking Glass band and was active in most of the battles of the Nez Perce War. Once, after drawing back a group of federal troops, he dismantled Colonel Gibbons' howitzer that had fired on them during most of the early engagements of the war. He fled the Bear Paw battle to Canada after Chief Joseph's surrender. For his role in the war, Peo Peo was made a chief. Near the end of his life, he (along with Many Wounds and Yellow Wolf) helped to recount the events that occurred during the most significant battles of the war and assisted L. V. McWhorter in mapping and staking the battlefield sites. He also contributed by drawing detailed pictures of his experiences at the Big Hole, all of which are still held in Washington State University's McWhorter collection. Many relics of Peo Peo Tholekt were donated to L. V. McWhorter over the years; among them are his war whistle, flute, tweezers, drinking horn, and war drum.
Helping Another (Penahwenonmi) - Born: 1840, Died: March 15, 1938.
Helping Another was the wife of Wounded Head. Like him, she traveled with the Nez Perce throughout the war of 1877. During the assault at Big Hole, she hid in foliage and only narrowly escaped. Relics of Helping Another in this collection include her fleshing tool and the calendar string on which she marked the passing of the last five decades of her life.
Wounded Head (Husis Owyeen) - Died: 1912.
Wounded Head was a tribal warrior and buffalo hunter. He was a half brother of Two Moons, the warrior who initially warned Chiefs Joseph and Ollokot of coming hostilities at the start of the war. Wounded Head fought bravely in many of the battles of the Nez Perce War. He was wounded twice in the head, once severely by a bullet at the Battle of the Big Hole, then again by wood that was splintered by a shot during the crossing at Cow Island. At the Big Hole, Wounded Head recorded the Nez Perce fatalities on his drinking horn. This horn and his wolf-skin talisman are now part of the L. V. McWhorter Native American Artifact Collection.
Five Fogs (Pahka Pahtahank) - Died: August 9, 1877.
Five Fogs was a well respected warrior and son of the Paloos Chief, Hahtalekin. He was killed outside his tent at the start of the Big Hole battle while firing arrows at advancing soldiers. According to Yellow Wolf, Five Fogs fearlessly stood his ground while soldiers fired at him until being hit and killed by their fourth shot. In this collection are Five Fogs' arrows, bow, and quiver that were picked up from the battlefield by the Bannock scout, S. G. Fisher.
Creating the Database:
Headed by Laila Miletic-Vejzovic, this digital collection was created at the WSU Libraries' Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections. Under the supervision of Cheryl Gunselman, Ben DeCrease digitized slide photographs taken by the Museum of Anthropology in the 1980's by scanning them with a Nikon Super Coolscan 8000 as 4000dpi TIFFs. A second set of photographs taken by the National Parks Service in the 1970's in the form of black and white Tri-X type negatives were scanned on an Epson 10000 XL scanner as 300dpi TIFFs. Photos with multiple items were modified for clarity using Adobe Photoshop 6.0. All scans were added to CONTENTdm as 72dpi JPEG files. Research for the collection was done by Ben DeCrease using an assessment completed by Mary Collins in 1997, an appraisal report made for the National Parks Service in 1999, and the vast collection of documentation scattered throughout L. V. McWhorter's archived papers and publications. With information found in these sources, Ben DeCrease wrote descriptive metadata using the Dublin Core Elements standard under the direction of Laila Miletic-Vejzovic. Subject headings were derived from the Library of Congress' controlled vocabulary. Ben DeCrease created the graphics that accompany the collection while Alex Merrill provided technical support for website design and the use of CONTENTdm.
Viewing the Database:
Entering search terms in the box located at the top of the page will search across all of the database fields, or selecting "Browse This Collection" from the gray bar will simply browse an alphabetical list of all items. Search results are displayed as a series of thumbnail images. To view the larger image and its corresponding description, click its title.
For pictures that contain multiple artifacts, each pictured artifact is given a number that corresponds to its information. For example, if in the photo the object of interest is marked '2,' look at the data below for any fields followed by a '2' in parentheses. Field names not followed by a number apply to all objects in the photo. Pictured artifacts that could not be confirmed as being part of the McWhorter Collection are neither numbered nor described.