Nez Perce Tribe Purchases 148 Acres in Joseph, Oregon

Joseph, Oregon- On December 9, 2020, the Nez Perce Tribe (Tribe) completed the purchase of Am’sáaxpa, Place of Boulders, a 148-acre property located in Joseph, Oregon. Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee (NPTEC) Chairman, Shannon Wheeler and Secretary, Rachel Edwards were there to complete the paperwork.


“This has been a project in the works for some time and there were several people involved in making this purchase a reality,” stated Chairman Wheeler. “This purchase is a wonderful step in the reestablishment of a Nez Perce presence in the homeland of our people. We know our ancestors are smiling to see us returning home.”


The property, previously known as the Hayes Property, is located behind the rodeo grounds. The property includes ¾ miles of Wallowa River frontage with certain water rights. It consists of farm and riparian land, with a pristine view of the Wallowa Mountain range. 


This site, known as a traditional Nez Perce village site, is overlooked by a ridge known as a council site for Chief Joseph.  During the spring of 1877, Chief Joseph and his band were forced out of the Wallowa Valley.  His band at this point consisted of about 400, with approximately only 60 warriors. They headed for the Nez Perce reservation in Idaho, crossing the Snake River at what is now Dug Bar in Hells Canyon. At the time they did not know it, but Joseph’s band would never be allowed to return to their homeland again.  Acquisition of this property will allow the Tribe to continue its efforts to preserve its footprint in this area.


“…My son, never forget my dying words. This country holds your father’s body. Never sell the bones of your father and your mother. I pressed my father’s hand, and told him I would protect his grave with my life. My father smiled and passed away to the spirit land. I buried him in that beautiful valley of Winding Waters. I love that land more than all the rest of the world.” – Chief Joseph