Ohio History Connection Reimburses Nez Perce Tribe’s Purchase of Wetxuuwiitin Collection

Lapwai, Idaho- On June 25, 2021, the Nez Perce Tribe (Tribe) celebrated the 25th anniversary of the return of a collection of 21 Nez Perce artifacts crafted by Nez Perce men and women in the 1800s. This collection, formerly referred to as the Spalding-Allen collection (Collection), was also given the Nez Perce name Wetxuuwiitin, at the celebration. The name means “Returned home after a period of captivity” and was another important step to help shed the colonial legacy surrounding the history of these items and reclaim this important part of Nez Perce culture.


The collection was purchased back from the Ohio History Collection after a rapid six-month fundraising endeavor in 1996. Current representatives from the, now known as, Ohio History Connection were able to attend the event. “As delighted as I was to learn about the renaming of the Wetxuuwíitin collection, the invitation was also a painful reminder of the shameful mistreatment and marginalization of American Indians since the arrival of Europeans on the North American continent,” said Burt Logan, Ohio History Connection Executive Director and CEO. “Our leadership, including myself and current staff and Board, was not aware of the Wetxuuwíitin Collection and its purchase by the Nez Perce Tribe until I received the kind invitation.”


The Ohio History Connection followed up their participation in the June celebration with a return visit to the Nez Perce Reservation on November 23, 2021 to return the $608,100 the Tribe raised in 1996 to purchase the Collection. The funds came from Ohio History Connection’s Foundation. “This summer we diligently sought to learn as much as possible, and to process what this means to our organization. If the Wetxuuwíitin Collection was in the possession of the Ohio History Connection today, we would freely return these items to their rightful home. With this clear conclusion, our Board of Trustees voted at its September 2021 meeting to return $608,100 to the Tribe,” said Logan.


The Tribe formally accepted the return of the purchase monies during its Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee meeting. “We are pleased to see this wrong, corrected. To this day there seems to be a common misunderstanding of the significance of items such as those in the Wetxuuwíitin Collection. To us these are not pieces of art or décor, they are pieces of us and they retain the spirits of our ancestors,” said Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee Chairman, Samuel Penny. “These items are priceless, though we did not agree with having to purchase these items back in 1996, we knew at that time we had to bring them home regardless of the cost. These healing steps– bringing the items home, providing a fitting name and now reimbursement — give our people hope and build on that connection that’s been missing for far too long.”