Created by the hands of our Nimiipuu ancestors. Collected and given away by a missionary. Moved across the country and passed from father to son then to college and museum. Rediscovered decades later, the fight began to reclaim these treasured items back into the hands of the people who created them.
And now, we welcome them home.
Preview the collection below:
Timeline of the Spalding-Allen Collection
1830s The Nez Perce were beginning to interact with other human beings, Europeans with very different value systems. Nez Perce artisans were continuing to create unique and beautiful clothing to be worn for special occasions. The clothing was adorned with coveted shells, the hides of deer, buffalo, and elk, and beautiful, complex beadwork. The clothing hand-crafted by the Nez Perce was viewed as a symbol of an unenlightened life by Christian missionaries, including Henry Spalding, a Presbyterian minister sent to bring the Bible to the Nez Perce people. Spalding—recognizing the value of the Nez Perce items in the trade for commodities, instructed that wearing such items was contrary to a Christian lifestyle.
Mid-1840s, as Spalding acquired these traditional Nez Perce items, he sent them to Dr. Dudley Allen, a benefactor in Ohio whom he had met while attending divinity school and with whom he had corresponded regarding the items between 1845 and 1847.
1893 Following Dr. Allen’s death, his son donated the items, known as the Spalding-Allen Collection, to Oberlin College. Oberlin College in turn loaned most, but not all, of the collection to the Ohio Historical Society, now known as the Ohio Historical Connection. The Nez Perce items were never displayed at Oberlin College or the Ohio Historical Connection.
1976, a museum visitor notified the Nez Perce National Historical Park (“Park”) curators about the Nez Perce artifacts held at the Ohio Historical Connection. The Park reached out to the museum and after some negotiations, the Ohio Historical Connection agreed to loan the collection to the Park. The Nez Perce items, housed in specially built display cases, remained on display at the Park for nearly 20 years.
1993, the Ohio Historical Connection notified the Park that they wanted the items permanently returned to them which triggered a series of events that resulted in the Tribe reacquiring this important collection
1995—absent federal protections that would allow the Tribe to retain what was rightfully theirs—the Tribe, through negotiations, agreed to purchase the collection from the Ohio Historical Connection for its full appraised value of $608,100 to be paid within six months
2021 The Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee created a Committee to plan a celebration acknowledging the return of the artifacts to the Nez Perce homeland, and most importantly, to appropriately rename the collection. The Committee is excited to come together with friends, both old and new, to celebrate this monumental event.