I’ve told many that my paranormal historical trilogy, Spirit of the Mountain, Spirit of the Lake, and Spirit of the Sky were the books of my heart. I just didn’t realize how long my interest and admiration for the Wallowa Nez Perce has been inside of me. While helping clean up my dad’s house this past weekend I found paintings I did when I was in my early teens. I floored me to see that I had been invested in the first inhabitants of the valley where I lived back then.
The trilogy is about a trio of siblings the Creator made spirits to oversee the Lake Nimiipuu or the band of Nez Perce who lived in the NE corner of Oregon in the Wallowa country. The area where I grew up.
To write the books I did a lot of research. Here is some of what I dug up to help me write the
second book in the trilogy. This story has a pregnant heroine, which led me to devote hours reading books about the Nez Perce customs and social living aspects to learn all I could about pregnancy and child birth.
The Nez Perce women had specific jobs. They gathered roots, berries and herbs as well as the firewood. It was their job to keep the fire going all night during the winter months. They were the cooks, the ones who dried and stored the meat, fish, berries and roots. Tanned the hides, made the clothing, wove baskets and constructed the dwellings. They did everything needed to sustain a family other than hunt, prepare weapons, and fight. If need be, they could hunt for smaller animals, fight, and take care of weapons though it was not one of their jobs.
During battles women provided fresh horses, food, and water for the warriors, tended the wounded, warned others of danger, directed children and the old people where to hide and how to leave when their encampments were attacked. If a husband was shot they could pick up his gun and fight. They also cooked and gathered wood during attacks, keeping the children, old people, and warriors fed during the attacks and battles.
Pregnant women still did most of the chores right up until the moment they started labor. Some would have miscarriages from long periods of riding horses in the last months of pregnancy-usually during campaigns of fighting.
If a woman was pregnant they believed their man would have bad luck hunting. She was also not allowed to see any part of a kill—blood, skinning. They feared her child would be born deformed. They also didn't touch, view, or ridicule any deformed animals or humans, fearing it would cause their child the same misfortune. They didn't tie knots or do things symbolic of obstructing the birth.
A wide strip of buckskin was tied around their bellies. This was believed to protect the child. After the birth, this strip was burned or buried, giving the child a healthy, strong body. They did everything to keep the baby safe. The Nez Perce wanted to build a large strong tribe.
When a woman started labor she was isolated in a small dwelling with either an older family member or a mid-wife. If there were complications the Ti-wet (medicine man) was called in. The dwelling had a hole dug in the middle of the structure. The blood and after birth were put in this hole and buried. The umbilical cord was kept in a small leather pouch attached to the cradleboard. It is believed to be bad luck to destroy such an intimate part of the baby.
The cradle board is made by a relative. The baby is transported and tended in the board until he is ready to walk. Children were breast fed for several years. This was one of their ways to contribute to birth control. Other ways were with herbs.
You can click on the books on the side bar and it will take you to my website and excerpts to the books as well as buy links.
Sources: Nez Perce Women in Transition, 1877-1990- Caroline James; NeeMePoo – Allen P. Slickpoo Sr. and Deward E. Walker Jr.