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At Tamkaliks, Wallowa Nez Perce come to compete, connect, and commemorate

Photo by Brian Bull, KLCC
Dancers gather in the space known as the Arbor to compete at the Tamkaliks pow-wow in Wallowa.

After a two-year pandemic hiatus, a large cultural gathering returned to northeastern Oregon this past weekend: the 30th anniversary Tamkaliks celebration.

Dozens of dancers dressed in feathers, beadwork, and porcupine quills marked each pow-wow’s grand entry. Regional drum groups played as well, with a procession of Appaloosa horses circling the gathering for other events.

The Tamkaliks gathering is for descendants of the Wallowa Band of Nez Perce who were forced off their lands in 1877 and pursued by the U.S. Army, before surrendering just shy of the Canadian border.

Photo by Brian Bull, KLCC
Bobbie Conner, who is of Umatilla, Cayuse, and Nez Perce heritage, with one of her horses.

Bobbie Conner is one of the event organizers.

“We believe the land hears our prayers. Feels our footsteps on the earth. And the land is happy to welcome us back. But we also believe that there is a light in the earth, that lights up when we bring ceremony to the landscape. And it lights up our hearts when we gather to celebrate this magnificent country that we come from," she said.

Another event commemorated Native children who went missing during the boarding school era.

One cause for celebration this year besides renewing Tamkaliks, is the Nez Perce Tribe’s recent acquisition of 148 acres that formerly formed an ancestral village in the town of Joseph.

Note: KLCC reporter Brian Bull is a member of the Wallowa Band of Nez Perce.