First Peoples

Heart of the Monster

This is the heart of the monster. This is ?Ilcwé.wcixnim timíne. This is where the nimi.pu began. This is where the people got started. The real people, as they call themselves. This is where the Nez Perce were born, more than 10,000 years ago. In this valley around the remains of the monster’s heart, and in the bowl of the missing monster that was blocking the nimi.pu’s entrance (the glacier, or the glacier’s lake), the people began. They spread out across the land in the forms of this place that made them. I travelled in a big circle through a small part of this territory today, and every village site was written on the land in the terms of the missing bones of the monster, and of those powers that came in its absence to help the people.heart2I’m on the road. There’s no time to give you the whole story, but I’ll give you a hint. See those hills above Kamiah, Idaho? Well, they could be the hills above the land that is my own bones, in Cawston, British Columbia. It’s just that here, far to the south and east, the first people of the first people learned to live on the new land. They learned it from living in pit houses around the heart of the monster. Pit houses, by the way, are this shape. The Nimi.pu spread out from there, up the empty tentacles of the monster. We call those river valleys now, to our poverty and ignorance. Other people went further. To the Similkameen, for example. And here we are. All of us. We, who owe Itseléyeh, or Spillyay, or Sen’klip, or Coyote, a land to live on, owe him this story, of the death of the monster, even if he ran away. In a glacial flood, that’s the thing to do. And then you come back. Imagine how I’m feeling today, to have found this heart, and this empty space, and these helpers, and this story, that I’ve always lived, without knowing its words. What a day it’s been!

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