Lee Riner and John Nelson

Recorded July 11, 2020 Archived July 11, 2020 36:39 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: mby019899


Good friends Lee Riner [no age given] and John Nelson [no age given] talk about their memories of the geographical and human histories that surround them.

Subject Log / Time Code

J.R. talks about surveying land for traces of gold and what it's like to prepare a mine.
L.R. reflects on what it's been like to work with native tribes.
L.R. shares a funny memory of traveling to a hot spring with her sister on an inflatable raft.
L.R. describes watching a bear diving into the river on a hot day. "He was really chowing down on the berries."
L.R. and J.R. talk about Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce, as well as the geographical histories of the valley.
L.R. talks about the histories of native children removed from their homes and placed in the hands of white families. She wonders, "What does it mean to be 'Indian' when you've been forced into orphanages and foster homes?"


  • Lee Riner
  • John Nelson


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00:02 Hello, my name is Lee River and I'm in my sixties. Today's date is Saturday, July 11th in Oregon. I am here with John and we're very very good friends.

00:20 I'm good morning. My name is John Nelson. Today is July 11th, and I'm visiting with Lisa about our experiences and and the Lewiston Clarkston area. What do you remember when you first came to the Lewiston, Clarkston Valley?

00:45 I've driven through the area once and then the Snake River comes into the Lewiston Clarkston area south of Lewiston, Idaho. The Salmon River drains in I worked up the Salmon River where it comes out of the salmon Wilderness in the 1980s as a land surveyor.

01:17 They needed somebody do some land surveying in that area that area is known for mining originally 1/8 in the 1880s 1870s the Prospectors would the pan for gold in the streams and follow the sign of the gold up to streams and locate veins in the Rock a lot of hard rock there and then they would mind the veins that they came across.

01:54 Will do you remember any funny stories of working up in that area for the cage John? I went to Challis, Idaho and we went up to the camp which is 10 miles up above the town and there was a crew there to stake a hundred square miles of mining claims, which is a big big area in the old days and individual would stake one claim and then try to pan for gold or mine. But this whole project was created by an investor out of Boise who had been told I was informed by God that there was gold. They're not that well, that's whatever he wants, you know, so he hired a crew to stay gold claims.

02:53 And the crew the supervisor was from Boulder. So they hired these unemployed college rock climbers to the gold claims and they would take string boxes and go up and down ridges and measure whatever the size of a claim was in those days and put a monument at Four Corners. And then I was as a surveyor would survey the roads and trails to join the boundaries. When I arrive there they were there at a mine site and the my friend who had informed us of the job and we've gone there to go to work.

03:41 I said that they had wanted me to survey into the mine. So the gentleman had bottom line and in addition he was taking his girl claims. So this friend of mine says, yeah, they want you to survey the mind to see how deep it is. And by the way, do you know how much a cubit is? I thought well, you know cubed as a measurement in the Bible and which I thought was kind of curious and we had to figure out the relationship between lineal foot and a cubit so that the mine could be I think I think they wanted at five hundred cubits long. So whatever so we shouldn't we surveyed the mind and determine its length and gave the owner conversion factor so they could continue mining mine and the technique is to go in there drill the face at the mine put explosives in blow the tunnel blow the faces of mine clean out the debris.

04:42 And after maybe a week of that they would go in and hose down the inside of the mine and then the owner and a geologist walk into the mine and look for prices of gold or silver veins or combination of that and that was a big secret deal and they would whisper to each other inside the mind while I looked at me and I got the idea I can also

05:08 Is there and the guy that believes that he had gotten his information from God to put this mine in here? Is that what you're saying? That's what I was told.

05:20 That was his thing all the other people working. There were just either students from folder or construction workers from the

05:30 Boise or something and so they had a camp and the Foreman's wife was the cook and she informed us that it was very difficult for this construction workers to work on this project because the people downtown

05:46 Find it kind of funny that we were looking for gold because God told us it was there and or told the owner that was there. So I spent two months taking gold claims in the mountains for a

06:00 For this honor who had messages from from God.

06:06 So when you were out there.

06:11 Country some trees, but most of the time pretty Barren Rocky really hilly and Steve some places. Did you see many animals and he snakes yeah, if there was a lot of grass and some trees it's kind of an arid area of so rattlesnakes like arid areas and grass. So I was walking down a trail one day and there was a rattlesnake in front of me in

06:36 Ice step back real fast in the snake went up the hill and

06:44 The snake was about 3 ft long. So I needed to continue on the trail cuz it was easier to walk that way. So I slowly walked forward and looked up the hill looking for the snake and I could see the snake up above here on your Rhonda clump of grass trying to see where I was.

07:04 So anyway snakes are pretty innocuous. The poisonous ones want to get away from you and you want to get away from them. So they're not as dangerous as people. Think did you see minute Bears out there when you were surveying?

07:22 It was kind of funny. We came around the corner one day and there was a pond of water and it looked across the pond and there was a bear it was about 85u00b0 in the bear was sitting in the water any put he lifted his head up with a question kind of expression. Like do I have to move now?

07:42 So we have two barrel on it's so much fun to see Bears out there. I know that I remember seeing a lot of beers. Talk to you in Lewiston Clarkston area. Let's face it lewiston-clarkston is on the boundary of Washington state, Idaho and really near Oregon. So it's it's not the four corners, but it's almost at 3 corners and is pretty dang remote. Of course. She has a nurse prescribe out there. A lot of different tribes are in that area. I know I've worked with tribes over a decade and generally are working with tribes has a lot of fun because essentially least what I have found is that tribal members are in the here-and-now then many of us now I am of anglo-saxon Descent, of course, my grandparents came over to this country in the 18 hundreds. And so

08:42 When I'm around 5 O members many times. They they really care about having fun and being in the here and now they don't they aren't so prone like many of us to save our money for the future or two. It's you large vast sums of in her checking accounts. They want to have fun right now. So it's really cool and great. Don't you have some relations that are tribal members John. So the another relationship with the Lewiston Clarkston areas of the Lewis and Clark expedition camper there in 1804. They came across Montana where I grew up and the furthest point North and their Journey was up near the Blackfoot reservation and I have my sister is married to a member of the tribe with their butt Lisa you remember isn't that Lewis and Clark's an area where the Nez Perce tribe is.

09:42 As you said Lewiston Lewis and Clark went across the United States a hundred years ago for more than two hundred and

09:56 220 years ago, you know that we we have gone on essentially the deer run across the trails and then tribal members went across the trails were hundreds of years. And then the white man came Lewis and Clark started using the trails and then they became roads and then easiest way to get around these mountains. Yeah there a lot of real cool tribes in the area. And I know I remember once when I was near the Nez Perce tribe, there's a place where you can get on a boat and go up the river and of course the Snake River and the Salmon River come together. There could be rustic Insurance of the river is as you're going towards Hells Canyon and I was over there and I got on one of these boats that goes up the river and so it was a pretty big boat there about 10 12 of us on the boat in the brakes.

10:56 I need a little we did have our coats on because in the spring or fall it's it's still pretty chilly up there. Anyway, we had some great big motors on this boat and we started up this River and for the first half an hour or so, you saw a little Farms once in a while, you're going up these mountains up this River up this River and then you get more and more steep mountains coming down to the river and no houses and then no more trees and it's really rough and Rocky still going up this River up. This river is wide river and its really slowing real hard and it was windy because the winds come down these Canyons where the river river is, it was cold and windy and all our hair is flying around with trying to stay on the boat because

11:48 There a lot of rappaccini's rivers in his you know, when these great big boulders come down and fall into the river and then the river has to flow over the top of the Boulder and so basically have Rapids so the man who was our guide now, I can't remember cuz this is a bunch of years ago, but I can't remember if the man who was driving the boat is a tribal member or not, but he he was really good he knew how to get around each section of Boulder is that each section of rivers? We're going further and further towards Hells Canyon, of course Hells Canyon is a really wild and crazy place cuz there's hardly anybody out there. No roads know nothing except a bunch of a probably coyotes and Eagles and Hawks. And so anyway to get up to the for over an hour we go up this River around been around been going up rapids holding on for dear life. Great big.

12:49 Waves coming out is because the boulders and they kind of form waves and it's really hard for this boat to get over these Boulders around these Boulders and stuff. And so at last we come to the Lewis and Clark still part of where the Snake River and the Salmon River come together that influence and that's really a special place because used two rivers are kind of you know for the trouble and where was at least the ones who are my friends tell me about the stuff you let's face it there very special place very holy Place water is life and you don't have water you don't got nothing. So anyway, they The Boatman did have a little dog there at the influence of the two rivers and we can get out from the boat cuz we have been on this boat for over an hour and we had to go to the bathroom real bad. So well aligned up at the porta potty and then they think they had a

13:49 The water for us to drink before we had to get back in the boat to go back to civilization, but them.

13:56 Yeah, there are a lot of neat places in the city further up the Snake River even though there's some dams there. There's some reservoirs and then you go to a hot tub up the Snake River there Lisa little that sounds like fun. So we went out on the truck taking the truck. We got the drill for an hour to up this River and was a big river and

14:33 I think it was part of really a reservoir because I think one of them load of describing Rivers have been dammed up there near Hell's Canyon. But anyway, we blew up this life. I don't know 10 years or so ago and we were in our 50s and so are we get into the raffle start of rolling across this River? We had two little plastic pedals and we're rolling and I could get across this doggone thing and it's pretty rare in the Rocky on the other side. That's all I could say. It was what three four five hundred feet across or something like that anyway to get up to over there and my sister scrambles up the bank and we are follower. And in the last week of this hot springs on the side of this mountain and I usually make a pool.

15:33 Full of rocks and mud so yeah on the top of the hot springs with a bunch of leaves and stuff. The leaves off and we got in the hot tub for the hot springs brother cuz it was muddled around wasn't tub of mud. And we got in the mud and he's having a pretty good time went on for about an hour and stop getting dark. So we thought we better get back in that start across toward back for the truck now, so we scrambled back down tour.

16:04 To our little

16:07 Boat like thing and we got back in with pedal back across and got back in the truck went all the way to back to town pretty dark and got to my sister's cabin where she and her husband is Bill.

16:20 It hurt baby water gone out in the cabin. I think I don't know if they lost electricity to the past week or so, but we didn't have any water in the oven. So we just wait we thought well, we've been in the hot tub for quite a while probably pretty doggone clean. So anyway, we put on our pajamas and then next morning we looked and because the hot springs have been filled with a poison ivy poison oak leaves my sister and I were both covered by all these Bumps by all these sores cuz we were terribly allergic to poison ivy poison oak and soon as we saw it we knew what it was cuz he's been fighting this all our lives cuz we like to hack like a lot and you have to be really careful that stuff when you're through allergenic to a Sony way. We went over to the neighbors as quick as I could and took a long hot shower, but it took like 2 weeks or so or maybe even a month for all those

17:20 Ms to go away it was really gross but you're not allergic to that stuff already. John poison oak wasn't there some Wildlife along that stretch the river to we were I think was near that same Reservoir driven out quite a bit of time that support of quite a few years later and we saw someone waiting on the other side of the river some moving something big couldn't tell what it was good until it was a big guy or what it was some walking on the banks and then something whatever this thing was dropped into the water. And so I was really curious what does green between was but I couldn't see it really well because it was so far over there. So

18:16 The wind got some binoculars out of the truck will anyway I come to find out what's great big brown bear black bear and he jumped in the water cuz it's so dang hot. It was about a hundred degrees router. So 95 degrees Fahrenheit and he was swimming down a great big bear and having a wonderful time. It seems like he was looking around and Down the River there were some other boaters. I could see down half mile way. You are some voters down there and I didn't want to point the bear because let's face it.

18:57 Lot of times when you get onto rural areas, they want to kill everything they see. So anyway, I didn't want to point it cuz I didn't want these people to come over and kill the bear. But anyway, a lot of the bear got out of the out of the river and on the bank and and huckleberries all kinds of berries in especially in the fall of the late summer and so he was really challenging down. It was really cool thing to see right and then aren't there somewhere there's lots of deer there. Did you ever see any mom cheap letter? And did you think when you went up to Snake River we did see some mountain sheep on that in the boat.

19:51 But when you go up the Snake River, it's very narrow and very rugged and we were talking about the Nez Perce Indians. They used to build boats out of skin and widths widths, but bout boat boss and they would float back and forth across the river and when Chief Joseph was running away from the US Army, they would cross the Snake River in with their horses and men and women and children and leave the soldiers on the other side. What year was that? He was fused with the Nez Perce tribe wasn't he? That's correct. Yes what happened while he was gone hunting? What hat? What did the rest of his tribe too? Well, the there was a

20:52 Divided in the bands and there was Chief Joseph. There was several bands with Chief Joseph. They were out hunting the bands that were back in the valley. He had signed a treaty to give away most of their land to the federal government, which was giving it to settlers.

21:13 And Chief Joseph hadn't agreed to that. So there was some young members of the tribe. They were very angry chief told us that told him to calm down but they killed a settlor and precipitated Chief Joseph's run to try to get to Canada over the next month's John. Well, they were afraid the soldiers are coming the rest of all because some young men had killed killed the settlor or two and that the young man had also cornered a group of 13 soldiers that had gone to arrest them and they had killed that group of soldiers as well.

21:58 So the Indians are afraid that they're going to be

22:02 I prosecuted.

22:05 So, is that a dream custard Custer's Last Day?

22:09 It's very good question. I think it was two years after Custer. Okay.

22:15 So I'm near the Lewiston Clarkston Valley if you go east there is Lolo Hot Springs in Montana. And you were raised in Montana. And what do you remember about Lolo John its entrance. There's some hot springs on the pass. So the Nez Perce used to go from their reservation area there over Lolo pass down into the Bitterroot Valley, which is the famous Travelers Rest for Lewis and Clark stop in 1805.

22:56 Solo sitar can come up the Missouri River to Salmon, Idaho. They could not get up. The sent down. The Salmon River is too rough. So then they went North to Travelers Rest as they call it which is where the Lolo Pass road comes down into the Bitterroot Valley south of Missoula. So they Lewis and Clark stayed there for several days, and then they traveled West

23:26 Up and over Lolo pass to Lewiston.

23:31 Idaho, you know, I'm the Lolo pass.

23:36 What do they call the resting place Travelers Rest Travelers Rest? So that's near Lolo Hot Springs and we were there recently hiking and the Sacagawea was Lady by The Machinist first Tribal member John. She was lady that she actually was married to who which one is married to Charbonneau who was a French Trapper and he was with the Lewis Lewis and Clark. They hired him to be the guy all the way to Astoria, Oregon and Sacagawea and charbonneau's and those little baby journeyed with them all the way to a story and back, you know, the history of this area is just so rich and so beautiful all these wonderful stories of the settlers and the Indians and the

24:36 Indians of course have their giveaways. I know when I work for the Indian tribe.

24:45 Basically a giveaway as when everybody in the Triad wants to participate and let's face it many of these tribes. Now, their population is about 2,000. Too much more than that, but many of the tribal members who are my age in their sixties bill when they talk to you when you get to know them and they actually open up and speak about their lives. All the ones that are my age in their sixties told me, you know, I was taken away from my parents because my parents did X Y and Z in the white people didn't like it and so I was removed from the home and I had to I was given to foster homes and so each one of these friends of mine across the reservation will not go inside their home and talk to them. They would tell me about their lives. They would tell me about the sad sad situation that

25:39 Many many tribal members, you know during the 1950's right after World War. I guess the white people didn't think that the tribal members were raising their children sufficiently said, they took these little children out of the house and put them in orphanages forgave him to Foster families. Usually white people more white people. And so these sad stories my friends would tell me you said stories about being raised and then suddenly realizing as they're getting older and older in these Foster families that they were tribal and maybe many times are there Foster family would tell them your you know, your nose pierced or your queen alter your

26:23 Shoshone where you're at

26:27 What's the Grove on? Yes Grove honor your Blackfoot tribe in these young people would suddenly realize cheese. I am an Indian and that's why I'm a little darker than the rest of my family. And so then it would be a huge Discovery. What does it mean to be an ended? Because they realize they're their skin problems a little darker than their first your family. And so many of my friends told me wonderful stories about the growing up and last warning to see their own people and they would go through adoption agency in and so then of course many of them moved back to the reservation once they became adults because they could prove that they were tribal it was in their birth records perhaps I could find it and then because many times on tribal reservation as you're not allowed to live on the reservation unless you can prove your blood form, so they were able to prove their blood for him and many of my friends like nowadays. I'm any reservations. It's 1/16 of a blood for him. You have to have friable and so

27:27 So they were able to prove that their tribal in and said in there get to live on reservation and many reservations people to help people on reservations get a lot of money from the federal government know they don't because they they essentially have to live off the land to go fishing a lot or they hunt near Lewiston Idaho to speak about because I don't want to give any names away but other reservations, what about you trying to mean you had your friend lived on reservation, then you have a Malcolm live on reservation.

28:15 Out-of-state plates Princeton from northern Montana, but there was a very strong cultural link between reservation people different tribe. So there was quite a bit this quite a bit in a marriage within the Native American culture from try reservation the reservation so they meet each other in college and they're similar similar culturally so they get married and you'll see license plates from two states away consistently in different areas because they're from different tribal areas. It's kind of unique in your classroom John. Yes, they would they would bust the

29:11 The junior high and high school kids 60 miles every day to attend school nowadays. They have their own Junior High and High School in their own towns, but there's a lot of busing in the when I was a kid Elementary School in my mother and my sister both had on the on the Blackfoot reservation. But can you think of any more memories of the Snake River area Lisa or

29:53 Well, I remember that them.

29:56 I remember seeing.

29:59 I remember being on the Dual see reservation and that's it Way east of a lewiston-clarkston and I remember being out there and the tribal archaeologist was following us because we were going over these hills and mountains and every once in a while you come to a hill and Mountain where historically tribal members would sit on top of the hill or mountain lion make flint arrowheads and they would sharpen their arrowheads. And so I remember once the animals because the animals and not never been around people who are hunting high and I don't know why this was cuz before travel numbers hunt but this was in the early 80s or so and I remember the little foxes would come by you and they'll actually look at you. It's like they had never seen a person before and they were really curious the foxes and they were really sweet and nice and then they just go trotting.

30:59 On your own way or the crows will come by and look at you and wonder who you are and it was funny because I've done love hiking in my life and in Montana and Washington and Idaho working and I've never seen animals them. So unaffected by humans. They didn't realize that humans want to kill everything we see sometimes and it seems like the way the guns guns guns in our country right now, every everybody wants to get it done until something. So anyway, it was fun to have those memories of being able to see these little animals had no fear no fear of humans. Well, when you work out in the either federal land or private land you required to have to hire an archaeologist to you're not allowed to drive off road and less than archaeologist checks out the area. So I think his name was George would follow us around but it was funny cuz George was afraid of bears and there were

31:59 In what year was The Traveler, but we're out there one day and I can hear him rushing around in the bushes behind be so I waited.

32:11 Yeah, I waited for him to get kind of close and I shook some brushes.

32:16 Elgoog fear

32:21 Yeah, yeah. Well, you know, I'm afraid of something. Yeah, you know, it's funny because they're having so many animals around you and and having them not afraid of us. They were more Curious and there was just a wonderful feeling I have never yet. You just startled me to think of it now basically was kind of like having you know, because they talk about heaven the lamb and the lion laying down together and in a way on the Dulce reservation out in and that's the way it was the animals weren't really afraid of each other. They were just in no wonder the tribal members have all these stories about coyote the animal or the bear stories with the stories about Crow because they got up got to see these animals have get to enjoy their presents.

33:15 Those are wonderful stories, so

33:23 I can't think of anything else going on in that area to talk about is going to ask you if I remember what we had to rent housing in some of these little town and we would drive around a little town looking for a fur inside. This is in the early eighties and every once in awhile, you need somebody to put out a for rent sign and then you go up and knock the door and this is when you have pay phones down at the end of the corner if you were lucky, you know, nobody had to sell cell phone or anything and I remember once we taught them the store and either in Idaho this old or older white lady came to the door and I come to find and she rented us a little cabin. And so we moved in and I remember we were in her living room and all her life. She had been in living this little town.

34:23 And she also with her husband and children had been hikers. So you're not course. We're on Federal and you're not allowed to pick up anything nowadays that's is heavily in force, but Arrowhead there anything you find but but I remember this older white lady she and her family had picked up a lot of arrowheads in her house on all the walls were these beautiful brain drain arrowheads and she had sewn onto purple velvet and then she had frame them put them under glass and so every wall had all these arrowheads. There must have been thousands of Arrowhead cuz she had sewn onto this purple velvet and all these different configurations of arrowheads. It was so beautiful. And of course she had some stories to tell when she was in her nineties she told us and that there was some really neat people out there and fill out towns even now

35:20 Yeah, it's completely illegal now, but she said that in the summer they used to dig caves with their grandmother.

35:28 5 minutes 5 minutes

35:35 I was trying to think of the any snow stories that you wanted to tell John Herman the Snows in the winter. Wonderful snow stories. Remember? Well remember he was with the Burlington Northern with for 50 years and once Grandpa was on the engineer on the on the Burlington Northern and what happened? I just hooked together to plows the people in the front and a wing plow in the second engine and the first plow hits a snowdrift and went through the second file didn't go through the snowdrifts. So that it to engine the pain shared between the two steam engines and the guys in the second engine were afraid to look out the window because they would hit and smash it would kill you if your head hit the window, so nothing happened, but lots of snow stories.

36:34 Good good.