The Ohio Historical Society’s board agreed Friday to sell rare Nez Perce artifacts to tribal officials, allowing the collection to remain in Idaho.
Tribal leaders will pay $583,100 to keep the 19 items of clothing, baskets and a saddle on display at the Nez Perce National Historic Park in its Spalding, Idaho, visitors center. The tribe has until June to make the payment.
“We knew they (tribal leaders) very much wanted to do this,” said Ann Frazier, spokeswoman for the Ohio Historical Society in Columbus, which owns the artifacts.
Sam Penney, chairman of the tribal executive committee, declined to comment Friday because he hadn’t heard the details of the board’s decision.
The only condition of the sale is that tribal leaders agree to keep the artifacts on public display.
“Of course we knew that wasn’t a problem,” Frazier said.
Tribal members sold the rare collection in the 1840s to Henry Spalding, a Presbyterian minister from Ohio, who in turn gave them to Dudley Allen, an Ohio physician.
In 1930, Allen’s family members gave the collection to Oberlin College, which gave it to the historical society. The collection has been in the historical society’s hands for 53 years.
This fall, society members told the National Park Service to send the artifacts back to Ohio for storage. Tribal members, not sure if the collection could be purchased, held a farewell ceremony.
In addition to regaining the artifacts, the tribe has agreed to purchase for an additional $25,000 a cradle board that’s part of the collection but is not on display.
“It’s an apparatus an infant would have been strapped to and then carried on a mother or father’s back,” Frazier said.
The tribe now faces the prospect of raising money. This fall, Nez Perce leaders asked for last-minute donations and collected only $2,000.
Tribal leaders have said they expected raising money would be easier once an agreement was in hand for the Nez Perce to repurchase the artifacts.
The historical society, too, is confident the tribe will find the cash, Frazier said.
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