Suzette Lavadour

Pardon the use of the s—word that is no longer politically correct.  The following is an excerpt from J.H. Horner who associated with the Indians of the Wallowa Valley at the turn of the 20th century.  He captured some beautiful and funny remembrances of our people in the ceded territories, interpreted in the colloquialisms of that era.  He was friends with Otis Halfmoon, Nez Perce patriarch, whose descendants belong to our tribes.  Here is his bio from the Oregon Historical Society which has given Tamástslikt permission to quote J.H. Horner’s writing. 

John Harland Horner (1870-1953) was born in Kansas City, Missouri, and moved to Enterprise, Oregon, in 1911. A life-long bachelor, he served as Wallowa County’s deputy assessor from 1918 to 1924, before being elected county assessor in 1924. Horner also had a long-standing interest in the history of Wallowa County. For more than thirty years, he collected historical information and interviewed most of the area’s early settlers and local Native Americans. His research resulted in an unpublished manuscript of more than 1,500 pages titled Wallowa River and Valley. Horner committed suicide on July 13, 1953, at the age of 83. (Oregon Historical Society)

“One noticeable thing in the early days among the Squaws, especially, the younger ones among the Nez Perces and Umitillas, was their adeptness in using their paint on their faces. The Base of this paint was a red mineral substance or soft red rock Which when exposed to the weather, became hard. But would dissolve to a red sand in water. Several old Indians told me they got it at a certain place in the higher mountains South of the Valley. Which they mixed with some kind of coloring vegetable matter and deer, bear or elk grease and roasted it in a solid mass and scraped off as they needed it. As I have been told by several Indians it was a secret process in making. And those that had mirrors would sit on a stone, log or flat on the ground and with a piece of Buckskin, well tanned, dip it in the paint and rub it on their cheeks, temples and over their eyes. Then they would begin gradually, working the paint out around their cheeks and temples, till it blended almost perfectly, with its duskey surroundings.  In fact, one could not tell whether it was a natural blush or not. The blend was so gradually connected with the duskey skin, that it resembled the blending of colors on the pedals of flowers..And had a velvety appearance. The older Squaws did not go to so much trouble. But daubed it on profuse; as some of the White sisters do at the present day. Those that didn’t have Mirrors, went to the creek, where there was a calm unruffled patch of water and use it for a Mirror. And it was astonishing how perfectly, they painted from this. I have seen young Squaws, painting their lovers faces, taking a great deal of pains in it.  As they would turn their faces different ways to see the effect of the rays of sunlight on it.”


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