National Historical Park Preserves Nez Perce History, Culture

Date:   September 14, 2006

Tony Jewett, NPCA Northern Rockies Senior Director,
Office: 406.495.1560, Cell: 406.431.8408
Shannon Andrea, NPCA Media Relations Manager, 202.454.3371

National Historical Park Preserves Nez Perce History, Culture

New Study Finds Funding Shortfalls Prevent Park Upgrades

Helena, MT – A new study released today by the National Parks Conservation Association’s (NPCA) Center for State of the Parks indicates that funding and staffing shortfalls at Nez Perce National Historical Park limit the park’s ability to make necessary museum renovations, research historic structures, and facilitate interpretative programs that tell the story and history of the Nez Perce people. 

“The National Park Service plays an important role in preserving, interpreting, and commemorating the Nez Perce history and culture,” said NPCA’s Northern Rockies Senior Director Tony Jewett.  “Additional funding will help park staff improve the experiences of visitors and make the necessary upgrades to share the remarkable stories of the Nez Perce.”

According to NPCA’s new assessment, the park requires additional funding to redesign outdated museum exhibits to more accurately convey the significance and culture of the Nez Perce people.  Upgrades would improve accessibility to the artifacts, enhance interpretive efforts, and provide better protection for historic treasures.  Despite the hard work of park staff, the exhibit design currently is outdated, cases are small, and objects may be damaged by strong light. Park staff is also concerned that the pipes could leak and damage museum collections now stored in the basement of the visitor center. 

“The park’s world-class museum and archival collection offers a wealth of archaeological, historical and ethnographic materials relating to all aspects of the Nez Perce culture and history,” said Jewett. “We must work to preserve and protect them for present and future generations to enjoy.”

Additional funds are also needed to research the park’s historic structures, which would promote a more thorough understanding of the history behind the Nez Perce Reservation. For example, further research is needed at the Spalding Site to study the historic structures and cultural significance of the Agency Log Building and Agent’s House. Additional funding and staffing would provide great potential for adaptive or interpretive use, and increase the public’s understanding of the Euro-American influence on Nez Perce culture.

The park works closely with cultural resource managers from the Nez Perce, Umatilla, and Coville Confederated tribes to document, preserve, and protect archaeological, historical, and traditional properties on NPS managed lands.  An increase in funding would facilitate additional preservation efforts and help establish interpretive programs to teach park visitors about the significance of protecting cultural resources.

“Our national parks are short more than $600 million annually—a situation that directly affects the experiences of park visitors and the preservation of the nation’s treasures,” said Jewett.  “NPCA’s new assessment provides an important reminder that our parks need full funding to preserve the places that capture America’s heritage.”

The Nez Perce National Historical Park was established to facilitate the preservation and interpretation of sites pertaining to Nez Perce culture, the Lewis and Clark expedition, the fur trade, missionary activities, gold mining, logging, and the Nez Perce War of 1877.  The park sites link together the interpretive themes and Nez Perce story.  The Nez Perce National Historical Park administers nine sites, while state, tribal, local, or other federal agencies manage the remaining 29 sties.  The Park Service partners with these landowners to facilitate resource protection.

NPCA launched the landmark Center for the State of the Parks program in 2000 to assess the health of national parks across the country.  The new report, National Parks Along the Lewis and Clark Trail, assesses the cultural and natural resources at six national parks associated with the Lewis and Clark expedition.  To view a copy of the full report, visit

Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association has been the leading voice of the American people in protecting and enhancing our National Park System. NPCA, its 300,000 members, and partners work together to protect the park system and preserve our nation’s natural, historical, and cultural heritage for generations to come.  To help save our national parks, visit NPCA’s Take Action Center at

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