Nimiipuu Nurtures Emerging Environmental Leaders

Lapwai, Idaho
A Potlatch Fund Grantee Partner

When the Nimiipuu launched the canoe they’d built on the Snake River in 2017, it was the first tribal canoe on their ancestral waters in 113 years.

More widely known as the Nez Perce Tribe of Lapwai, Idaho, the Nimiipuu have long been active stewards of their traditional homelands, working to protect the health of the environment by sponsoring educational summits and workshops, partnering with other environmental organizations, and advocating for the removal of the four lower Snake River dams.

Building and launching a tribal canoe was a natural continuation of this mission, entwined with the vision of a free-flowing river and access to traditional lands for fishing, hunting and gathering food, according to Julian Matthews, coordinator for Nimiipuu Protecting the Environment’s Canoe Project.

Traveling by water was a vital part of the Nimiipuu’s culture and lifestyle—and something that was lost with the construction of the dams. Canoes connect the Nimiipuu to their roles as stewards of the rivers that sustain not only the tribe but the environment around them as well.

“We want to be able to go on that river with our canoes and be unimpeded, but right now with those four dams, we can’t,” Matthews says.

The project involved multiple generations. Parents shaped and carved the canoe alongside their children. Elders shared skills and brought nutritious food for the groups of children who eagerly showed up each day to help.

Each youth and adult was given the tools and instruction to carve their own paddles to be used on the Canoe Journey.

Building the first canoe in more than 100 years was just the beginning of the Nimiipuu’s healing journey.

Potlatch Fund is honored to support the work of Nimiipuu Protecting the Environment   VISIT THEIR WEBSITE 
Grants Received from Potlatch Fund: 2016 Native Arts, 2018 Community Building, 2020 Critical Response 

Press Releases:
Pandemic reveals immense need – Potlatch Fund commits to raising additional $7 million for its Resiliency Fund
Native-Led Potlatch Fund Is Asking The Native Community To “Bring Us Your Dreams.”

More about the Resiliency Fund:
The Resiliency Fund Reveals an Immense and Enduring Need in Native Communities.
Potlatch Fund and the Future of Philanthropy
To Our Resiliency Fund Grantee Partners–Keep Sending Us Your Dreams
Announcing New Resiliency Fund

Stories from our Grantee Partners:
Indigenous Weaver, Ace Baker Sr.
The Young Warrior Society
Nimiipuu Nurtures Emerging Environmental Leaders

For Grantee Partners:

Resiliency Fund Application Information Here: Bring Us Your Dreams

If you are interested in supporting the Resiliency Fund: email us to discuss your giving or donate here to support the Resiliency Fund.