Turtle Island Storyteller Josiah Pinkham

My Indian name is Tipyelehne Cimuuxcimux

Josiah Pinkham

My name is Josiah Black Eagle Pinkham. I’m a member of the Nez Perce tribe. I was born on the Yakama Reservation, but shortly after birth raised on the Nez Perce Indian Reservation. That’s the only place that I’ve basically gone to school as far as my formal non-traditional education. Most of what I’ve learned comes from studying, listening and watching some of the old people. I guess they’re the ones that reared me and taught me what I know.

My Indian name is Tipyelehne Cimuuxcimux and that’s loosely translated as Black Eagle, a name passed onto me by my grandmother that was held by one of her brothers. It’s a long line of Black Eagles. There are numerous Black Eagles that stretch back into the years, the early formative years of our Nez Perce people.

No telling how far it goes back because many of the stories that have to do with Coyote and various people or animal people that are key characters in our oral traditions. Black Eagle was one of them and so it is indeed a very old name.

I guess in a matter of a few words that’s my personal history. My family history is the Pinkham name. The first Nez Perce Pinkham to have the name was a warrior in the Nez Perce War in 1877. After he survived that ordeal he was given the name in order to get an allotment here on the Nez Perce Indian Reservation.

We do have family members that served in the Nez Perce War. That’s part of what I talk about amidst the Coyote stories and various other oral traditions that we know about. I also discuss the contemporary Nez Perce as well as Nez Perce language efforts to perpetuate the Nez Perce language.

There’s a host of different things that I discuss in my presentations. Lewis and Clark stuff seems to be something that people are oftentimes interested in hearing about and I’m always eager to share some of the things that I learned from our old people over here on the Nez Perce Reservation—our perspectives and the arrival of Lewis and Clark, how they changed things, for good and bad, and how our old people prophesied that time and how those prophesies came to be true.

I guess another aspect is Nez Perce song and dance. Sometimes I’m asked to talk about those things as well.


Josiah Pinkham

Josiah and Tamahsat Pinkham

Josiah Blackeagle Pinkham is Nez Perce or Nimiipuu. He resides on the Nez Perce Reservation in Lapwai, Idaho. His Nez Perce name is Tipyelehne Cimuuxcimux and it is commonly translated as Blackeagle. Josiah’s father, Allen Pinkham Sr., is a Nez Perce and Josiah’s mother, Shirley Mosqueda, is a Yakama. There are many figures in his family that would be known by historians. Some of them are Red Grizzly Bear, elder Chief Joseph, and John Pinkham who fought in the Nez Perce War of 1877 as a young man.

Originally the Nez Perce occupied southeastern Washington, northeastern Oregon, the central area of the northern Pan Handle of Idaho and western Montana. Today the reservation is near Lewiston, Idaho, where the states of Washington, Oregon and Idaho meet. There are high mountains, lots of forested areas, beautiful rivers and valleys.

Josiah is an Ethnographer, which involves cultural research and documentation. He graduated with honors from Lewis and Clark State College in Lewiston, Idaho with a degree in Native American Studies and Psychology.

He shares storytelling, history, culture, very early oral traditions that were learned from elders, and stories that were documented a long time ago. Josiah often shares the Nez Perce creation story as well as numerous coyote stories. Some stories are about family history and the Nez Perce War. He also knows first contact stories of the Nez Perce with white people. He likes to give a variety of backgrounds of past and present life, and where the Nez Perce will be in the future. He is knowledgeable about Nimiipuu material culture and cultural and arts and crafts. When giving presentations, Josiah brings many items of material culture such as craftwork, beadwork, isaaptakay, or parfleches, which were used to carry food, clothing, tools, etc. A lot of the items he or his family made or were inherited from his people. He also discusses the history of some tribal dances and songs, and occasionally sings songs as a part of his presentation. One cultural practice he has learned about from his elders is the Qiloowawya. It is a ceremony that was held when the Nez Perce were sending people off to Buffalo country, battle or a long journey. He also discusses issues regarding the environment, health, tribal government, tribal politics.

Josiah has given presentations to groups of all ages and backgrounds. The groups include young children, college students, tour groups, elder hostel programs, museums, and interpretive centers. His talks have taken him all over the northwest in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, as well as several trips to Europe for cultural exchanges.

Josiah Pinkham
PO Box 685
Lapwai, ID 83540
[email protected]

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