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"Lawyer" of the Nez Perce

In 1855, when Governor Stevens urged the Columbia River tribes to establish reservations by treaty, he found support from a Christian Nez Perce leader called Lawyer. A direct descendant of Twisted Hair (the man who had guided Lewis and Clark down the Columbia in 1805), Lawyer was convinced that his community should negotiate with the aggressive outsiders.

In 1863, when the Nez Perce lands were being overrun by miners and squatters, Lawyer again advised negotiating. The treaty approved that year recognized Lawyer to be the “Head Chief” of the “Nez Perce Nation.” When photographer Edward Curtis visited the Nez Perces in 1905, Lawyer’s son, James Lawyer, posed for this portrait. Note the peace medal he is wearing.

Edward S. Curtis. “Lawyer—Nez Perce,” in North American Indian Portfolio, 1907-1930.

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