Born November 7, 1924, near Ferdinand, Idaho, Axtell heard tribal elders tell of the 1877 Nez Perce War.  In 1943, he left high school to join the U.S. Army.  His was one of the first units to enter Japan.  After the war, Axtell worked for Potlatch Forests Inc. from 1951-86.  In 1977, he was asked by elders to revive the Walasat (Seven Drum) spirituality.  Despite knowing little of the traditional spirituality, he accepted and eventually became a pipe carrier for his tribe–a Walasat spiritual leader, memorizing songs accompanied on hand-held drums that he constructed.  In 1997, he published his memoir, A Little Bit of Wisdom: Conversations with a Nez Perce Elder.  Axtell shared his knowledge through the Idaho Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program.  His honors include: Washington State Historical Society Peace & Friendship Award; President’s Medallion, University of Idaho; National Heritage Fellowship, National Endowment for the Arts (2008); and Elder of the Year, National Indian Education Association (2011).

 “Horace P. Axtell,” National Endowment for the Arts.  Retrieved 7/9/2020, axtell#:~:text=Bio-,Horace%20P.,clear%20the%20Nez%20Perce%20homeland.
 Jennifer Bauer, “Nez Perce elder honored for keeping language alive,” AP, 7-08, reprinted in Indian Country.  Retrieved 7/9/2020,
 “Horace P. ‘Isluumc” Axtell,” The Lewiston Tribune, 9/9/2015.  Retrieved 7/9/2020,
Photo:  Rodney Frey, 2007. Horace Axtell receiving a gift from Jan Johnson at the March 2007 Sapatq'ayn Cinema.  Courtesy of Rodney Frey and Jan Johnson of the University of Idaho.  Source: Horace Axtell receiving a gift from Jan Johnson at the March 2007 Sapatq (

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