• Speaker reexamines imprisonment of Nez Perce

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  • Katie Peterson | Staff Writer
    A discussion questioning popular accounts of the Nez Perce imprisonment at Fort Leavenworth highlighted the quarterly Friends of the Frontier Army Museum membership night Jan. 30 at the Frontier Army Museum.
    Combined Arms Center Command Historian Kelvin Crow’s lecture, “No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: The Nez Perce Imprisonment on Fort Leavenworth 1877-1878 and How History Misremembered It,” presented evidence that painted a more accurate picture.
    His lecture gave proof that current historic documents use only four primary sources in the retelling of history — the “1878 Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs,” “The Council Fire,” tribal memory, and “The Nez Perce War of 1977” — which suggest that the Nez Perce Indians were not treated well while imprisoned at Fort Leavenworth. However, in Crow’s research, he found six other primary sources — newspaper clippings, including from the Leavenworth Times; biographical material; medical reports; financial reports; illustrations and maps; and period treatment of soldiers — which dispute that claim and suggest that the Nez Perce Indians were actually treated with a great deal of respect and care.
    FFAM President Marianne Eldridge said Crow’s findings directly coincide with what the FFAM is about.
    “It was interesting for him to extend his search beyond the four resources that had been quoted in the recent past and determine that the recent information kind of clouds the underlying truth of what was going on. In relation to the museum, our goal is to try to uncover and preserve these artifacts as they were originally intended,” she said.
    “Sometimes things are changed or renovated or tweaked in some fashion to make them more appropriate to a certain age, but our goal is to take them back to their original purpose and their original form.”
    FFAM has more than 200 members currently, and membership includes participation in all FFAM activities and events, discounted tickets for the Haunted Homes and Historic Homes tours, volunteer opportunities and opportunities to participate in voting at the semi-annual membership meetings and become a member of the board.
    “FFAM was started (more than 20 years ago) with a group of ladies that called themselves the Musettes and their focus was to help raise awareness and funds for the museum because monies for antiquities, etc., was not available to maintaining some of these artifacts,” Eldridge said. “So, some of the local ladies decided to start trying to raise money to help keep the artifacts updated and renovated and bring in new things.”
    Eldridge said the name eventually changed to FFAM due to increase in male members as the Musettes were predominantly female, and the main mission of FFAM is to continue the work the Musettes started.
    Page 2 of 2 - “It’s to increase awareness and funding to help support the museum and maintain museum artifacts,” she said. “Bringing awareness to the community and also helping financially maintain the museum’s historic artifacts (and) provide community outreach through education.”
    Eldridge said there are several positive benefits to becoming an FFAM member.
    “The museum is here offering an opportunity to learn a little bit more about what life has been like through the decades on the prairie and around Leavenworth area (bringing) a wonderful resource, and helping us stay connected to the history of the old west and the beginning of Fort Leavenworth,” she said. “It’s also a great opportunity to hear speakers, share information and get to know like-minded people (and) make lasting friendships.”
    FFAM member and Army spouse Ivey Virgil said she was looking to get involved after her family arrived last fall.
    “As I’m getting older, I’m enjoying more and more learning the history about different areas,” Virgil said. “I had the opportunity to volunteer on the board and as soon as they asked me to do it, I grabbed it up. I wanted to be involved in something, but I also think that this is a unique place and a unique opportunity just to learn more about the history.”
    To become a member, visit www.ffam.us/membership.html to complete the membership application. Cost is $20 for an annual membership or $75 for a lifetime membership, which includes a Tribute Trail Brick outside the FAM and a copy of “The Girl I Left Behind Me” by Ernst Ulmer. The next FFAM membership night is from 6-8 p.m. May 1 at the FAM.
    Upcoming events include Family Movie Night featuring “Night at the Museum” at 4 p.m. Feb. 11 at the Post Theater; “A Night at the Frontier Army Museum” at 6 p.m. March 2 at FAM; and the Tour of Historic Homes 1-6 p.m. April 29.
    For more information about membership and upcoming events, visit www.ffam.us or the FFAM Facebook page.
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