Horace P. Axtell is a Nez Perce tribal historian, language preservationist, storyteller, drum maker, and singer. He spent his youth listening to and learning from tribal elders, some of whom had survived the 1877 War resulting from President Ulysses Grant's attempts to clear the Nez Perce homeland. Now a respected elder himself and a pipe carrier for his tribe, Axtell is a spiritual leader of the Seven-Drum Religion. This traditional religion of the tribes of the plateau requires that practitioners memorize songs and accompany them on handmade, hand-held drums. Axtell continues to construct the drums in the old way, curing the hide and stretching it over a wooden frame. In 1997, Axtell's memoir A Little Bit of Wisdom: Conversations With a Nez Perce Elder, published by Confluence Press and recently reprinted by the University of Oklahoma Press, became the first printed memoir of a Nez Perce elder in more than 50 years. Axtell has passed along his knowledge and skills through the Idaho Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program. His efforts have been recognized with the Washington State Historical Society Peace and Friendship Award, an honorary doctorate from Lewis-Clark State College, and the President's Medallion from the University of Idaho.
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