For more than 90 years, the Oregon-Idaho Conference of The United Methodist Church has owned the Wallowa Lake Camp outside of Joseph.
The camp encompasses 52 acres, including 1.5 acres of Wallowa River property with the potential to be restored as sockeye salmon spawning habitat.
During a ceremony 1 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 1, at the camp, 84522 Church Lane, tribal leaders will join with United Methodist officials to celebrate the return of this 1.5 acres of land to the Nez Perce tribe by transferring the property deed.
The celebration will also include symbolic gestures of return, prayer, music and storytelling.
The property holds meaning for the Nez Perce Tribe because of the spiritual, environmental, ecological and historical significance of Wallowa Lake and the surrounding area, according to Greg Nelson, Director of Communications for the Methodist church.
“Oregon-Idaho United Methodists’ relationship with the Nimi’ipuu (Nez Perce) homeland began in 1922 with the first event at Wallowa Lake followed by the purchase of the property in 1923,” Nelson said.
As the years have passed the conference’s relationship with the Nez Perce has evolved as it was fostered by persons who served as pastors in the Joseph, Elgin and Enterprise congregations, as well as staff at the Wallowa Lake Camp.
The Nez Perce Tribe, based in Lapwai, Idaho, has held two culture camps each summer for elementary and high school aged children since 2000.
“This annual interaction has gifted both the tribe and United Methodists with learning and understanding,” Nelson said. “Because of this, the relationship has deepened and, in the summer of 2016, a meaningful step was taken when the Nez Perce flag began being flown alongside the US flag at the camp.
“We hope this is another step on our journey toward healing and peace between the church and the tribe,” said Rev. Todd Bartlett, Executive Director of Camp and Retreat Ministries for the Methodists.
The Wallowa Lake Camp is owned and operated through the Oregon-Idaho Conference of The United Methodist Church and its Board of Camp and Retreat Ministries. The board operates six sites in the two states with a mission to create quality environments of Christian hospitality and learning. The sites serve religiously affiliated groups, schools and educational bodies, families, service organizations and other nonprofits.
The Nez Perce Tribe is located on a 750,000 acres reservation. Seventeen million acres in what is now Idaho, Oregon, Washington and Montana made up the tribe’s original homeland.