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  • Writer's pictureLouisa Willcox

Episode 52 - Lucii Simpson Interview

Lucii Simpson

Lucii Simpson is a Nez Perce tribal elder and member of Nimiipuu Protecting the Environment, a tribal grassroots organization. The name Nimiipuu means “the people” which is what the Nez Perce call themselves. The group works to save Idaho and Eastern Washington's vast waterways, including the Salmon, Snake, and Clearwater Rivers and the salmon and aquatic life that depend on them. They also work on behalf of wolves, grizzlies, and other wildlife—the plants and their ecosystems.

Lucii is a teacher, an artist, a doll maker, an expert on plants and native medicines, and a great-grandmother.

Lucii has two degrees, both from the white world and the Indian world, in policing and criminal law enforcement. She even went undercover. She was on the ground floor of the Nez Perce Tribal Law Enforcement Department and, indeed, its first woman.


I went to D.C. to meet with representatives on Capitol Hill as a tribal elder…I met with Mike Simpson—we hit it off well because we both had the name Simpson. I explained how I got the name Simpson: my deceased husband’s family got that name from the fur company, the Hudson Bay Fur Company—Simpson Fur Company. My husband was a friend of Simpson and didn't have an English name, so Simpson said, “Go ahead and take mine.” Mike Simpson said, “Wow, that's great.” So, we connected right off the bat… You must connect somewhere. You have to take a humanistic approach to do things like that.

My uncle told me this Palouse story: There was Grizzly Bear and Coyote. Grizzly Bear was walking back and forth and fishing. And he stepped on a baby coyote and killed it. You know how big the grizzly bear is… Coyote was mad. “You killed my pup.” Coyote said, “I'm going to get you back, Grizzly Bear.” He goes and digs a deep pit, and he puts fir boughs on top to cover over that pit. Then Grizzly comes along, and he falls into that pit. And Coyote slayed him. And then Coyote cooked him up, and he invited all his friends to eat grizzly bear. So, they all came and ate. Since this happened, they have become enemies for life. The grizzly bear has its own territory that the coyote cannot cross, and the grizzly bear doesn't go into the coyote’s territory. They leave each other alone now.

I have an eagle fan that… I brush people with when they were recovering from alcohol and drug addiction and different things… I put buckskin on it and it kept falling off. I went to sleep one night, and the Creator came to me. And he said, “Lucinda, don't put anything on this. The eagle is the closest thing to me. You can see an eagle that's a dot in the sky. That's sacred. And so, don't put any buckskin on the fan because the healing comes from the feathers.” So, my little great-granddaughter, three years old, had a feather at home that she picked up and started feathering her mom. She said, “This is what granny does. She feathers us.”

One day, I see my belongings, my regalia, possibly in a museum because one day, there won’t be any Nez Perce left. My mother was full-blood Nez Perce, and she's gone. And what about the rest of us? One day, we're not going to be here. But we need to teach what we can about nature, spirituality, things that will help the Earth, and being one with the Earth.

I say that the kids also need to be involved with this, because that's where we start. We start with youth. We teach them about nature and animals. We let them know the humanistic approach to them.

Lucii Simpson Interview transcript 3.27.24
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