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  • Writer's pictureLouisa Willcox

Episode 53 - Lucii Simpson Keynote

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.


This was a story that my father told me when I was a young girl. He said that there were these young boys who were out hunting for deer, elk, or moose… They had been told, “Never kill a grizzly bear.” While they were hunting, they had no luck at getting any game. When they approached a meadow, they saw a grizzly bear by a log. The young hunter shot the bear. Upon inspecting the kill, which came to rest on a downed log, the young hunters saw, much to their dismay and sorrow, that it was an old Indian man slumped over that log. The young hunter had killed a departed human spirit traveling in the form of a grizzly bear.

And that's why grizzly bears mean a lot to us. The grizzly bear is one of the honored animals of the Nimiipuu. One of our Nimiipuu warriors was named Red Grizzly Bear or Xah-xahs ill-pillp, which means red grizzly bear. Xah-xahs ill-pillp was a tribal warrior with 80 battle scars upon his body, and he survived many battles throughout his life.

…We have to consider everything, especially if we all plan to live in this world together… We need not think about race, color, or anything like that. We need to think about a humanistic approach, where we help each other achieve the same goal. We have something in common here, and that is the grizzly bear, so we need to do our best to work for the grizzly bear.

We can’t just look at today. We have to look at tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow. I raised my children. I raised my grandchildren; I helped raise my great-grandchildren. I teach them the ways that I know and how to be good to one another. I teach them not to be racist and to get along with everybody. That's the way it is.

Look out for grizzly bear. Keep grizzly bear in your mind and in your heart. Let him have a long, long life on this earth for we still need him here today. And we thank you for the prayers and thoughts that go out to the grizzly bear.

Lucii Simpson Keynote transcript 3.27.24
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