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Harry Slickpoo Jr. Becomes First Nez Perce Educator to Receive Idaho Educator Certification for Nimiipuutimpt Advocacy

Lapwai, ID – February 29, 2024 A momentous occasion unfolded this week as Mr. Harry Slickpoo Jr., known by his Nez Perce name, tisqeˀ ˀilp’ilp, became the first Nez Perce educator and advocate for nimiipuutimpt, the Nez Perce language and culture, to receive the Idaho Educator Certification. This historic achievement occurred on International Mother Tongue Day, February 21, 2024.


Mr. Slickpoo’s journey is deeply rooted in a steadfast commitment to the Nez Perce Tribe and its cultural heritage. It traces back to October 23, 2001, when the Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee (NPTEC) passed Resolution NP-02-42 in resolute support of Idaho Legislation’s passage of the “American Indian Language Teaching Certification” Senate Bill 1411.


Under the provisions of TITLE 33 EDUCATION, Chapter 12 Teachers (33-1280), Mr. Slickpoo has championed the autonomy granted to tribes in Idaho to qualify individuals from their own tribe, enabling them to teach nimiipuutimpt in any school district in the State of Idaho, regardless of traditional academic credentials. This legislation, signed into law on March 25, 2002, by Governor Dirk Kempthorne and effective on July 1, 2002, embodies a pivotal step toward cultural preservation and educational equity.


In April 2023, Mr. Slickpoo sought approval from the honorable Nez Perce Tribe Circle of Elders, a momentous occasion where his endeavor to obtain nimiipuutimpt, Nez Perce Language Qualification garnered unanimous support. Subsequently, on July 25, 2023, the NPTEC passed a resolution during a Special NPTEC Meeting, affirming Mr. Slickpoo’s eligibility to receive both tribal and state certification as a teacher of nimiipuutimpt, the Nez Perce Language.


With an illustrious career spanning over a decade, Mr. Slickpoo has dedicated himself to learning and teaching nimiipuutimpt. His journey commenced in 2012 with the Nez Perce Language Program, first as a Language Intern, then as a Language Technician. Since 2019, he has been serving at Northwest Indian College—Nez Perce Site. Mr. Slickpoo has been instrumental in bringing together the three Nez Perce Language speaking communities of the Nez Perce Tribe in Idaho, the Confederated Colville Tribes at Nespelem, Washington, and the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation at Mission, Oregon. Notably, since the beginning of the academic year 2023-2024, Mr. Slickpoo has brought his expertise to Lewiston High School, enriching the lives of students with the invaluable gift of the Nez Perce language and culture. Additionally, he has served as a linguist/cultural consultant to Nez Perce Tourism, providing guidance in the Nez Perce (Nee-Me-Poo) National Historic Trail and Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest place name projects, furthering the preservation and sharing of nimiipuutimpt and Nez Perce culture.


“I am deeply honored and humbled by the unwavering support of my community, students, and colleagues throughout this journey,” remarked Mr. Slickpoo. “This certification not only validates the dedication of those before me but also reaffirms our collective commitment to preserving and revitalizing the nimiipuutimpt, Nez Perce Language for future generations.”


Mr. Slickpoo extends his heartfelt gratitude to the Nez Perce Circle of Elders, the Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee (including those that served in 2001-2002 that made this law in Idaho possible), Northwest Indian College, all the elder speakers who have shown him a better understanding of the Nez Perce Language—both past and present—and to his loving family for always supporting his efforts in language preservation and revitalization. He also acknowledges the Nez Perce Tribe Communications representatives for their support and assistance in capturing the memorable moment alongside the NPTEC.

Image from Tuesday, February 27, 2024, taken og Harry Slickpoo Jr. with NPTEC in the Richard Halfmoon Chambers in Lapwai, Idaho. (Left to Right): Ryan Oatman, Ferris Paisano III, Rachel Edwards, Mary Jane Miles, Harry H. Slickpoo Jr., Ashton Picard, Samuel N. Penney, and Shirley Allman. (Not Pictured): Shannon Wheeler and Elizabeth Arthur-Attao.