Information on this page comes from A Little Bit of Wisdom: Conversations with a Nez Perce Elder by Horace Axtell and Margo Aragon (Confluence Press, Lewiston ID, 1997. ISBN 1-881090-23-X. 217pp. $25 retail or $17 plus about $4 shipping online. I got my copy through A1books. It's a good idea to check dealpilot.com to find the best price among the online bookstores. Just type "A Little Bit of Wisdom" into the title, click search, and follow the instructions.
A separate American Axtell lineage started in 1885 when a Nez Perce (pronounced nezz purse) Indian in northern Idaho took the name Stephen Axtell to be eligible for a grant of land. He had a son named William Whitman Axtell who married Nellie Moody in 1923. Their only child was Horace Percy Axtell (born 7 Nov 1924), named after Horace Moody, an uncle, and his father's friend, Percy, the postmaster in Stites, Idaho. Horace's Indian name is "Isluumts", after his grandfather. Horace is a great-grandfather, so the Stephen Axtell lineage has 6 generations now.
In A Little Bit of Wisdom, the first chapter, "It's Good to Have an Indian Name", starts:
In 1885 they gave allotments to adult people so they could go and claim a piece of ground to live on. The people had to have an English name. .... A lot of them really didn't think about this. My grandfather, on my dad's side, went in there and somebody told him that he should use the name "Stephen." That was his first name, "Stephen."
They asked, "What's your name?"
And he said "Stephen."
"And your last name?"
So he said, "`Isluumts." His Indian name.
"No, that's not going to work. You gotta have a last name. An English name."
So he said, "Well, I gotta go find a name."
He started to leave and this secretary that worked in the survey office there told him, "Well, here. You can use my last name." Her name was Axtell. That's where we got the name Axtell.
I got letters from this group back east somewhere, that have the Axtell name, inviting me to some of their gatherings, whatever they do. But I wrote back and told them, "I don't know if I would fit into your Axtell society because I am a Nez Perce Indian." So now I don't get any more letters.
I haven't yet figured out who that secretary in northern Idaho in 1885 was. I'm guessing the letters were for the last national reunion in 1962 before the AFO faded away. He probably got no more letters simply because no one got letters after that. Under Article III of the AFO bylaws, he could not have been a voting member because he was not descended from Thomas Axtell of Sudbury. Sadly, he was correct; he would not have fit into our Axtell society back in 1962. That's all history now, as absurd as the "No Indians Allowed" signs that he remembers in Lewiston, Idaho in the 1940's. Today, it would be a treat if his family came to an Axtell reunion.
Horace Axtell first got national exposure as the subject of a documentary in 1992. He made national news in 1997 (see: article) when he blessed the newly recovered ancestral lands of the Nez Perce in Willowa County, Oregon. He is active in preserving the Nez Perce language (his first language) and teaches the language and culture at Lewis-Clark State College in Idaho. Here's a picture of him at the Bear Paw Battlefield in Montana in 1994.
Some Axtells have a 350-year lineage in America. Then again, some have evidence that their American lineage goes back 10,000 years.
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