“Lofty, elegantly formed, active and durable;” described explorer Meriwether Lewis in 1806, “in short, many of them look like fine English coursers.” The spotted horses of the Nez Percé were unlike any he and William Clark had ever seen. Named by the Nez Percé after the Palouse River, these wildly colored horses were believed to be gifts from the gods.
In 1877, the Nez Percé entered a war with the U.S. government and the entire tribe with its several thousand carefully bred horses, embarked on a journey that would take them 1,300 miles toward the safe haven of Canada. Only forty miles from the border, the Nez Percé were besieged and outnumbered by the U.S. cavalry. Forced to surrender, Chief Joseph and his captured people were taken far from their homeland. Their exceptional horses, which Chief Joseph referred to as “my children,” were deliberately killed by the U.S. cavalry in attempt to thwart any further escape by the Nez Percé and also to crush the spirit of the Nez Percé by killing their animal companions. The U.S. Government sought to annihilate the tribal horses much as they sought to destroy the buffalo.
Only a few horses were lost in the mountains, sold in the east or hidden away by ranchers. By the beginning of the 20th century, fewer than 300 Appaloosa horses remained.
“The Protesters” portrays three prized Nez Percé horses, running for their very lives, in an attempt to evade the three U.S. cavalry soldiers (hidden in their coats) bent on their destruction. These horses represent the spirit of the Nez Percé, which continues to survive against all odds.
The time consuming art of scratchboard is unrivaled in its detail, allowing Judy’s seemless concealment of imagery within her subject.