This Was Our Shangri-la
Painting - Oil On Canvas
It was the home of the Nez Perce people, a band led by Old Chief Joseph during the late 19th century. Now we know it as Wallowa Lake in Oregon, an area ringed by mountains and filled with trees. It is a beautiful place, a sacred place, and for many many generations a division of the Nez Perce people called this their summer home.
Old Chief Joseph loved and treasured this land. At one point, in the mid 19th century when the lives of the indigenous people of the West were turning beyond their ability to stop it, Old Chief Joseph brought a Presbyterian missionary, Henry Spalding, to the lake.
Joseph thought Spalding was his friend, a man who saw him as his equal, and he brought him here to show him something most dear to his heart. Because that’s what we do with friends – we share our lives with them.
Spalding, however, was not the friend Joseph thought he was. Standing there, side by side with this great and wise man, Spalding looked out at the landscape and saw the possibility for white settlers there. The only thing in the way of such success were . . . the Indians.
The painting, This Was Our Shangri-La, invites the viewer to stand where Joseph and Spalding stood, to see what they saw, what the Nez Perce people saw, in days that were not so very long ago.
It is still a beautiful place. The lake is clear and cold, the mountains majestic as they ring about the water, protectively. Now, tourists come here to paddle about on the water, hike the trails, hear and feel the wilderness silence that the Nez Perce people so treasured.
But the spirit of the Nez Perce is still here, the voices of their children playing echoing in the background to the sounds of today. It is worth knowing the story, reading the history, and pondering upon it.
Because while we ourselves were not there to do what Spalding did, we can choose, today, to not to be as he was. When someone is our friend, a fellow human being, and rightly considers himself our equal, we can honor that.
Featured on 46 Fine Art America Groups.
Second Place Winner in the Fine Art America sponsored contest, Not the Same Old Paintings -- July 2020
June 19th, 2020
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