Samuel "Suhm-Keen" Tilden

Lewiston Morning Tribune
Saturday, Jan. 30, 1965

Samuel Tilden, 97-Year-Old Nephew Of Chief Joseph, Dead

Samuel Tilden, a nephew of the famous young Chief Joseph and one of the last survivors of the Nez Perce Indian War, died at the Orchards Nursing Home about 6:30 last night of the infirmities of age. He was either 97 or 98 and had been a resident of the nursing home most of the time since September, 1960. He had lived at Lapwai for many years before that.

Tilden, whose Nez Perce name was Suhm-Keen (Shirt On), was the son of We-Ahch-Chech-Kan (Packing Blankets). His mother was Ka-Too-Cham-Mihay (Horse Chewing Grass Noisily). He was born in 1867 or 1868 while his parents were hunting on the Musselshell River. He was about 10 when he accompanied the tribe on its 1,800 mile running battle with the U.S. Cavalry in Montana which ended with Joseph's famous surrender speech to Col. Nelson A. Miles in 1877.

He and his parents escaped from the battlefield near the Bear Paw Mountains in northcentral Montana, thus avoiding banishment to Oklahoma which Joseph and the rest of his band suffered following the surrender.

They lived with the Sioux Indians in Canada until the following year, when they returned to Montana, living for two years on a ranch. In 1880 the moved to the Flathead Indian reservation, remaining there until 1910.

Tilden then returned with his parents to Lapwai, where he had lived most of the time since.

Tilden was one of the first two Nez Perces to attend Carlisle Indian College in Pennsylvania. After completing his schooling there he returned to Lapwai, where he served on the reservation police force. He later moved with his wife, Amy, to the Flathead reservation. He worked as a teamster and then joined the reservation police force, serving 20 years. After retiring he again returned to Lapwai.

One of Tilden's proudest memories was of a trip he made to Washington, D.C., with Chief Joseph in 1903. He went there as a check on an interpreter.

Sang Old Chants

In recent years Tilden had made numerous appearances before historical societies and other groups interested in the history of the area and its people. On such occasions he took pleasure in singing war chants and tribal songs.

He was a pioneer member of the Luna House Historical Society.

Surviving are two sons, Lawrence of Lapwai and Ralph of Spokane; a stepdaughter, Mrs. Lizzie Courville, Glenwood, Wash.; and three grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. The body is a Vassar-Rawls Funeral Home.

Contributed by Natalie Huntley

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