Long awaited Chief Joseph Rest Area opens at Nespelem

Dedication ceremony unveils more than a new rest stop


The near $400,000 Chief Joseph Rest Stop in Nespelem was dedicated with all the fanfare an historic place could muster.
The only thing that dampened the celebration was the weather. The umbrellas were out, but it didn’t stop a number of people from listening to the speakers and drummers, who seemed to ignore the rain, sleet and snow.
Virgil “Smoker” Marchand told of the development of the rest stop from its concept to the finish. He was responsible for the sculptured art pieces throughout the rest stop area, but many others contributed time, expertise and equipment.
A giant 8-foot steel sculpture of Chief Joseph is the centerpiece, along with a feathered headdress and other steel art objects placed about the monument area alongside SR-155. It also features 12 large columns of basalt, supplied by Young’s Welding, with the names of each of the 12 bands that make up the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation.
Chief Joseph’s band of Nez Perce was not originally among them, but were sent here later by agreement with Chief Moses. The band’s presence has been the source of some controversy on the reservation, and at least one Nez Perce elder noted the significance of the new monument and the cooperation it took to build it.
“We are finally accepted,” declared Frank Andrews, 87, a former mayor of Nespelem, “and it feels good.”



Marchand singled out former Nespelem mayor Colleen Leskinen as being a strong supporter of the project. And he ran through a history of the project, which he said he had inherited from earlier tribal Planning Department officials, and its many supporters and helpers.
The project was financed largely by a $377,000 grant of federal money through the state Department of Transportation, whose officials stated they plan to nominate the rest stop for an award, noting a more recent trend toward not funding public art.
The Chief Joseph Rest Stop is on the Coulee Corridor, a nationally designated scenic byway from Othello to Omak.
The new rest stop replaces an earlier monument to Chief Joseph that was located on the same site.






About Scott Hunter

Editor of The Star newspaper in Grand Coulee, observer of life, history, patterns in things that matter.
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