2021 Cohort

First Indian Presbyterian Church

Kamiah, Idaho

First Indian Presbyterian Church in Kamiah, Idaho, is the oldest Protestant church in continuous use in Idaho and the long-term religious, social, educational, and familial hub for the Nikessa village on the Nez Perce Indian Reservation.

First Indian Presbyterian Church by Volkard Graf

First Indian Presbyterian Church by Volkard Graf

2021 Cohort

First Indian Presbyterian Church

Kamiah, Idaho

First Indian Presbyterian Church in Kamiah, Idaho, is the oldest Protestant church in continuous use in Idaho and the long-term religious, social, educational, and familial hub for the Nikessa village on the Nez Perce Indian Reservation.

Tribal members, including Chief Lawyer, founded the church with Protestant missionaries in December 1971. Lawyer had encountered the Lewis and Clark Expedition and interacted with explorers for decades, piquing his interest in the “Book of Heaven” and leading him to befriend missionaries. The church was built in 1873 by the United States Cavalry. The First Indian community remained relatively isolated until the 1940s, when tribal members enlisted in World War II and the construction of Highway 12 divided the village, furthering racial segregation.

Today, the congregation maintains the responsibility of “serving as the caretaker of their lands, natural resources, church, dining hall and outbuildings, and cemetery along with the personal growth and spiritual development” of members. First Indian identifies as an “extended family network.” The church is a focal point in the community for education, socialization, voter education, healthcare, gardening, and economic growth. First Indian serves as a food distribution site and emergency shelter, and members have assisted in supporting families and fire crews during local forest fires.

First Indian Church will receive a National Fund grant of $100,000. With an additional $100,000 in matching funds raised by the congregation, the church will complete interior and exterior repairs and upgrades. The project will involve compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, HVAC and lighting upgrades, ceiling restoration, window repair, and replacement of the cedar shake roof.

First Indian Presbyterian Church courtesy First Indian Presbyterian Church

Stories and Media Coverage

Read more about how the National Fund for Sacred Places is helping congregations around the country rehabilitate their sacred places.

Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church by Luis P. Gutierrez