Beth Erdey, PhD, archivist for the Nez Perce National Historic Park at Spalding quickly calmed my curiosity. She sent me some documents about the cabin, including a query from 1986 asking if it might be eligible for a National Register of Historic Places listing. The answer: Not really.
There simply wasn’t enough information about the old cabin to justify its inclusion. It was moved in 1936 from what may have been its original location in Coyote’s Gulch to a site near Spalding, then moved at least once more to the site beneath the abandoned highway overpass near the NPS visitor center. At least one of the moves was not done correctly and some logs were reassembled out of order. Because of those moves the cabin was no longer in its historical setting and it didn’t retain the integrity of workmanship one would like to see on the National Register.
Even so, the cabin might have made the cut if we knew something more about it. It was probably built sometime after 1880. We don’t know who built it or even where it was originally located, but a Nez Perce Indian named Poor Coyote lived in it from 1895 until his death in 1915. Next to nothing is known about Poor Coyote, save for his evocative name.
The 1936 move was done by Joe Evans. He and his wife, Pauline, operated a museum at Spalding and they used the cabin as part of their exhibit. It was called the “Jackson Sundown” cabin by Joe and Pauline, and artifacts purportedly belonging to the famous rodeo rider were displayed there. There’s no evidence Sundown had anything to do with the cabin, and the veracity of the “curators” is questionable. They often didn’t let provenance get in the way of a good story.
In 1965 or 1970 (records are unclear) the cabin was again moved and placed beneath the old Highway 95 overpass, perhaps to protect it from the elements. NPS deconstructed the cabin in 1990, saving some elements of it for the museum collection.
So, little but that curious name, Poor Coyote, remains. We are left to wonder who he was and what his name might have meant to those who gave it to him. Was he not a very good coyote? Was he underprivileged? Are we to simply feel sorry for him? If someone out there in internet lands knows more, please share what you know with us.