Bessie “Greene” Scott, 87, passed away Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021, at her home in Lapwai.
She was born May 22, 1933, at Spalding to James and Maggie Mox Mox Greene.
She received her elementary schooling at the Clearwater Grade School on Coyote Grade near Spalding, grade school at Arlee, Mont., and Spalding Grade School. She attended high school at Lapwai, graduating in 1951.
While in high school, Bessie was an outstanding athlete, excelling in varsity basketball and softball all four years. She also participated in all school activities, including four years as a Wildcat cheerleader.
In 1989, she accepted a position with the Nez Perce Tribal Early Head Start Program as a teacher and Niimiipuu language instructor. In compliance with program policy, she attended Lewis-Clark State College and on May 20, 1994, she was awarded an Associate of Applied Science in child development.
On March 25, 1952, she and Wilfred “Scotty” Scott, who was on U.S. Navy leave, were married at Asotin. While Scotty then attended Naval School in San Diego, where their first daughter, Venita, was born.
Following Scotty’s four months at school and two weeks leave, they would be separated for two and a half years while Scotty served on ship at Pearl Harbor when their first son, Wilfred Jr., was born. Scotty also served at a ship board staff home ported at Sasebo, Japan.
At the end of his enlistment, and with Bessie’s concurrence, Scotty reenlisted and a 20-year career as a Navy wife began. Home would be various sites across the United States.
First would be at Davisville, R.I., where sons James and Jeffery and daughter Dani were born. Various ships and commands would follow at Bainbridge, Md., Long Beach, where daughter Lori was born; and El Centro, Calif., Millington, Tenn., and Meridian, Miss.
While Scotty served in Vietnam from May 1967 to November 1968, she participated in a tribal home construction program. She and nine other families jointly built their homes from foundation to completed house construction, inside and out.
All while raising her children, and working at the Tribal Head Start program, she continued writing her daily letters to Scotty.
Bessie was most proud of who she was and where she came from. Everyone and everything was very special to her. Her reminders were: “No one is better than you, and you’re no better than anyone else,” and “If you feel you should say you are sorry for something you said or done ... you should not have said or done it in the first place.”
At the urging of some elder ladies she greatly respected, she took the Niimiipuu name of her grandmother who had been known and respected as a woman of Great Medicine. Bessie was proud to be known as hiyúumyanmay, meaning “Grizzly Bear Woman.”
As hiyúumyanmay she gladly and efficiently shared her language and cultural knowledge with everyone. No question went unanswered. Being one of the founding contributors and participants in formulation of the Niimiipuu Language Dictionary, and she was very proficient in the dictionary’s use.
Bessie was Nez Perce Tribal Employee of the Year in 1990. At the 16th annual Lewis-Clark State College Native American Awareness Week, the Native American Club 2002-03 awarded Bessie the Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2007, the state of Idaho also recognized Bessie’s contribution to the practice and preservation of Niimiipuu language and culture, and she was presented the Esto Perpetua Award. Bessie Scott received the Nez Perce Tribal Woman Elder of the Year in 2012.
Although the “get up and go” remained, she would answer two more calls; to assist with the After School Language Program at the Lapwai Elementary School and to teach Niimiipuu language classes at LCSC. She accepted both offers and complied until COVID-19 made its devastating appearance last year. On April 6, 2018, through her untiring efforts with the Niimiipuu Language Program, Bessie was presented the Lewis-Clark State College Presidents Award for Excellence in Diversity and Cross-Cultural Understanding.
For many years, she used that proficiency with the young people in early childhood development. But the daily routine coupled with her advancing in age began to take its toll. With her following words, she decided to step aside and let the younger language practioners take over the teaching duties. “We (Scotty and I) are up in age and it’s getting to the point we can’t hardly get around anymore. I want to take advantage of the time we have to get up and go, so that’s what we’ve been doing.”
For 15 years, Bessie, with Scotty in tow, participated in the Annual Tribal Youth Culture Camp at Wallowa Lake, as resident elders. She was an inspiration during the language and culture sessions to the 120-plus youth in attendance during the two weekly gatherings. Because of COVID-19, she did not attend last year.
On Oct. 5, 1997, Bessie attended the 100th anniversary ceremony honoring those Niimiipuu who participated in the Nez Perce War of 1877. One of her great-grandfathers was killed and his remains are buried at the Bears Paw Battlefield near Chinook, Mont. Her other great-grandfather and great-grandmother were both wounded while their 2-year-old daughter was killed at the Big Hole Battlefield near Wisdom, Mont.
Every year since, she and Scotty have attended every annual ceremony there and many other sites pertinent to the 1877 war.
Bessie was also a life member of the Veteran of Foreign Wars Auxiliary.
She was preceded in death by her parents, James and Maggie Mox Mox Greene; her grandmothers, Dolly Williams and Mary Wilson; her grandfathers, Johnson Greene and George Mox Mox; her sisters, Rose, Baby and Geneva Greene; her brothers, Alex Taylor, Johnson, Jesse, Billy, Matthew and Larry Greene; her son, James Scott; her namesake and grandaughter, Bessie Blackeagle.
She is survived by her loving husband of 68 years, Wilfred Scott Sr.; daughters Venita Scott, Dani Scott and Lori Enick, all of Lapwai; sons Wilfred Scott Jr., of Waha, and Jeffrey Scott, of Lapwai; sister Darlene Pinkham, of Lenore; grandaughters Fawn Domebo and Kiri George, both of Lapwai, Nicole George and Vashti Scott, both of Lewiston; grandsons Kemo Scott, of Waha, John Oatman, Geoffery Scott, Sam Davis Jr., and Basil George, all of Lapwai. Bessie also leaves 12 great-grandchildren and many, many nieces and nephews.
The family extends their deepest heartfelt gratitude and appreciation to all those who responded in Bessie’s and her family’s time of need. Your outpouring of sympathy and concern will never be forgotten.
Bessie - hiyúumyanmay had a deep faith in our Creator and eternal life. She treated all faiths as equal and was comfortable in attending all services.
By her wish, open nondenominational services will be held at 6 p.m. today at the Pi-Nee-Waus in Lapwai.
Final services will be held at 10 a.m. Friday at the Pi-Nee-Waus in Lapwai. Burial will follow at Coyote Cemetery in Spalding where she will be laid to rest near her son and granddaughter. Dinner to follow.