Native American Blessing of PCU IDAHO

March 15th, 2024

In a truly Idaho-unique ceremony, the USS IDAHO Commissioning Committee worked closely with Electric Boat, Naval Reactors, the Navy, Ship’s Sponsor Terry Stackley, former Governor Dirk Kempthorne, and leaders of Idaho’s Shoshone-Bannock Tribes and the Nez Perce Tribe to hold the first ever, Native American Blessing of a ship in conjunction with the events leading up to the Christening. (Photos by Electric Boat.)

Shoshone-Bannock Tribal Chairman Lee Juan Tyler

Shoshone-Bannock Tribal Chairman Lee Juan Tyler describes his impressions of the submarine as he invokes his blessing. Photo by Electric Boat.

Sponsor Terry Stackley and her family, Governor Dirk Kempthorne, several members of the PCU IDAHO Crew, leaders from Idaho's Shoshone-Bannock Tribes and the Nez Perce Tribe, several Electric Boat employees, and members of the Commissioning Committee gathered in a ceremonial circle near the bow of the submarine, to bless her future service, the Electric Boat craftsmen and women that built her and bless the crew that will serve on her. Governor Dirk Kempthorne began with introductions and insight into Idaho’s treasured relationship with the Native American Tribes of Idaho and the importance of incorporating their participation into a ship to be named Idaho.

Nez Perce Tribal Vice Elder Brooklyn Baptiste opened by talking about the Nez Perce (Nimíipuu) traditions of the creator and the relationship of warriors to each other and the tribe. He shared his thoughts on how the submarine will be an integral part of protecting the crew and will take them on their missions and bring them home safely. He went on to articulate the code of warriors never wanting to take life but should they have to, that they respect the lives of their enemies and honor the lives they do take.

Nez Perce Tribal Elder and retired Navy Chief Petty Officer, Wilfred

Nez Perce Tribal Elder Wilfred "Scotty" Scott talked about the Native American tradition of service in the military and the lineage of warriors going back centuries. He shared his insight of how the crew of the submarine will go out to protect us, like warrior bands would go out protect the tribe from afar. Scotty shared his impression of how the submarine crew lives and fights “like a family” which is very similar to the history of the Nez Perce tribe.Note: Scotty is a retired Viet Nam era, Navy Yeoman Chief Petty Officer.

Nez Perce Tribal Elder Samuel Penny

Nez Perce Tribal Elder Samuel Penny talked about the Native American symbology of the USS IDAHO crest and specifically about the Appaloosa horse’s endurance, sure-footedness, intelligence and how this equates to the qualities of the submarine. He shared the Nez Perce history of breeding the Appaloosa since the time when horses were introduced to North America.

Nez Perce Tribal Elder Mary Jane Miles

Nez Perce Tribal Elder Mary Jane Miles shared her thoughts on the similarity of role of the Sponsor to that of the mother in the Nez Perce (Nimíipuu) culture and she offered a prayer to the Sponsor and to the crew. She shared her insight into the structure of the crew and their families and how it reminded her of the family unit of the Nez Perce.

Shoshone-Bannock Tribes Chairman Lee Juan Tyler

Then Shoshone-Bannock Tribes Chairman, Lee Juan Tyler, talked at length about the magnificent sight of the submarine and how honored he felt to be a part of a ceremony with the crew and to share his blessings to this group of warriors. Chairman Tyler wore his traditional headdress to honor the crew and share the legacy of the Shoshone-Bannock people’s traditions. He then offered a song of prayer and blessing for the crew and the submarine.

Terry Stackley with prayer pipe

At the ceremony's conclusion, the group passed a prayer pipe packed with bitterroot mountain herb from the highest point in Idaho. Individuals reflected or shared a piece of wisdom when the pipe was passed to them.

Nez Perce Vice Elder Brooklyn Baptiste blesses and purifies crewmembers

Vice Elder Baptiste then blessed and purified each person in the circle with the smoke of burning smudge from the Bitterroot Mountains. The ceremony concluded with a final blessing upon Sponsor Terry Stackley, the future USS IDAHO, and all who will sail upon her.