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History of Klickitat, Yakima and Kittitas Counties, Washington

published in 1904

Anisiche Bill's Artificial Nose

Dr. Middleton V. Amen, of Ellensburg, Washington, relates this story.

"When I came to the Kittitas Valley in 1878, and began to practice medicine, the Indian population outnumbered the whites. This valley was a great illahe then -- an immense camping ground to which Indians from all over eastern Washington came each summer. Here they fished, hunted, raced, gambled, dug kous and otherwise occupied themselves for a long period each year. Those tribes immediately surrounding us did nearly all their trading at Ellensburg.

"Wild, or Anisiche, Bill was a member of the Okanogan tribe. He was one of the bravest and most influential among the Indians, until the incident occurred which I am relating. One day, in the fall of 1880, as nearly as I can recollect, Bill and several other Indians, who had indulged too freely in drinking bad whiskey, became involved in a quarrel on Main Street, then a sage brush thoroughfare on which stood half a dozen widely separated business houses. I was standing in front of Shoudy's store.

"Suddenly, I heard a terrific yell and looked up the street just in time to see a drunken Indian strike at Bill with a massive knife. An instant later, the greater part of Bill's nose dropped into the dust. Still the fight went on for several minutes before Bill was overcome by the shock and forced to seek support. The Indians at once gathered around their wounded comrade and attempted to assist him. At Bill's request, one Indian picked up the nose out of the dust and took it down to the creek near the store to wash it.

"Upon his return, I was called to the scene, and asked to 'make 'um good nose again.' Though I realized the hopelessness of the case, Bill persisted so earnestly, that at last I stuck the nose on with adhesive plaster, fixing it up as best I could. This simple surgery satisfied the Indians and Bill, who was feeling badly cut up over his humiliation. You must understand, that among the Indians, the loss of the nose is considered the height of disgrace. Death itself was preferable in their eyes to a noseless existence.

"The next day, I went up to Bill's camp, about two miles above Canaday's [brick] mill, and dressed the unfortunate nose. The following day I found matters in bad condition. The nose was beginning to decay, throwing off a sickening stench, much to Bill's misery, and to the disgust of his fellows. Still Bill hated to give up the nose and consequent loss of honorable standing in his tribe, so bore his trials with stoical patience. For two or three days longer, he wore it, hoping for a turn in his fortunes.

"But the nose went from bad to worse. Finally, his brother waited upon him with a demand that he either leave camp or take better care of his offensive wound. As Bill himself was beginning by that time to have his doubts about the efficacy of the sticking plaster method, he decided to throw away the old nose and seek a new one from me. This he did, and begged me to do something for him.

"There was only one thing for me to do. I manufactured an artificial nose, preparing it so that it might be taken off, or stuck on at will. You never saw a happier man than Bill, when that nose was finished and put in place. As a matter of fact, while the Indians did not entirely like the 'big medicine' of the white doctor, they regarded Bill with awe and a sort of jealous curiosity. He gave me a pony for my services.

"Sadly, Bill never regained the position of esteem to which his tribe had once held him. Bill subsequently settled into peaceful pursuits in Okanogan county and the last I knew of him was regarded as a good citizen by residents of the Wenatche Valley, where he lived. The artificial nose I made served him many years to my personal knowledge, and may yet be serving him, for Bill was as faithful to it as a one-legged veteran is to his cork limb."