Estelline Carter

Estelline “Essie” Norma Carter was born on Jan. 14, 1927, to Joseph Francis Samuels and Pauline Corbett Samuels in East Kamiah. Essie passed away on Saturday, May 4, 2024, of causes related to age. She was 97.

Essie was an enrolled member of the Nez Perce Tribe and, at the time of her death, was the oldest of all Nez Perce tribal members.

Essie was born in the “Brick house” on her family’s property in East Kamiah. The “brick house” was the very first house made of bricks, built in Idaho County. As a child she resided with her family at her piláqa Paul F. (maternal grandfather) and qáaca Lydia Smith (maternal grandmother) Corbett’s home near Nikessa Creek, which was also located on her family’s property. She then lived with her éele (paternal grandmother Beatrice Samuels) and her qaláca (paternal grandfather Louis Samuels) up Mission Creek near the Slickpoo Mission.

She attended The Mission Elementary School. Essie attended Culdesac High School and graduated in 1945 as valedictorian of her class. Before graduation, Essie worked her summers in a logging camp near Pierce as a “flunkey” (waitress).

She married her Talmaks sweetheart, Cecil Clifford Carter, on Feb. 16, 1946, at First Indian Presbyterian Church in East Kamiah. They had three sons: Emmett, Rodney and Kerwin and two daughters: Gwendolyn and Vanessa. They were married for 65 years. Cecil passed in 2011.

After Essie and Cecil were married, they resided in Ferdinand while Cecil farmed with his Uncle Cy Red Elk. Essie became a mother and a homemaker at this time. They later moved to Lapwai, and then to Lewiston in 1952 where they resided until their deaths.

Essie began her career as a punch-board packer (legalized gambling) at Great Western in 1961, along with her good friend Gladys Allen. She retired from BEST Products (formally Great Western) after 33 years of employment.

Essie was a lifelong member of the First Indian Presbyterian Church. She was the church treasurer, and the Talmaks Association treasurer, for many years. Essie and Cecil were very active and were considered “Mr. and Mrs. Talmaks” as they helped plan and coordinate all aspects of camp work and church activities.

Essie was a member of the Talmaks Association for many years. She was also a member of the VFW Women’s Auxiliary, a lifelong member of the Nez Perce Appaloosa Horse Club and a Lifetime Bengal Booster. Essie was awarded the Native American Awareness Week Lifetime Achievement from Lewis-Clark State College in 2018. Essie and her first cousin Corbett Wheeler were named Elders of the Year for the Nez Perce Tribe in 2014.

Essie enjoyed bowling and was a member of several local champion teams. Essie and Cecil held season tickets to the Pendleton Roundup and attended every year for many, many years. They also enjoyed traveling and often traveled with friends and family to Reno, Nev. They also traveled every year to Arizona for the Pima Church Camp Meeting.

Essie also enjoyed watching basketball. She traveled all over the Pacific Northwest to watch teams from Lewiston, Clarkston, Lapwai and Kamiah. Essie also enjoyed traveling to Hawaii, which she visited several times.

Essie was the beloved matriarch of this family. She was a leader, a teacher and a spiritual warrior for all of us. She loved spending time with her family. She especially loved her time with her sisters. Essie was a lifelong exerciser of her treaty rights. She was an avid huckleberry picker and often traveled to Mount Adams and/or Burley Mountain in Washington. She and Cecil would bring several gallons of berries home. Essie went to Musselshell Meadow every year to dig and gather Quem’es (camas). She shared her knowledge with anyone who wanted to learn about gathering. She was an expert knowledge holder of our family’s camas bake which occurred every year.

Essie is survived by her sons: Emmett and Kathy of Winchester, Rodney and Cindy of Lewiston, and Kerwin and Karen of Clarkston; daughter Gwendolyn of Lapwai; sisters: Phyllis Penney, Lois Maude Oatman, and Loretta and Bob Sobotta; her 12 grandchildren: Marcie Carter, Howard and Shannon Teasley, Evelyn Carter, Deanna Teasley and Mark Dobszinsky, Joel and Renee Carter, Caleb Carter, Nicole and Chad Heikkinen, Jaclyn Carter, Patricia and Dayne Goodheart, and Carter and Carmen Lopez. Essie also has two grandchildren serving in the military, U.S. Navy Lt. Commander Bryson Carter of Annapolis Md., and U.S. Air Force Major Mary Carter and U.S. Air Force Capt. Anthony Tabano of National Harbor, Md.; she also has 19 great-grandchildren and five great-great-grandchildren; numerous nieces, nephews (grand and great), cousins, and numerous friends and acquaintances. Essie is also survived by her beloved dog, Topsy, and her “pic pic” (cat), Pitsala.

Through the many years, Essie and Cecil opened their home to her family, friends and others in need. She was loved and respected by many. We will miss Gram Essie very much.

She was preceded in death by her husband, Cecil Clifford Carter; her daughter, Vanessa Rae Carter; parents, Joseph and Pauline Samuels; and siblings Joann Jose, Charlotte “Bunky” Radon, Paul “Sutt” Samuels and Robert “Amos” Samuels.

A memorial service will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 9, at Nikissa Hall at the First Indian Presbyterian Church in Kamiah. The funeral service will be held at 10 a.m. Friday, May 10, at the Wa-A’Yas Community Center in Kamiah. Burial will follow at the First Indian Presbyterian Church Cemetery and dinner following the burial also at the Wa-A’Yas Community Center.

Malcom’s Brower Wann Funeral Home of Lewiston is in charge of arrangements. In lieu of flowers, please consider donating to the First Indian Presbyterian Church-Building Repair Matching funds, c/o Church Treasurer, P.O. Box 1, Kamiah, ID 83536.

The family would like to thank the staff at Life Care Center, St. Joseph Regional Medical Center and Nimiipuu Health for all the years of care for Essie.

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