Cover photo for Ronald Oatman's Obituary
1934 Ronald 2022

Ronald Oatman

August 14, 1934 — November 14, 2022

Ronald Wilbur Oatman

August 14, 1934 – November 14, 2022

Ronald W. Oatman, Saaqantayx’ese Weheyqt (Eagle Claw Necklace), was born August 14, 1934, in Kamiah, ID, to Pe-tsak-kin (James) and Jane Allen Oatman. The Lord called him home on November 14th, 2022, with his wife and his family by his side.

Ron is a member of the Nez Perce Tribe. He is one of the last remaining fluent Nez Perce speakers. Ron is a direct descendant of Old Chief Looking Glass through his father, James Oatman, and a direct descendant of Chief Timothy through his mother, Jane Allen Oatman.

He and his wife, Lois Samuels, were married June 11, 1958, and lived in Kamiah. They celebrated their 64th wedding anniversary on June 11, 2022.

He went to school until the 10th grade but did not graduate from High School. Nonetheless, education was very important to him and he never stopped learning throughout his life. He excelled in sports, especially golf, photography, planning for retirement, and he loved to read. Many of these he passed on to his children and grandchildren. He was a well-respected man for the wisdom and knowledge he possessed. Ron had a had a strong work ethic and learned this from his father, James Oatman. His father, James would tell Ron, that if you get paid a dollar, you must work for that dollar. Ron was a feared fighter with tremendous strength. From his youth to adulthood, he would do thousands of push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups and other exercises on a daily basis. He would often hike on the railroad tracks from Kooskia or Greer to Kamiah. He was a warrior who stood up for his family, his people and his treaty rights.

Ron served in the U.S. Army during Korean War, from 1953 to 1956. While he arrived too late to fight in the war, serving in the Army was something he was passionate about, just like his older brother Marcus Oatman whom he respected.

Mr. Oatman worked at PFI Mill in Kamiah and later at the Potlatch Mill in Lewiston. After he retired from the mill, he went on to work 12 years for the United States Fish and Wildlife Service at the Dworshak National Fish Hatchery. Ron worked as a fish culturist and he helped raise and release spring Chinook and steelhead. While there he earned the “Bone Crusher Award,” for cleaning over 10,000 fish ponds. He was one of the original members of the Nez Perce Tribe Fish and Wildlife Commission that was established in 1997. The Commission helps set fishing and hunting seasons for Nez Perce tribal members.

Ron Oatman enjoyed traveling and visiting with family & friends. Ron cherished going to the mountains and the rivers. He loved to hunt, fish, and gather, at all the usual and accustomed places. Ron fished locally in the Clearwater River, Rapid River, Selway River, South Fork Salmon River, and the Snake River, among other areas traditionally used by the Nez Perce. Many times he would fight along these river banks against those who tried to say he had no rights to fish those areas. Ron traveled great distance to fish for salmon, like Celilo Falls and Neah Bay, located on Makah Indian Reservation. Mr. Oatman was instrumental with helping the Nez Perce Tribe secure its water rights through the Snake River Basin Adjudication proceeding. He was also a sought-after speaker over his lifetime, in many forums, events, and panels, to represent tribal fishing rights and convey the important connection of fish and fishing to the Nez Perce people.

He loved the game of golf and made many friends throughout the Pacific Northwest. He regularly won at Indian golf tournaments. Each year, Ron would host the annual family golf tourney that was held in memory of his late son, Wilber P. Oatman. He recorded two ‘hole-in-one’s’ over his time playing the game, a rare feat for any golfer. He was not only known only for his golf skills, but for his wit and his ability to have a good time with people on the golf course through his humor and the way he played the game. Throughout the past few months of his life, he would tell his family that he wanted to get well so he could play golf one last time and tell people about Jesus.

Ron enjoyed watching his kids, grandkids, and great-grandkids play sports. He attended many grade school and highs school sporting events. He also enjoyed watching other Nez Perce athletes that excelled in their sport of choice.

One of his greatest achievements and purpose in life was to teach his family and others about God and the Lord Jesus Christ. That was central to who he was and what he lived for. He was a faithful servant, this bible verse sums up his good works on this earth – “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith” 2 Timothy 4:7 KJV.

Ron was preceded in death by his parents; three sisters (Lillian Oatman Major, Beatrice Oatman Miles, Loda Oatman Sublett); four brothers (Charlie Oatman, Everett Oatman, Sr., Marcus Oatman, Sr., and Cecil Oatman); two sons (Wilber and Ronald C. Oatman), and grandchildren James R. Oatman, Jr., Roni A. Brisbois, and Pauline Walker Hoptowit. He is survived by his wife, Lois Oatman, of Kamiah; daughters Jennifer Oatman of Kamiah, Paula Moody (A. Moody) of Culdesac, Idaho, and Linda Walker of Kamiah, Idaho, and son James R. Oatman, and his wife Teresa Oatman, of Kamiah. He has 16 grandchildren and 27 great-grandchildren all of whom he dearly loved.

A memorial service will be conducted at 6-8 pm, on Friday, November 18th at Nikissa Hall on U.S. Highway 12, East Kamiah, with Volkhard Graf officiating. The funeral services will be conducted at 10 am, Saturday, November 19th at the Life Center Church also on U.S. Highway 12 in Kamiah with Kelly Lineberry officiating. Burial will be at the Nez Perce Tribal cemetery on No Kid Lane in Kamiah. A dinner will follow at Nikissa Hall at the First Indian Presbyterian Church and all his family and friends are welcome to attend.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Ronald Oatman, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services

Prayer Service for Ron Oatman

Saturday, November 19, 2022

2:00 - 3:30 am (Mountain time)

First Indian Presbyterian Church

4335 Church Canyon Road, Kamiah, ID 83536

Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.

Funeral Service for Ron Oatman

Saturday, November 19, 2022

6:00 - 7:30 pm (Mountain time)

Life Center Pentecostal Church

69 U.S. 12, Kamiah, ID 83536

Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.

Graveside Committal for Ron Oatman

Saturday, November 19, 2022

8:00 - 8:30 pm (Mountain time)

Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.

Memorial Dinner for Ron Oatman

Sunday, November 20, 2022

Ends at 1:45 am (Mountain time)

First Indian Presbyterian Church

4335 Church Canyon Road, Kamiah, ID 83536

Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.


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