Della Lori Wheeler, a member of the Nez Perce Tribe and a direct descendant of Chief Lookingglass, entered into rest Sunday, Aug. 20, 2017. Della, also known as “Stormy,” was born to Timothy Wheeler Sr. and Delores Lookingglass Wheeler on Feb. 25, 1960, in Lewiston. She grew up in Kamiah and graduated from Kamiah High School in 1978. She was active in basketball, Indian Club and pep squad. She attended the University of Idaho from 1978-81, majoring in political science.
She met Casey Cree in 1982 and they moved to Wapato, Wash., and started their family. They welcomed children Albert Onepennee, Anpao, Buzz, Thomas, Rhea, Robert and Elsie Cree. While in Wapato, she completed her education at Yakima Business College with a degree in business management and accounting. She was a National Honor Graduate in business, graduating with a 3.98 cumulative GPA. The family moved back to Kamiah in December 1988, when she was hired as an accountant for the Nez Perce Tribal Enterprises until 1994, when she was elected to the Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee, serving as chaplain and treasurer for one year. She also sat on all subcommittees, as well as the Columbia Intertribal Fish Commission and the Pacific Northwest Health board. Following her term on NPTEC, she was hired as grant writer/community development planner for the tribe. This position later also encompassed transportation planning and transit. In 1998-2001 she attended the Community Development Institute, being the first class to graduate and becoming a professional community development planner. In 2007 she submitted funding applications for transit and was the main person in charge of developing the Nez Perce Appaloosa Express, a project that continues from the work she started.
In addition to her employment, she served and represented the tribe in many capacities, including Nez Perce County Zoning Commission, Clearwater Economic Development Association, Clearwater Council, Nez Perce Tribe Utility Board, Intertribal Transportation Association, Indian Reservation Roads Negotiated Rule Making Committee, and the Northwest Technical Assistance Program board of directors.
Della was a member of the Northfork Indian Presbyterian Church and was involved at Kamiah Second Indian Presbyterian Church and Toppenish Longhouse. She enjoyed being a part of the Nez Perce Prayer Warriors and was always willing to pray for family and friends more than herself. She read her Bible and devotions daily. She was a Kamiah Kub but raised her children in Lapwai and supported her Wildcats, proudly cheering for her children at every event. She loved watching football and was a huge Denver Broncos fan. She loved spending time with her grandchildren, whom she was very proud of and loved very much. Della was a professional who worked very hard in her life but also took time for her family and friends. She always greeted people with a smile.
Della is survived by her five children, Albert (Rebekah) Onepennee, Buzz (Sharelle) Cree, Rhea (Emil) Arthur, Robert (Tashina) Cree, and Elsie Cree; 11 grandchildren; sisters Marilyn (Randy) Bowen, Angela (Dow) Broncheau and Nancy Wheeler; brothers Timothy (Julia) Wheeler Jr., Dallon (Paula) Wheeler Sr. and Daryl Wheeler; and numerous cousins who were all like brothers and sisters.
She was preceded in death by her parents, Timothy Wheeler Sr. and Delores Lookingglass-Wheeler; brother Alex Wheeler; sister Julie Hart; sons Anpao and Thomas Cree; paternal grandparents Harry and Ida Wheeler; and maternal grandparents David Lookingglass and Helen Hayes Lookingglass.
A memorial service was held at 7 p.m. Wednesday, August 23, 2017 at the Wa A Yas Community Center in Kamiah. Funeral services were held at 10 a.m. Thursday at the Second Indian Presbyterian Church in Kamiah, with a dinner to follow at the Wa A Yas.
Trenary Funeral Home of Kooskia, Idaho assisted the family.