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LOLO PASS, Idaho (AP) – Horace Axtell of the Nez Perce Tribe says the meadow on the Montana-Idaho border is a good place to rest.

It will be even better by the start of the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial in 2003. By then, a $4 million interpretive center and rest area will be complete.

Travelers who stop at the spot where Axtell and his ancestors have sought respite from the road, and where the Lewis and Clark expedition struggled over the mountains, will be able to look into the lives and times of those who have stopped before.

The pass was used for centuries as Indian tribes migrated to trade salmon and buffalo long before the Corps of Discovery arrived 200 years ago.

“I stop here a lot on my journeys to other tribes,” said Axtell a Nez Perce spiritual leader. “To me, it’s like living among my ancestors who traveled through here way back in time.”

Gov. Dirk Kempthorne called the spot a crossroads of great nations that is alive with history. It was not far from here the cold and hungry expedition stumbled out of the mountains near Weippe, and met the Nez Perce, who fed and sheltered them.

“I don’t believe it was a day like this when they met,” Kempthorne said. “It was September. It was cold.”

Kempthorne said the rest area and interpretive center will honor the ancestors of the Nez Perce and the historical significance of the explorers.

As a U.S. senator, Kempthorne helped secure funding for the visitor center, which is expected to receive millions of people during the three-year bicentennial.

Idaho and Montana each will each chip in more than $500,000 for the project.

Nez Perce political liaison Allen Pinkham said the center was one of the ideas he and former Clearwater National Forest Supervisor Jim Caswell discussed years ago when they first started to plan for the anniversary.

“They are going to be all over the place, so we need to accommodate them somehow, and I think this is the best way to do it,” he said.

Crews will begin moving dirt on the site Saturday to make way for a new log visitor center with historical exhibits.

Other plans call for a warming hut for winter recreationists. Construction should be completed in the fall of 2002.

Copyright © 2001, Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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