Rich Wandschneider came to the Wallowa 50 years ago, after five years as a Peace Corps Volunteer and staff member—four years spent in Turkey. He’d graduated from UC Riverside with a degree in philosophy and a minor in rugby, tried a year of grad school at Northwestern and found himself miserable.
A small Turkish-Kurdish village felt immediately comfortable in 1965, as Wallowa County did six years later. The first work was for the Extension Service as a “community development” worker, which introduced him to the broad geography and story-telling population of the county. Launching a bookstore—the Bookloft—in 1976 led to more meetings and stories, and ultimately to meeting Alvin Josephy and launching Fishtrap.
Wandschneider directed Fishtrap, a non-profit promoting writers and writing in the West, for 20 years, bringing scores of writers and wannabe writers to the Wallowa while helping local writers develop their talents. In 2011 he took the books that Alvin Josephy had left to a new art center in Joseph. The center took on Alvin’s name, and Rich now heads the “Josephy Library of Western History and Culture” in the “Josephy Center” on Main Street in Joseph.
He writes a blog associated with the Library, books, Indians, history and culture in general, and continues to learn the American Indian Story. His goal is to keep Alvin Josephy’s work alive: “listening” to Indians, and learning and teaching true history to a public that has largely seen Indians as old history and a “vanishing” race.