The Lewiston Tribune reported that the Asotin County Sheriff's Office across the river in Washington identified the victim as Elmer P. Crow Jr.
According to the law enforcement agency, Crow was attempting to help his 7-year-old grandson Friday at a popular swimming area.
Boaters rescued the youngster unharmed, but efforts to revive the 69-year-old Crow were unsuccessful.
Family members were shocked and grieving at the loss of Crow, calling his bid to help his grandson "a final act of heroism."
In his lifetime, Crow had worked to increase the lamprey eel population, a traditional food source for the indigenous Native American group, through his involvement in the Nez Perce Fish Hatchery.
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