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Members of the Sahaptin language group, the Niimíipuu were the dominant people of the Columbia Plateau for much of that time, especially after acquiring the horses that led them to breed the appaloosa horse in the 18th century.
French explorers and trappers indiscriminately used and popularized the name "Nez Percé" for the Niimíipuu and nearby Chinook. The name translates as "pierced nose", but only the Chinook used that form of body modification.
Today they are a federally recognized tribe, the Nez Perce Tribe of Idaho, and govern their Indian reservation in Idaho through a central government headquartered in Lapwai known as the Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee (NPTEC). They are one of five federally recognized tribes in the state of Idaho. Some still speak their traditional language, and the Tribe owns and operates two casinos along the Clearwater River (in Kamiah and east of Lewiston), health clinics, a police force and court, community centers, salmon fisheries, radio station, and other things that promote economic and cultural self-determination.
Their name for themselves is Nimíipuu (pronounced [nimi:pu:]), meaning, "The People", in their language, part of the Sahaptin family.
Nez Percé is an exonym given by French Canadianfur traders who visited the area regularly in the late 18th century, meaning literally "pierced nose". English-speaking traders and settlers adopted the name in turn. Since the late 20th century, the Nez Perce identify most often as Niimíipuu in Sahaptin. The Lakota/ Dakota named them the Watopala, or Canoe people, from Watopa. However, after Nez Perce became a more common name, they changed it to Watopahlute. This comes from pahlute, nasal passage, and is simply a play on words. If translated literally, it would come out as either "Nasal Passage of the Canoe" (Watopa-pahlute) or "Nasal Passage of the Grass" (Wato-pahlute). The Assiniboine called them Pasú o?nógA w?ca?tA, the Arikara sinit?i?kataríwi?. The tribe also uses the term "Nez Perce", as does the United States Government in its official dealings with them, and contemporary historians. Older historical ethnological works and documents use the French spelling of Nez Percé, with the diacritic. The original French pronunciation is [nep??se], with three syllables.
The interpreter of the Lewis and Clark Expedition mistakenly identified this people as the Nez Perce when the team encountered the tribe in 1805. Writing in 1889, anthropologist Alice Fletcher, who the U.S. government had sent to Idaho to allot the Nez Perce Reservation, explained the mistaken naming. She wrote,
It is never easy to come at the name of an Indian or even of an Indian tribe. A tribe has always at least two names; one they call themselves by and one by which they are known to other tribes. All the tribes living west of the Rocky Mountains were called "Chupnit-pa-lu", which means people of the pierced noses; it also means emerging from the bushes or forest; the people from the woods. The tribes on the Columbia river used to pierce the nose and wear in it some ornament as you have seen some old fashioned white ladies wear in their ears. Lewis and Clark had with them an interpreter whose wife was a Shoshone or Snake woman and so it came about that when it was asked "What Indians are these?" the answer was "They are 'Chupnit-pa-lu'" and it was written down in the journal; spelled rather queerly, for white people's ears do not always catch Indian tones and of course the Indians could not spell any word.
In his journals, William Clark referred to the people as the Chopunnish , a transliteration of a Sahaptin term. According to D.E. Walker in 1998, writing for the Smithsonian, this term is an adaptation of the term cú·p'nitpe?u (the Nez Perce people). The term is formed from cú·p'nit (piercing with a pointed object) and pe?u (people). By contrast, the Nez Perce Language Dictionary has a different analysis than did Walker for the term cúpnitpelu. The prefix cú- means "in single file". This prefix, combined with the verb -piní, "to come out (e.g. of forest, bushes, ice)". Finally, with the suffix of -pelú, meaning "people or inhabitants of". Together, these three elements: cú- + -piní + pelú = cúpnitpelu, or "the People Walking Single File Out of the Forest". Nez Perce oral tradition indicates the name "Cuupn'itpel'uu" meant "we walked out of the woods or walked out of the mountains" and referred to the time before the Nez Perce had horses.
In 1800, the Nez Perce had more than 100 permanent villages, ranging from 50 to 600 individuals, depending on the season and social grouping. Archeologists have identified a total of about 300 related sites including camps and villages, mostly in the Salmon River Canyon. In 1805, the Nez Perce were the largest tribe on the Columbia River Plateau, with a population of about 6,000. By the beginning of the 20th century, the Nez Perce had declined to about 1,800 due to epidemics, conflicts with non-Indians, and other factors. A total of 3,499 Nez Perce were counted in the 2010 Census.
Historic regional bands, bands, local groups, and villages
Territories along Snake River in Hells Canyon up to about 80 miles south of today's Lewiston, Idaho (Simiinekem - "confluence of two rivers" or "river fork", as the Clearwater flows into the Snake River here), in Wallowa Mountains and in the Seven Devils Mountains in Oregon and Idaho. Their fishing and hunting grounds were also used by the Pelloatpallah Band (comprising the "Palus (or Palus proper) Band" and "Wawawai Band" of the Upper Palus Regional Band), who formed bilingual Palus-Nez-Percé bands due to many mixed marriages.
several village based bands are counted among them:
the Nuksiwepu Band
the Palótpu Band (their village Palót was on the north bank of the Snake River - about 2 to 3 miles above Sáhatp)
the Pinewewixpu (Pin?w?wipu) Band (their village Pin?w?wi was located at Penawawa Creek)
the Sahatpu (Sáhatpu) Band (their village Sáhatp was located on the north bank of the Snake River, above Wawáwih)
the Siminekempu (Shimín?k?mpu) Band (their village Shimín?k?m - "confluence", was located in the area of present-day Lewiston)
the Tokalatoinu (Tukálatuinu) Band (along the Tucannon River (Took-kahl-la-toin), a tributary of the Snake River)
the Wawawipu Band (their village Wawáwih was located at Wawawai Creek, a tributary of the Snake River)
Alpowna (Alpowai) Band or Alpowe'ma (Alpoweyma/Alpowamino) Band ("People along Alpaha (Alpowa) Creek" or "People of 'Al'pawawaii, i.e. Clarkston")
Territories along the South and Middle Fork of the Clearwater River downstream to the city of Lewiston (and south of it) in eastern Washington and the Idaho Panhandle. They also spent much time east of the Bitterroot Mountains and camped along the Yellowstone River, their main meeting place and one of the most important fishing grounds was the area of Kooskia, Idaho (Leewikees). Their fishing and hunting grounds were also used by the "Wawawai Band" of the Upper Palus Regional Band, who lived directly to the west and formed a bilingual Palus-Nez-Percé Band due to many intermarriages. They were the third largest Nez Percé regional group and their tribal area was one of the four centres for the large regional groups of the Nez Percé.
several village based bands are counted among them:
the Alpowna (Alpowai) Band or Alpowe'ma (Alpoweyma/Alpowamino) Band (largest and most important band, along the Alpaha (Alpowa) Creek, a small tributary of the Clearwater), west of Clarkston, Washington ('Al'pawawaii = People of a "place of a plant called Ahl-pa-ha")
the Tsokolaikiinma Band (between Lewiston and Alpowa Creek)
the Hasotino (H?sot?inu) Band (their settlement Hasutin / H?sot?in was an important fishing ground at Asotin Creek (Héesutine - "eel river") on the Snake River in Nez Perce County, Idaho, directly opposite the present town of Asotin, Washington)
the Heswéiwewipu/H?sweiw?wihpu local group (their village H?sweiw?wih was also located opposite Asotin, along a small creek whose upper reaches were called Heswé/H?siw?)
the Anat?innu local group (their village Ánat?in was located at the confluence of Mill Creek and the Snake River)
the Sapachesap Band
the Witkispu Band (about 3 miles below Alpowa Creek, along the eastern bank of the Snake River)
the Sálwepu Band (at the Middle Fork of the Clearwater River, about 5 miles above present-day Kooskia, Idaho, Chief Looking Glass Group)
Assuti Band ("People along Assuti Creek" in Idaho, joined Chief Joseph in the war of 1877.)
Atskaaiwawipu Band or Asahkaiowaipu Band ("People at the confluence, People from the river mouth, i.e. Ahsahka")
Territories from their winter village Ahsahka/Asaqa ("river mouth" or "confluence") up to the Salmon Ridge along the North Fork Clearwater River up to its mouth into the Clearwater River, hunted sometimes near Peck, Idaho (Pipyuuninma) in the territory of the Painima Band. An important fishing ground was Bruce Eddy in Clearwater County, Idaho, which was traditionally owned by the Atskaaiwawipu (Asahkaiowaipu), but was shared by neighboring bands upon invitation: the Tewepu Band, the Ilasotino (Hasotino) Band, the Nipihama (Nip?h?m?) Band, the Alpowna (Alpowai) Band and the Matalaimo ("People further upstream", a collective term for bands that had their center around Kamiah).
Hatweme (Hatw?me) Band or Hatwai (Héetwey) Band ("People along Hatweh Creek", a tributary of the Clearwater River, about four to five miles east of Lewiston)
K?mi?hpu Band or Kimmooenim Band ("People of K?mi?hp", "People of the Many Rope Litters Place, i.e. Kamiah")
Their main village K?mi?hp was located on the south side of the Clearwater River and the confluence of Lawyer Creek near today's Kamiah, Idaho ("many rope litters") in the Kamiah Valley. They used with other bands the important fishing grounds near Bruce Eddy in Clearwater County, Idaho, which was in the territory of the Atskaaiwawipu (Asahkaiowaipu) Band. Other Nez Perce bands often grouped them under the collective name Uyame or Uy?m?; the closely related and neighboring Atskaaiwawipu (Asahkaiowaipu) Band referred to all bands around Kamiah as Matalaimo ("People further upstream"). Their tribal area was one of the four centers for the major regional groups of the Nez Percé.
several village based bands are counted among them:
the K?mi?hpu (Kimmooenim) Band (was the biggest and most important band of the Kamiah Valley area)
the Tewepu Band ("People of Téewe, i.e. Orofino, Idaho" at the confluence of Orofino Creek and Clearwater River)
the Tuke'liklikespu (Tuk?'l?kl?kespu) Band (near Big Eddy on the north bank of the Clearwater River, some miles upstream from Orofino)
the Pipu'inimu Band (at Big Canyon Creek in Camas Prairie, which flows into the Clearwater River north of today's Peck; they were therefore direct neighbours of the southern Painima Band),
the Painima Band (near present-day Peck, Idaho (Pipyuuninma) in Nez Perce County, on the Clearwater River in Idaho)
Kannah Band or Kam'nakka Band ("People of Kannah (along Clearwater River)" in Idaho)
Lamtáma (Lamátta) Band or Lamatama Band ("People of a region with little snow, i.e. Lamtáma (Lamátta) region")
Territories were between the Alpowai Band in the north and downstream in the northwest the Pikunan (Pikunin) Band and extended in the Idaho Panhandle north along the Upper Salmon River (Naco'x kuus - "Salmon River") and one of its tributaries, the White Bird Creek, and to the Snake River in the southwest, and also included the White Bird Canyon (deeper than the Grand Canyon) in the southwest of the Clearwater Mountains and southeast of the Camas prairie. Their tribal area and band name is derived from Lamtáma (Lamátta) ("area with little snow") and refers to its excellent climatic conditions, which were particularly suitable for horse breeding. They were the second largest Nez Percé regional group; also called Salmon River Band.
the Esnime (Iy?snim?) Band (along Slate Creek ('Iyeesnime) and Upper Salmon River, therefore often simply called Slate Creek Band or Upper Salmon River Indians)
the Nipihama (Nip?h?m?) Band (from Lower Salmon River to White Bird Creek)
the Tamanmu Band (their settlement Tamanma was located at the mouth of the Salmon River in Idaho)
Lapwai Band or Lapw?me Band ("People of the Butterfly Place, i.e. Lapwai")
Territories along Sweetwater Creek and Lapwai Creek up to its confluence with the Clearwater River near today's Spalding, Idaho. One of their traditional settlements (as well as an important meeting place for neighbouring bands) was on the site of today's Lapwai, Idaho (Thlap-Thlap, also: Léepwey - "Place of the Butterflies"), the tribal and administrative centre of the Nez Percé Tribe of Idaho. Their tribal area was one of the four centers for the major regional groups of the Nez Percé.
Mákapu Band ("People from Máka/Maaqa along Cottonwood Creek (formerly: Maka Creek"), a tributary of the Clearwater River, Idaho.)
Pikunan (Pikunin) Band or Pikhininmu Band ("Snake River People")
Territories encompassed the vast mountain wilderness between the Snake River in the south and the Lower Salmon River in the north until it met the Snake River, were direct neighbours of the Wallowa (Willewah) Band on the opposite bank of the Snake River in the west and the Lamtáma (Lamátta) Band living further southeast of them. They could be classified as buffalo hunters, but they were also true mountain dwellers, also called the Snake River tribe.
Saiksaikinpu Band (on the upper portion of the Southern Fork Clearwater; their immediate neighbors downstream was the Tukpame Band)
Saxsano Band (about 4 miles above Asotin, Washington, on the east side of Snake River.)
Taksehepu Band ("People of Tukeespe/Tu-kehs-pa APS, i.e. Ghost town Agatha")
Tukpame Band (on the lower portion of the Southern Fork Clearwater; their immediate neighbors upstream was the Saiksaikinpu Band.)
Wallowa (Willewah) Band or Walwáma (Walwáama) Band ("People along the Wallowa River" or "People along the Grand Ronde River")
Territories in northeastern Oregon and northwestern Idaho with tribal centre in the river valleys of the Imnaha River, the Minam River and the Wallowa River (Wal'awa - "the winding river"). Their territory extended into the Blue Mountains (already claimed by the Cayuse) in the west, to the Wallowa Mountains in the southwest, to both sides of the Grande Ronde River (Waliwa or Willewah) and its confluence with the Snake River in the north, and almost to the Snake River in the east. Their area was widely known as an excellent grazing ground for the large herds of horses and was therefore often used by the neighbouring and related Weyiiletpuu (Wailetpu) Band ("Ryegrass People, i.e. the Cayuse people). They were often grouped under the collective name K?múinnu or Qéemuynu ("People of the Indian Hemp"). They were the largest Nez Percé group and their tribal area was one of the four centers for the major regional groups of the Nez Percé. Today most part of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation.
several village based bands are counted among them:
the Wallowa (Willewah) Band (the largest band with several local groups, in the Wallowa River Valley and Zumwalt Prairie)
the Imnáma (Imnámma) Band (lived with several local groups isolated in the Imnaha River Valley)
the Weliwe (Wewi'me) Band (their settlement Williwewix was located at the mouth of the Grande Ronde River)
the Inantoinu Band (in Joseph Canyon - known as Saqánma ("long, wild canyon") or an-an-a-soc-um ("long, rough canyon") - and along Lower Joseph Creek to its mouth into the Grande Ronde River)
the Toiknimapu Band (above Joseph Creek and along the north bank of the Grande Ronde River)
the Isäwisnemepu (Isawisnemepu) Band (near the present Zindel, at the Grande Ronde River in Oregon)
the Sakánma Band (several local groups along the Snake River between the mouth of the Salmon River in the south and the Grande Ronde River in the north, the name of their main village Sakán and the band name Sakánma refers to an area where the cliffs rise close to the water - this could be Joseph Canyon (Saqánma))
Yakama Band or Y?kám? Band ("People of the Y?ká River, i.e.Potlatch River (above its mouth into the Clearwater River)", not to confused with the Yakama peoples)
Territories along the Potlatch River (which was called Y?ká above its mouth into the Clearwater River) in Idaho.
several village based bands are counted among them:
the Yakto'inu (Yakt?inu) Band (their village Yakt?in was located at the mouth of the Potlatch River into the Clearwater River)
the Yatóinu Band (lived along Pine Creek, a small right tributary of the Potlatch River)
the Iwatoinu (Iwat?inu) Band (their village Iwat?in was located on the north bank of the Potlatch River near today's Kendrick in Latah County)
the Tunèhepu (Tun?h?pu) Band (their village Tun?h? was located at the mouth of Middle Potlatch Creek into the Potlatch River, near Juliaetta, Idaho (Yeqe))
Because of large amount of inter-marriage between Nez Perce bands and neighboring tribes or bands to forge alliances and peace (often living in mixed bilingual villages together), the following bands were also counted to the Nez Perce (which today are viewed as being linguistically and culturally closely related, but separate ethnic groups):
These were the Cayuse people which lived to the west of the Nez Perce at the headwaters of the Walla Walla, Umatilla and Grande Ronde River and from the Blue Mountains westwards up to the Deschutes River, they oft shared village sites with the Nez Perce and Palus and were feared by neighboring tribes, as early as 1805, most Cayuse had given up their mother tongue and had switched to Weyíiletpuu, a variety of the Lower Nez Perce/Lower Niimiipuutímt dialect of the Nez Perce language. They called themselves by their Nez-Percé name as Weyiiletpuu ("Ryegrass People"); today most Cayuse are enrolled into the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, some as Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs or Nez Perce Tribe of Idaho.
A traditional Nez Perce beaded shirt
The semi-sedentary Nez Percés were Hunter-gatherer without agriculture living in a society in which most or all food is obtained by foraging (collecting wild plants and roots and pursuing wild animals). They depended on hunting, fishing, and the gathering of wild roots and berries.
Historically, in late May and early June, Nez Perce villagers crowded to communal fishing sites to trap eels, steelhead, and chinook salmon, or haul in fish with large dip nets. Fishing took place throughout the summer and fall, first on the lower streams and then on the higher tributaries, and catches also included salmon, sturgeon, whitefish, suckers, and varieties of trout. Most of the supplies for winter use came from a second run in the fall, when large numbers of Sockeye salmon, silver, and dog salmon appeared in the rivers.
Fishing is traditionally an important ceremonial and commercial activity for the Nez Perce tribe. Today Nez Perce fishers participate in tribal fisheries in the mainstream Columbia River between Bonneville and McNary dams. The Nez Perce also fish for spring and summer Chinook salmon and Rainbow trout/steelhead in the Snake River and its tributaries. The Nez Perce tribe runs the Nez Perce Tribal Hatchery on the Clearwater River, as well as several satellite hatchery programs.
Nez Perce encampment, Lapwai, Idaho, ca. 1899
The first fishing of the season was accompanied by prescribed rituals and a ceremonial feast known as "kooyit". Thanksgiving was offered to the Creator and to the fish for having returned and given themselves to the people as food. In this way, it was hoped that the fish would return the next year.
Like salmon, plants contributed to traditional Nez Perce culture in both material and spiritual dimensions.
Aside from fish and game, Plant foods provided over half of the dietary calories, with winter survival depending largely on dried roots, especially Kouse, or "qáamsit" (when fresh) and "qáaws" (when peeled and dried) (Lomatium especially Lomatium cous), and Camas, or "qém'es" (Nez Perce: "sweet") (Camassia quamash), the first being roasted in pits, while the other was ground in mortars and molded into cakes for future use, both plants had been traditionally an important food and trade item. Women were primarily responsible for the gathering and preparing of these root crops. Camas bulbs were gathered in the region between the Salmon and Clearwater river drainages. Techniques for preparing and storing winter foods enabled people to survive times of colder winters with little or no fresh foods.
Many fishes and plants important to Nez Perce culture are today state symbols: the black huckleberry or "cemi'tk" is the official state fruit and the Indian arrowwood or "sise'qiy", the Douglas fir or "pa'ps" is the state tree of Oregon and the ponderosa pine or "la'qa" of Montana, the Chinook salmon is the state fish of Oregon, the cutthroat trout or "wawa'lam" of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, and the West Coast steelhead or "heyey" of Washington.
"The Heart of the Monster", described in the Nez Perce origin story
The Nez Perce believed in spirits called weyekins (Wie-a-kins) which would, they thought, offer a link to the invisible world of spiritual power". The weyekin would protect one from harm and become a personal guardian spirit. To receive a weyekin, a seeker would go to the mountains alone on a vision quest. This included fasting and meditation over several days. While on the quest, the individual may receive a vision of a spirit, which would take the form of a mammal or bird. This vision could appear physically or in a dream or trance. The weyekin was to bestow the animal's powers on its bearer--for example; a deer might give its bearer swiftness. A person's weyekin was very personal. It was rarely shared with anyone and was contemplated in private. The weyekin stayed with the person until death.
The museum at the Nez Perce National Historical Park, headquartered in Spalding, Idaho, and managed by the National Park Service includes a research center, archives, and library. Historical records are available for on-site study and interpretation of Nez Perce history and culture. The park includes 38 sites associated with the Nez Perce in the states of Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington, many of which are managed by local and state agencies.
In 1805 William Clark was the first known Euro-American to meet any of the tribe, excluding the aforementioned French Canadian traders. While he, Meriwether Lewis and their men were crossing the Bitterroot Mountains, they ran low of food, and Clark took six hunters and hurried ahead to hunt. On September 20, 1805, near the western end of the Lolo Trail, he found a small camp at the edge of the camas-digging ground, which is now called Weippe Prairie. The explorers were favorably impressed by the Nez Perce whom they met. Preparing to make the remainder of their journey to the Pacific by boats on rivers, they entrusted the keeping of their horses until they returned to "2 brothers and one son of one of the Chiefs." One of these Indians was Walammottinin (meaning "Hair Bunched and tied," but more commonly known as Twisted Hair). He was the father of Chief Lawyer, who by 1877 was a prominent member of the "Treaty" faction of the tribe. The Nez Perce were generally faithful to the trust; the party recovered their horses without serious difficulty when they returned.
Recollecting the Nez Perce encounter with the Lewis and Clark party, in 1889 anthropologist Alice Fletcher wrote that "the Lewis and Clark explorers were the first white men that many of the people had ever seen and the women thought them beautiful." She wrote that the Nez Perce "were kind to the tired and hungry party. They furnished fresh horses and dried meat and fish with wild potatoes and other roots which were good to eat, and the refreshed white men went further on, westward, leaving their bony, wornout horses for the Indians to take care of and have fat and strong when Lewis and Clark should come back on their way home." On their return trip they arrived at the Nez Perce encampment the following spring, again hungry and exhausted. The tribe constructed a large tent for them and again fed them. Desiring fresh red meat, the party offered an exchange for a Nez Perce horse. Quoting from the Lewis and Clark diary, Fletcher writes, "The hospitality of the Chiefs was offended at the idea of an exchange. He observed that his people had an abundance of young horses and that if we were disposed to use that food, we might have as many as we wanted." The party stayed with the Nez Perce for a month before moving on.
Flight of the Nez Perce
Map showing the flight of the Nez Perce and key battle sites
Under pressure from the European Americans, in the late 19th century the Nez Perce split into two groups: one side accepted the coerced relocation to a reservation and the other refused to give up their fertile land in Idaho and Oregon. Those willing to go to a reservation made a treaty in 1877. The flight of the non-treaty Nez Perce began on June 15, 1877, with Chief Joseph, Looking Glass, White Bird, Ollokot, Lean Elk (Poker Joe) and Toohoolhoolzote leading 2,900 men, women and children in an attempt to reach a peaceful sanctuary. They intended to seek shelter with their allies the Crow but, upon the Crow's refusal to offer help, the Nez Perce tried to reach the camp in Canada of Lakota Chief Sitting Bull. He had migrated there instead of surrendering after the Indian victory at the Battle of the Little Bighorn.
The Nez Perce were pursued by over 2,000 soldiers of the U.S. Army on an epic flight to freedom of more than 1,170 miles (1,880 km) across four states and multiple mountain ranges. The 800 Nez Perce warriors defeated or held off the pursuing troops in 18 battles, skirmishes, and engagements. More than 300 US soldiers and 1,000 Nez Perce (including women and children) were killed in these conflicts.
A majority of the surviving Nez Perce were finally forced to surrender on October 5, 1877, after the Battle of the Bear Paw Mountains in Montana, 40 miles (64 km) from the Canada-US border. Chief Joseph surrendered to General Oliver O. Howard of the U.S. Cavalry. During the surrender negotiations, Chief Joseph sent a message, usually described as a speech, to the US soldiers. It has become renowned as one of the greatest American speeches: "...Hear me, my chiefs, I am tired. My heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever."
Chief Joseph went to Washington, D.C. in January 1879 to meet with the President and Congress, after which his account was published in the North American Review.
In 1994 the Nez Perce tribe began a breeding program, based on crossbreeding the Appaloosa and a Central Asian breed called Akhal-Teke, to produce what they called the Nez Perce Horse. They wanted to restore part of their traditional horse culture, where they had conducted selective breeding of their horses, long considered a marker of wealth and status, and trained their members in a high quality of horsemanship. Social disruption due to reservation life and assimilationist pressures by Americans and the government resulted in the destruction of their horse culture in the 19th century. The 20th-century breeding program was financed by the United States Department of Health and Human Services, the Nez Perce tribe, and the nonprofit called the First Nations Development Institute. It has promoted businesses in Native American country that reflect values and traditions of the peoples. The Nez Perce Horse breed is noted for its speed.
Nez Perce Indian Reservation
Nez Perce Indians with Appaloosa horse, around 1895
Due to tribal loss of lands, the population on the reservation is predominantly white, nearly 90% in 1988. The largest community is the city of Orofino, near its northeast corner. Lapwai is the seat of tribal government, and it has the highest percentage of Nez Perce people as residents, at about 81.4 percent.
Similar to the opening of Native American lands in Oklahoma by allowing acquisition of surplus by non-natives after households received plots, the U.S. government opened the Nez Percé reservation for general settlement on November 18, 1895. The proclamation had been signed less than two weeks earlier by President Grover Cleveland. Thousands rushed to grab land on the reservation, staking out their claims even on land owned by Nez Perce families.
Chief Lawyer (Hallalhotsoot, Halalhot'suut) (c. 1796-1876), son of a Salish-speaking Flathead woman and Twisted Hair, the Nez Perce who welcomed and befriended the exhausted Lewis and Clark Expedition in the September 1805. His father's positive experiences with the whites greatly influenced him, leader of the treaty faction of the Nez Percé, and signed the 1855 Walla Walla Treaty and controversial 1863 treaty. He was called the Lawyer by fur trappers because of his oratory and ability to speak several languages. He defended the actions of the 1863 Treaty which cost the Nez Perce nearly 90% of their lands after gold was discovered because he knew it was futile to resist the US government and its military power. He tried to negotiate the best outcome which still allowed the majority of Nez Perce to live in their usual village locations. He died, frustrated that the U.S. government failed to follow through on the promises made in both treaties, even making a trip to Washington, D.C. to express his frustration. He is buried at the Nikesa Cemetery at the Presbyterian church in Kamiah.
Old Chief Joseph (Tuekakas), (also: tiwíiteq'is) (c. 1785-1871), was leader of the Wallowa Band and one of the first Nez Percé converts to Christianity and vigorous advocate of the tribe's early peace with whites, father of Chief Joseph (also known as Young Joseph).
Ellis (c. 1810-1848) was the first united leader of the Nez Perce. He was the grandson of the leader Hohots Ilppilp (also known as Red Grizzly Bear), who met with Lewis and Clark.
Chief Joseph (hinmatóoyalahtq'it - "Thunder traveling to higher areas") (1840-1904), the best-known leader of the Nez Perce, who led his people in their struggle to retain their identity, with about 60 warriors, he commanded the greatest following of the non-treaty chiefs. (also known as Young Joseph)
Ollokot, ('álok'at, also known as Ollikut) (1840s-1877), younger brother of Chief Joseph, war chief of the Wallowa band, was killed while fighting at the final battle on Snake Creek, near the Bear Paw Mountains on October 4, 1877.
Looking Glass (younger) or 'Eelelimyeteqenin' (also: Allalimya Takanin - "Wrapped in the wind") (c. 1832-1877), leader of the non-treaty Alpowai band and war leader, who was killed during the tribe's final battle with the US Army; his following was third and did not exceed 40 men.
Eagle from the Light, (Tipiyelehne Ka Awpo) chief of the non-treaty Lam'tama band, that traveled east over the Bitterroot Mountains along with Looking Glass' band to hunt buffalo, was present at the Walla Walla Council in 1855 and supported the non-treaty faction at the Lapwai Council, refused to sign the Treaty of 1855 and 1866, left his territory on Salmon River (two miles south of Corvallis) in 1875 with part of his band, and did settle down in Weiser County (Montana), joined with Shoshone Chief's Eagle's Eye. The leadership of the other Lam'tama that rested on the Salmon River was taken by old chief White Bird. Eagle From the Light didn't participate in the War of 1877 because he was too far away.
Peo Peo Tholekt (piyopyóot'alikt - "Bird Alighting"), a Nez Perce warrior who fought with distinction in every battle of the Nez Perce War, wounded in the Battle of Camas Creek.
White Bird or Piyóopiyo x?ayx?áyx? (also: Peo-peo-hix-hiix or Peo peo Hih Hih; more correctly Peopeo Kiskiok Hihih - "White Goose") (d.1892), also referred to as White Pelican was war leader and tooat (Medicine man (or Shaman) or Prophet) of the non-treaty Lamátta or Lamtáama band, belonging to Lahmatta ("area with little snow"), by which White Bird Canyon was known to the Nez Perce, his following was second in size to Joseph's, and did not exceed 50 men
Yellow Wolf or Hiímiin maqs maqs / Himíin maqsmáqs (also: He-Mene Mox Mox or Hemene Moxmox, wished to be called Heinmot Hihhih or In-mat-hia-hia - "White Lightning", c. 1855, died August 1935) was a Nez Perce warrior of the non-treaty Wallowa band who fought in the Nez Perce War of 1877, gunshot wound, left arm near wrist; under left eye in the Battle of the Clearwater
Yellow Bull or Cúu?im maqsmáqs (also: Chuslum Moxmox), war leader of a non-treaty band
Wrapped in the Wind ('elelímyeté'qenin'/ háatyata'qanin)
Timothy (Tamootsin, 1808-1891), leader of the treaty faction of the Alpowai (or Alpowa) band of the Nez Percé, was the first Christian convert among the Nez Percé, was married to Tamer, a sister of Old Chief Joseph, who was baptized on the same day as Timothy.
^Hunn, Eugene and James Selam. 2001. Nch'i-wána, 'the Big River': Mid-Columbia Indians and Their Land. Seattle: University of Washington Press. p. 4.
^"Stern, Theodore. 1998. 'Columbia River Trade Network,' Pp. 641-652 in Handbook of North American Indians: Volume 12, Plateau. Deward E. Walker, Jr., Volume Editor. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution."
^ abSlickpoo, Allen P., Sr. 1973. Noon Nee-Me-Poo (We, The Nez Perces): Culture and History of the Nez Perces, Vol. 1. Lewiston, Idaho: The Nez Percé Tribe of Idaho.
^Landeen, Dan and Allen Pinkham. 1999. Salmon and His People: Fish and Fishing in Nez Perce Culture. Winchester, Idaho: Confluence Press.
^Nez Perce Tribe (2003). Treaties: Nez Perce Perspectives. The Nez Perce Tribe Environmental Restoration & Waste Management Program, in association with the United States Department of Energy. Lewiston, Idaho: Confluence Press.
^Spinden, Herbert Joseph (1908). Nez Percé Indians. Memoirs of the American Anthropological Association, v.2 pt.3. American Anthropological Association. p. 172. OCLC4760170.
^Walker, Jr., Deward E.; Jones, Peter N. (1964). he Nez Perce. Seattle: University of Washington Press.
^Paiute-speakers (i.e. Bannocks) called themselves Pan a'kwati/Panákwate - ?on the water side or on the west side? and their Shoshone kin within the mixed Bannock-Shoshone bands as Wihínakwate - ?on the knife side or on the iron side? (the equivalent Shoshone words are WihiN'naite and Bannaite)
^Joseph, Young, and William H. Hare. "An Indian's Views of Indian Affairs." The North American Review, vol. 128, no. 269, 1879, pp. 412-433. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/25100745. Accessed 19 Aug. 2020.
^McCoy, Robert R. (2004). Chief Joseph, Yellow Wolf and the Creation of Nez Perce History in the Pacific Northwest. Indigenous Peoples and Politics. New York: Routledge. pp. 103-109. ISBN0-415-94889-4.