Nez Perce

 Part 1; History  Much like many of the plains tribes, the Nez Perce tribe of the pacific Northwest lived off the land and did so in a successful manner. With the changing of the seasons, the tribes moved over an area of roughly 30,000 square miles in current day Idaho, Washington and Oregon.  In Spring, the women of the tribes harvested root crops like bitterroot and wild carrots, while the men went in search for salmon in the Snake and Clearwater rivers. Hunting was done when needed and commonly traveled to find elk and deer on lower land. When horses were introduced to the Nez Perce, they became a staple in the hunting of bison. This led to the tribe being a powerful force on horseback.

When the tribes weren't gathering nutritional needs, they were tended other aspects of their living situation. Many families lived under one roof, in a long house was used primarily in the winter or for special ceremonies. The sized varied, but it could be up to 100 feet long. It was covered with tule matts. Running down the middle of the structure was a row of hearths used as a heat source for the families. Each immediate family had their own area within the long house, but shared resources with others living in the structure. Eventually the tipi was introduced and the long house became less common. Tipis were considerably smaller and were much more mobile.

The traditional clothing of Nez Perce tribes reflected their resources as well as events and ceremonies. Men could be found wearing on a day-to-day basis shirts, pants, belts and moccasins, all made of buckskin and ornamented with fringe, animal teeth and shells. Similar garb could be seen on the women: they wore long buckskin dresses with moccasins adorned with similar decoration as the men's. As trade and technology advanced, the decoration became more intense and glass and dyes were used. To cope with the frigid temperatures of the winter, bison skin robes were worn.  During special occasions, a large feathered bonnet was a common sight for men along with intensely beaded dresses and face paint worn by both sexes. These traditional garments are still worn today for special events.

With the tribes being located in the Pacific Northwest, having contact with Lewis and Clark was inevitable. It was recorded in their journals how peaceful the tribes were as well as how helpful they were in their exploration. Even with their peaceful disposition, they were also known for their war strategies. Much about their government was found through these journals. Before the introduction of the “white man” the tribes governed themselves. Each village had a headman that led its people. A council worked with the headman in making important decisions for the people. These positions were usually inherited, but were severely affected when Euro-American colonization moved into their territory. 

All information generated from Nez Perce Official Website:
            "Nez Perce Tribe History." Nez Perce Tribe History. N.p., 4 Sept. 2009. Web. 15 Feb. 2015.

Part 2; Colonial Experience
The Nez Perce met William Clark and Meriwether Lewis as they were performing their journey across North America in 1805. This meeting went extraordinarily well and both sides were satisfied by the exchanges of guns, buffalo meat and horses. The two sides made trade agreements and the travelers even entrusted the Nez Perce with their horses as they traveled by boat to the Pacific Ocean. The early 19th century was a very prosperous time for the Nez Perce as they enjoyed the fruits of the fur trade and the sale of other commodities. In the 1830s Presbyterian missionaries began to enter the Nez Perce territory and introduced many things such as traditional medicine and instructions of how to build a mill.  In the second half of the 19th century the United States government entered into 3 treaties with the Nez Perce. These were the treaties of 1855, 1863, and 1868. The United States also established the Nez Perce Reservation. The treaty of 1855 established the ownership of a large reservation which also guaranteed off-reservation rights of hunting, fishing, gathering, and travelling. The treaty of 1863 reduced this territory and reflects pressure by the United States to sell the reservation land.  The Nez Perce entered into a war with the United States in 1877. This was known as the Nez Perce or Chief Joseph's War. This war involved those within the Nez Perce who refused to be removed to the reservation land and the United States who wanted them to move there. The U.S gave the Nez Perce 30 days to move or they would attack. The Nez Perce were originally going to comply but a group of young warriors attacked and killed white ranchers. This action resulted in the United States hunting down the Nez Perce over a 1300 mile long distance which culminated in the battle at Bear Paw Mountain. The Nez Perce surrendered at this point and were moved to Oklahoma and then to the Colville Reservation in Washington. This defeat marked the end of the non-reservation and non-Christian Nez Perce. Even for the Christian Nez Perce things did not improve. In 1895 with the enactment of the Dawes Severalty Act their reservation territory became open to non-Indian settlement. This resulted in the loss of the majority of the Nez Perce land which at its peak was at 13 million acres in 1800 and had dwindled down to 80,000 acres in 1975. Since the 1960s things have improved slightly for the Nez Perce. They had gained an additional 30,000 acres in tribal land and have pursued a revival of culture by pursuing both legal and legislative mediums. The Nez Perce’s story is one of trust with Americans in the beginning that dwindled down into nothing as the United States pursued aggressive containment policies that broke established treaties that the United States signed and then violated.
"The Nez Perce." ::: American Indians of the Pacific Northwest Collection :::. Web. 3 Mar. 2015. <>.
"Nez Perce Indians." Learn about the History and Culture of the. Web. 3 Mar. 2015. <>.
"Nez Perce Indians." PBS. PBS. Web. 3 Mar. 2015. <>.

  Contemporary Developments
Currently, the Nez Perce tribe is responsible for two different casinos, the Clearwater River Casino in Lewiston, Idaho, and the It’se Ye Ye Bingo and Casino in Kamiah, Idaho.  The Nez Perce Tribe Gaming Commission is responsible for protecting the gaming operations and property from illegal activity, operating the casinos in accordance with both tribal, local, and federal regulations, and training the employees to follow these regulations as well.
The Nez Perce Tribe Fish and Wildlife Commission was formed in 1998 and is responsible for promoting the conservation, enhancement, and management of natural resources, regulating hunting and fishing seasons, and supplying this information to the public, as well as providing high quality salmon to the members of the Nez Perce tribe for ceremonial purposes, as well as for consuming.
The Nez Perce tribe is affiliated with the Nimiipuu Health Center, which describes their mission as to “provide quality healthcare in a culturally sensitive and confidential setting.”  Nimiipuu Health provides the same services as most health centers, but also has two large behavioral health programs.  The Nimiipuu Health Substance Abuse Service offers help to people and families suffering from alcohol and drug abuse, including screening and assessment, counseling, relapse prevention, and court services.  The Mental Health Program provides services such as screening and evaluation, outpatient treatment of individuals or families, referrals to other mental health services, mental health education, and psychiatric nurse consultations and prescriptions. 
The Nez Perce are also affiliated with the Nez Perce Horse Registry.  Historically, when Lewis and Clark first encountered the Nez Perce tribe, they noted how elegant and active their horses were.  Nez Perce horses today are a cross between Appaloosa and Akahl-Teke horses.  Their breeding is strictly regulated by the Nez Perce tribe and the Nez Perce Horse Registry.  The Horse Registry also runs the Nez Perce Young Horseman Project, which recruits young people between the ages of fourteen and twenty one to learn the art of horsemanship, how to manage horses, and the different opportunities available to those interested in working with horses.
The official language of the Nez Perce is Nimiipuutimt.  A Nimiipuutimt language program is available, but it is maintained rather irregularly on the Nez Perce tribal website.  Nonetheless, the Nez Perce tribe employs a language staff with multiple technicians and coordinators, and the Circle of Elders is also involved.  Nimiipuutimt has many different sounds that are not found in English, and the stresses placed on words are a key part of it as well. 
The intent of the Nez Perce education department is to provide “education and career pathways to enhance self-sufficiency for individuals while staying grounded in Nez Perce values.”  The tribal education programs provide services to individuals of all ages, and works together with local, states, and federal organizations in order to expand education, training, and career services in the reservation.

Text Box: Contemporary Developments cont. Along with the education department, the Nez Perce tribe also has a police department, an arts council, a social services administration which includes a children’s home, a senior citizen program, a woman’s outreach program, and veteran’s benefits program, a large fisheries and natural resources department, and executive, administrative, and financial departments too.     'Behavioral Health.' Nimiipuu Health. Web. 6 Mar. 2015. <>.  'Education Department.' Nez Perce Tribal Website. Nez Perce Tribe. Web. 6 Mar. 2015. <>.  Nez Perce Horse Registry. Nez Perce Tribe. Web. 6 Mar. 2015. <>.  'Tribal Departments.' Nez Perce Tribal Website. Nez Perce Tribe. Web. 6 Mar. 2015. <>.