IntroductionAmong the list of great Plateau American Indians you will find the Nez Perce Tribe. Below you will find listed interesting facts and information about who these people are, their culture, what their history was, and where they came from.
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Basic Nez Perce Tribe Facts
- The name Nez Perce (pronounced "nezz purse") comes from French Canadian fur traders who encountered this tribe in the late 1700s. It means "pierced nose". The tribe refers to themselves as Niimíipu (the people) however also use the name Nez Perce as does the U.S. government.
- The people are descendants of the ancient Cordilleran Culture. These were ancient people who lived in Northwest America up until about 5500 BC.
- At the time the famous Lewis and Clark expedition came across the Indians they lived in an area covering approximately seventeen million acres in current day Oregon, Washington, and Idaho.
- Today the Nez Perce Nation has a 750,000 acre reservation located in North Central Idaho.
- These Native Americans speak the Nez Perce language also called Niimiipuutímt. This language is spoken by only a handful of people and is an endangered language.
- The weapons these Native Americans used during war included the bow and arrow and spear. They used shields made out of leather for protection.
- These American Indians were migratory moving around seasonally to find food. They were historically fishers, hunters, and gatherers. Their diet consisted of such foods as roots, moose, buffalo, elk, salmon, potatoes, carrots, blackberries, elderberries, pine nuts, strawberries, and sunflower seeds.
- These American Indians would paint their faces for such occasions as war, religious ceremonies, and festivals. The type of occasion would dictate the patterns they would paint.
- Although migratory they did have permanent houses they would return to. They lived in earth houses which were constructed by digging a room in the ground then constructing a wooden frame over it and covering it with earth and wood. When on their hunting trips they would live in tipis which could easily and quickly be taken apart and transported.
Interesting Nez Perce Tribe Facts
- Nez Perce art includes basketry, quillwork, and paintings.
- Nez Perce jewelry was traditionally made out of elk's teeth, bone, and porcupine quills. With the arrival of European traders beads became available and were used in their necklaces, bracelets, and ear rings.
- The first Americans to meet tribal members were from the Lewis and Clark expedition in 1805. After crossing the Bitterroot Mountains (in the Rocky Mountains, in the panhandle of Idaho) the expedition was exhausted and hungry. The meeting was friendly and the Indians treated the expedition to a meal.
- For clothing, traditionally tribal men wore shirts made out of buckskin and breechcloths with leather leggings. Sometimes they wore gloves. Leaders of the tribe would sometimes wear feather headdresses. Women wore long dresses made out of deerskin that were often dyed and decorated with elk teeth and beads. Men and women would wear moccasins on their feet.
- When Nez Perce kids had time for play they would generally use natural objects as toys. For example it has been noted how they used pinecones for throwing. They would see who could throw the furthest or highest.
- In 1877 part of the tribe accepted being relocated to a reservation but approximately 800 men, women and children led by Chief Joseph did not. This led to the Nez Perce War. After a few clashes with the U.S. Army the Indians fled their homeland in search of a peaceful area to relocate; pursued by 2,000 U.S. Army soldiers. They traveled over 1,170 miles (1,880 km) and had numerous clashes with the U.S. Army. They eventually surrendered and were forced to live in a reservation.
- The Nez Perce Trail follows the path the Indians took while attempting to escape from the pursuing U.S. Army.