The Nez Perce Indian tribe is a proud and long-standing Indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest. They are believed to have lived on the Columbia River Plateau for many centuries, and were one of the most powerful tribes in the region.
The Nez Perce were nomadic, travelling with the seasons from buffalo hunting in the Great Plains to salmon fishing at Celilo Falls. Their vast homeland covered 17 million acres across Idaho, Oregon, Washington and Montana.
The Nez Perce tribe was originally friendly to white settlers until 1855 when they were forced to sign a treaty surrendering much of their land. In 1863 gold was discovered on this same land, sparking conflict between settlers and the tribe. This led to General Oliver Otis Howard issuing an ultimatum in 1877 that ordered the Wallowa bands of Nez Perce onto a reservation.
The Nez Perce call themselves Nee-Me-Poo or Nimipu which translates as “our people” – a name given by French explorers who called them “pierced nose” due to some members having pierced noses as part of their traditional customs. The Nez Perce once lived in small villages near streams during winter,