Nez Perce Indians

The Nez Perce Indians have lived in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States for 10,000 years. At one point, their territory covered almost 17 million acres of land in what is now known as Washington, Oregon, Montana, and Idaho when Lewis and Clark arrived there on their expedition. There were 70 permanent Nez Perce villages in 1800, each of which housed between 30 and 200 people.

The Nez Perce were at one time the largest tribe on the Columbia River Plateau, but epidemics and conflicts with other Native American tribes caused their numbers to dwindle from 6,000 in 1805 to just 1,800 at the beginning of the twentieth century.

The Nez Perce Indians traveled with the seasons in order to find food. The women would dig root crops like wild carrot, and bitterroot while the men fished for salmon and hunted for big game such as elk, moose, sheep, bear, and goats. The men also hunted ducks, geese, and sage hens. In addition to dried roots, gooseberries, blackberries, elderberries, strawberries, huckleberries, chokecherries, sunflower seeds, wild potatoes, and pine nuts were a staple of the Nez Perce diet.

Chief Joseph was a well respected Nez Perce leader who tried to negotiate with the U.S. government after a land treaty was broken. When negotiations failed, Chief Joseph tried to lead a band of his people to safety in Canada, but hunger, freezing temperatures, and defeat at the Battle of Bear Paw Mountains forced their surrender to the Army. The route that Chief Joseph took is known as the Nez Perce National Historic Trail .

Today, there are approximately 3,300 enrolled Nez Perce Indians. Their reservation is located in North Central Idaho and the tribe is governed by the Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee, which consists of nine tribe members.

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