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Nez Perce
Nez Perc

Nez Perce men, Idaho

[Fr.,= pierced nose], Native North Americans whose language belongs to the Sahaptin-Chinook branch of the Penutian linguistic stock. Also called the Sahaptin, or Shahaptin, they were given the name Nez Perc by the French because some of them wore nose pendants; however, this custom does not seem to have been widespread among them. They were typical of the Plateau area, fishing for salmon and gathering camas, cowish, and other roots. After the introduction of the horse (c.1700) they became noted horse breeders and adopted many Plains area traits, including buffalo hunts. In 1805, when visited by Lewis and Clark, they were occupying a large region in W Idaho, NE Oregon, and SE Washington. In the 1830s the Nez Perc, then numbering some 6,000, attracted national attention by sending emissaries to St. Louis to ask for books and teachers. Their request attracted to the Pacific Northwest missionaries who played an important role in opening the region to settlement. The Nez Perc ceded (1855) a large part of their territory to the United States. The gold rushes in the 1860s and 1870s, however, brought large numbers of miners and settlers onto their lands, and a treaty of cession was fraudulently extracted (1863) from part of the tribe. This led to the uprising under Chief Joseph in 1877. See H. J. Spinder, The Nez Perc Indians (1908, repr. 1974); Theodore Mathieson, The Nez Perc War (1964); A. M. Josephy, Jr., The Nez Perc Indians and the Opening of the Northwest (1965, abr. ed. 1971); M. H. Brown, The Flight of the Nez Perc (1966, repr. 1972); Deward Walker, Conflict and Schism in Nez Perc Acculturation (1968).

Chief Joseph

"I will Fight No More Forever"

(Chief Joseph), c.1840-1904, chief of a group of Nez Perc. On his father's death in 1871, Joseph became leader of one of the groups that refused to leave the land ceded to the United States by the fraudulently obtained treaty of 1863. Faced with forcible removal (1877), Joseph and the other nontreaty chiefs prepared to leave peacefully for the reservation. Misinformed about the intentions of the Nez Perc, Gen. Oliver Otis Howard ordered an attack, which the Native Americans repulsed. Pursued by the U.S. army, the warriors, with many women and children, began a masterly retreat to Canada of more than 1,000 mi (1,609 km). The Nez Perc won several engagements, notably one at Big Hole, Mont., but 30 mi (48 km) short of the Canadian border they were trapped in a cul-de-sac by troops under Gen. Nelson A. Miles and forced to surrender. His eloquent surrender speech is one of the best-known Native American statements. The whites had assumed that Joseph, spokesman for the tribe in peacetime, was responsible for their outstanding strategy and tactics, which actually had been agreed upon in council by all the chiefs. He became, however, a symbol of the heroic, fighting retreat of the Nez Percs. He was taken to Fort Leavenworth, then spent the remainder of his life on the Colville Indian Reservation in the state of Washington and strove to improve the conditions of his people. In 1903 he made a ceremonial visit to Washington, D.C. See biographies by O. O. Howard (1881, repr. 1972) and H. A. Howard (1941, repr. 1965); Merrill D. Beal, I Will Fight No More Forever (1985).

Wallowa Lake where Chief Joseph's band of Nez Perce spent their summers. I've always had a keen interest in the Nez Perce and Chief Joseph. I have Native American heritage, and wanted to honor this great chief and tribe. Most of these links are in some way related to Chief Joseph. Several have his entire speeches or excerpts and one has an article from Harper's Bazaar from the late 1800's.

Appaloosa's History
Although this breed didn't have its origins in North america, the Nez Perce
are chiefly responsible for the Appaloosa as we know it today.

Eagle Cap Wilderness, Oregon
Read the dramatic story of the Nez Perce' attempt to reach Canada.

Flight of the Nez Perce Through the Bitterroot Valley
A well-organized site broken into short chapters listing the events and
circumstances of each segment of the Nez Perce' flight.

The Nez Perce
Learn about the Nez Perce though this essay which is divided into such
topics as oral traditions, homeland and population, and Euro-American
contact. Once you've read it all, test yourself on what you've learned with
the provided study questions. If you'd like a printout of this essay for
handy reference, choose that link from the top of the page. All images and
the map are enlargeable and can also be downloaded and/or printed.

Nez Perce
Follow the links to other related websites or those scattered throughout the
brief text that give you access to further information.

Nez Perce Peacemakers
A new twist on an old way: "Historically, Nez Perce "peacemakers" helped
resolve family and village disputes by advising disputants of the need for
tribal unity, and by guiding them to mutually agreeable resolutions. The Nez
Perce Peacemaker Project trains law students and a number of tribal members
to co-mediate disputes referred to them by the tribal court and various

Nez Perce Plant Uses
The names and uses of plants which were a part of the Nez Perce diet.
Preparation and cooking methods are described. This, and many other
interesting pages, can be accessed from the "Nez Perce National Historical
Park" link at the very bottom of your browser's window.

Reservation Treaty of 1895
The full text of the treaty signed in Washington, DC by Grover Cleveland.

Sacred Journey
Read the history, a listing of the battles, dates of the Nez Perce War, and
the transcript of the documentary, Sacred Journey, as provided by two public
television stations.

Wallowa Co. Nez Perce Interpretive Center
Take a look at the past, present, and future of the Nez Perce in their
ancestral homeland.

Wallowa County Chieftain, Oregon
This a biography of Chief Joseph, legendary chief of the Nez Perce. Included
is a good photo. One comment, though: this site's author credits Joseph with
having "the brains of an average
congressman". Is that supposed to be a compliment? Think about it, eh?