Nez Perce

Who were they?

Nez Perce were a Native American tribe who originally lived in northwestern parts of modern-day United States.

Until the late 19th century, they continued to live in an area which is included in modern-day states of Washington, Idaho and Oregon. Before the arrival of Europeans in their homeland, Nez Perce were mostly farmers.

House of the Nez Perce

The Nez Perce lived in two main types of houses. During the winter, they would live in longhouses. These houses, as the name suggests, were long and rectangular in shape.

Many families lived in a single longhouse. Nez Perce built these houses using wooden frames. The floor of longhouses was made by digging into the ground which helped the floor stay warm during winters.

A typical Nez Perce village comprised of many longhouses. In the summers, Nez Perce started hunting bison herds.

During the hunting season, they lived in more temporary houses which were called teepees. Teepees were made with wooden poles covered with bison hides so that they looked like inverted cones.

Arrival of the Europeans

Until the arrival of the Europeans, Nez Perce mostly lived in villages and did farming. They grew most of their food as crops. When the Europeans arrived, they introduced horses to the Nez Perce.

This changed the lifestyle of the Nez Perce significantly. With the horses, Nez Perce started hunting bison in the Great Plains region. They spent the winters in their villages while went to hunt bison herds in the summers.

Arrival of American Settlers

In the 19th century, the newly-born United States of America was rapidly expanding towards the west. Settlers, miners and farmers from American states went to the west in search of cultivable land, gold and other resources.

In the middle of the 19th century, white settlers started arriving in the land of the Nez Perce. Initially, the Nez Perce signed a treaty with the American government according to which they were allowed to keep their land.

But then gold was discovered in the land of Nez Perce and more white settlers started arriving. American government then decided to take over their lands.

Nez Perce Fight Back

When the U.S. government decided to take over the land of the Nez Perce, a small part of the Nez Perce people decided to fight back. Most famous among these was the Nez Perce Chief Joseph.

Chief Joseph and a group of Nez Perce tried to fight the Americans but they lost. They then tried to escape to Canada and ran for nearly 1400 miles.

On this long journey, they fought many battles but somehow managed to outrun the American soldiers pursuing them. Finally, they surrendered at the end of this 1400-mile journey.

Nez Perce Council of Elders

Nez Perce lived in different villages and each village had a Council of Elders. This council was led by a chief.

The Council made important decisions regarding the village and made sure that everyone in the village had sufficient food, was safe and did not have any serious problems.