Nez Perce Indians
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|Regions with significant populations|
| Ancestral Homelands: The Nez Perce ranged from northeastern Oregon and western Washington, across north-central Idaho and as far east as the headwaters of the Missouri River in Montana.
not yet researched
not yet researched
|Other Related Ethnic Groups|
Coeur d'Alene, Palouse, and others
Alternate Names: Nimi'ipuu, Chopuunish, Sahaptin
- 1 Tribal Headquarters
- 2 History
- 3 Records
- 4 Important Web Sites
- 5 References
- 6 Bibliography
Nez Perce Reservation
Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee
Charles H. Hayes, Chairperson
P.O. Box 305
Lapwai, ID 83540
Tel# 1-208-843-2253, Fax# 1-208-843-7354
- Nez Perce Tribal Web Site
The first reported contact with non-Indians occurred in 1805 when the Lewis and Clark Expedition explored the area. The Nez Perce Indians, also known as the Nimi'ipuu, have been known by other names, as well. Lewis and Clark called them the Chopuunish, and later writers called them the Sahaptin.
Interaction with missionaries began in 1836 when a Presbyterian mission was extablished by Henry Harmon Spalding and his wife, Eliza. Father Joseph Cataldo was the first Catholic missionary, and the St. Joseph Catholic mission was established in 1874.
By a Treaty of 1855, the tribe was confined to a reservation in the Wallowa Valley in Oregon and a large area of central Idaho. On March 6, 1856 the Nez Perce tribe furnished horses to the Oregon Mounted Volunteers. The tribe was later reimbursed in a treaty signed June 9, 1863.
When the federal government wanted to further confine the tribe to the Idaho portion of the reservation in 1877, Chief Joseph and his followers who did not want to be restricted to the new boundaries of the reservation, resisted in what became known as the Nez Perce War. As a result of their defeat in this resistance, Chief Joseph led his followers on a march to try to reach Canada, but was stopped about 40 miles short of his goal, surrounded by U.S. soldiers, and forced to surrender in October of 1877. Their flight had taken several months of evading a pursuing army and had covered approximately 1700 miles. Chief Joseph and his followers were sent to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas and thence to the Ponca Reservation in Indian Territory. In 1885, they were allowed to return to the Pacific Northwest, but were confined to the Colville Reservation in Washington.
The remainder of the Nez Perce who had not resisted being restricted to a smaller reservation, remained at the Nez Perce Reservation in north-central Idaho.
The Nez Perce now reside mostly on the reservation near Lapwai, Idaho, with a few descendants of the tribe, principally Chief Joseph's Band, still residing on the Colville Reservation and with the Coeur d'Alene Indians in northern Idaho.
- 1805:Contact between the Nez Perce and the Lewis and Clark expedition
- 1836:Henry Harmon and Eliza Spalding establish a Presbyterian mission among the Nez Perce
- 1855:Nez Perce Reservation established by treaty.
- 1855 Treaty October 17, with the Blackfeet
- 1855 Treaty June 11, at Camp Stevens in Walla Walla Valley
- 1861: Nez Perce Agency of the Bureau of Indian Affairs was established
- 1863 June 9,a treaty (Thief Treaty) was signed at Lapwai Valley, Washington Territory
- 1868 August 13, at council ground in Lapwai Valley in Washington Territory
- 1868:Father Joseph Cataldo's first Catholic missionary efforts among the Nez Perce
- 1874:St. Joseph's Catholic mission established
- 1877:The "Nez Perce War," led by Chief Joseph, occurred. (Flight of the Nez Perce, 1,700 miles)
- Battles: Clearwater Creek in Idaho, Big Hole Valley in Montana, Camas Creek in Idaho, Canyon Creek and Cow Island in Montana, and Bear Paw in Montana. Leading the U.S. forces was General Oliver Howard - (Formed Howard University - ed. African Americans; he had one arm)1877:October, Chief Joseph 87 warriors, 84 women, and 147 children surrendered near Bear Paw, Montana. November the Nez Perce Tribe sent to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas
- 1878-79: The tribe was under the jurisdiction of the Quapaw Agency in Indian Territory
- 1878: The part of the tribe that followed Chief Joseph was sent to Indian Territory in Oklahoma
- 1879-80: The tribe was under the jurisdiction of the Ponca Agency in Indian Territory
- 1885: Chief Joseph and his followers were sent to the Colville Reservation in Washington
- 1904: Chief Joseph died at the Colville Reservation
The principal reservation for the Nez Perce Indians is the Nez Perce Reservation in central Idaho. Small groups of Nez Perce also live on the Colville Reservation in northeastern Washington and with the Coeur d'Alene Indians in northern Idaho.
Additional References to the History of the Tribe
- Frederick Webb Hodge, in his Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico, gave a more complete history of the Nez Perce tribe, with estimations of the population of the tribe at various time periods.
- Additional details are given in John Swanton's The Indian Tribes of North America.
- Francis Haines. The Nez Perces, Tribesmen of the Columbia Palteau. Norman, Ok. University of OK. Press 1955. FHL Book: 970.3 N499h
Most of the original records created by agents of the Bureau of Indian Affairs remain in the Agency Office in Lapwai, Idaho. However, some have been transferred to the National Archives in Washington, DC or to the Regional Archives of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) in Seattle, Washington.
The following agencies of the Bureau of Indian Affairs had jurisdiction over the Crow for the time periods indicated. BIA agencies were responsible to keep such records as census rolls, allotment (land) records, annuity rolls, school records, correspondence, and other records of individual Indians under their jurisdiction. For details, see the page for the respective agency.
The Bureau of Indian Affairs compiled annual Indian Census Rolls on many of the reservations from 1885 to 1940. They list the names of individuals, their age, and other details about each person enumerated. For more information about these records, click here.
The following table lists the census rolls for the Nez Perce Indians:
|Agency||Location of Original Records||
M595 RG 75 -- 692 Rolls
|Colville Agency, 1885-1939 -- Joseph's Band||Washington, DC||49-56||FHL Films: 574208-574215|
|Nez Perce Agency, 1890-1901||Washington, DC||Roll 301||FHL Film: 579711|
|Fort Lapwai Agency, 1902-33||Washington DC||Rolls 145-48||-||Coeur d'Alene Agency, 1934-1937||Washington DC||Roll 45||-||Northern Idaho Agency, 1938-1939||Washington, DC||Roll 302||}
Two churches were particularly active among the Nez Perce. The earliest missionary effort among the tribe was established in 1836 by the Presbyterian Church by Henry Harmon Spalding and his wife, Eliza. Records of this effort are included in the holdings of the Presbyterian Historical Society in Philadelphia. A later effort was made by the Catholic Church by Father Joseph Cataldo and was known at the St. Joseph's or Slickpoo Mission. The St. Joseph's Mission records are a part of the holdings of Washington State University in Pullman and of the Pacific Northwest Tribes Mission Collection of the Oregon Province Archives of The Society of Jesus, 1853-1960, housed at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington. Some of the registers are also on microfilm at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. Many of the converts to Catholicism are buried in the Slickpoo Cemetery near St. Joseph's.
There are several sets of correspondence between the supervising offices of the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the local offices -- agencies, subagencies, etc. The correspondence is often historical in nature, including reports of the conditions among local groups of Indians, hostilities, plans for building facilities, activities of traders or missionaries, etc. Occasionally, there will be names of individuals but little detail about them. For more information about American Indian correspondence, click here.
The following table lists some correspondence relating to the Nez Perce Indians: