Geography The Nez Perce, or Nimipu Indians, lived in what are now the states of Idaho, Washington, and Oregon. This positioned them right in the middle of the Rocky Mountains. It was for this reason they called themselves the "people of the mountains."Ã¯Â¿Â½ Overall their territory covered an estimated 28,000 square miles. The Nez Perce tended to settle along the banks of rivers of the area such as the Idaho, Snake, and Clearwater. In fact, the upper part of the Clearwater River was a very densely populated area. So was the Kamiah Valley and the Wallowa Valley in Oregon. Settling near the rivers was not only convenient considering their diet depended largely on salmon, it also provided for an excellent and convenient mode of transportation.
Population The Nez Perce were the most populous and powerful Indian tribe in the Northwest area. When Louis and Clark passed through on their expedition in 1805 they estimated the Nez Perce's total population to be around 6,000.
Whereas, only about 2,000 Nez Perce Indians remain as a tribe today.
Relationship with Other Groups and Cultures The Nez Perce were one of the many tribes that belonged to the Shahaptian linguistic family. Some of the tribes that fell under this distinction were the Yakima, Umatilla, Walla Walla, Cayuse, and Palouse. These tribes spoke different dialects of the same language. In many ways the Shahaptian tribes shared more than just the same language, they also shared share similar cultures. These six tribes lived in the same area of the country, depended heavily on salmon, shared several religious beliefs and often came into close contact with one another.
Experience On Contact The first contact the Nez Perce had with Europeans was in 1805 when Louis and Clark passed through on their expedition. The Nez Perce welcomed and...