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The Nez Perce

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The Nez Perce

By: Anne Meinke

The Nez Perce have been known by many different names since they have been a tribe. A tribe elder said that before they had horses they were called "Cuupn'itpel'uu" which means " we walked out of the woods". Next, they were called "Nimi''ipuu" which means "real people" or " we the people". Then, Lewis and Clark gave them their well known name Nez Perce, which means "pierced nose" in French. That was a strange name for the tribe since the Nimi''ipuu didn't practice the art of piercing. They found out later that they were mistaken for a tribe that lived farther south and did practice piercing. This tribe doesn't even call themselves Nez Perce, they go by Nimi''ipuu.

Like most tribes, the women gathered the small foods like roots and berries, and the men hunted for the meat( also called big game and small game, depending on how big the animal was). Some different roots the women collected include camas bulb, bitterroot, khouse, wild carrot, and wild potatoes. Some berries that the women gathered include service berries, gooseberries, hawthorn berries, thorn berries, huckleberries, currants, elder berries, chokecherries, blackberries, raspberries, and wild strawberries. The women also brought home pine nuts, sunflower seeds, and black moss. The large game that the men of the Nimi''ipuu tribe hunted include deer, elk, moose, bear, mountain sheep, goats, bison, and antelope. Small game were only hunted when they needed to, which include rabbit, squirrel, badgers, marmot, ducks, geese, ruffed grouse, and sage hens.

The Nimi''ipuu were very well organized. They lived in bands that were divided as the Upper Clearwater River Nimi''ipuu and Lower Nimi''ipuu of the Wallowa Valley. The two larger bands were divided into smaller bands of people in villages, each with their own territory. They lived in villages along streams and rivers. The bands were usually identified by using the name of the stream they lived by. Each village had a headman, usually one of the elder men of the village.

The typical Nimi''ipuu shelter was the Tule mat covered double lean-to long house. Tule is a long thin reed that gets bigger when wet, therefore making a tight seal and keeping the



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