Select Page

Nez Perce Tribe

The Nez Perce call themselves Nimiipuu which means “The People.” The name nez percé (“pierced nose”) came from French Canadian fur traders in the 18th century, an erroneous identification as nose piercing was never practiced by the tribe.

Nez Perce Chief Joseph, one of the most famous tribal leaders in American history. His surrender speech included the poetic phrase, “From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever.”

The Nez Perce tribe was historically nomadic, traveling with the seasons from buffalo hunting in the Great Plains to salmon fishing at Celilo Falls. 17 million acres in what is now Idaho, Oregon, Washington and Montana made up the tribe’s homeland. Today, the Nez Perce Indian Reservation consists of 750,000 acres, of which the tribe or tribal members own 13 percent. The tribe, with an enrolled membership of about 3,500 (2011), is headquartered in Lapwai, Idaho.

The management of land and natural resources continues to be paramount for the Nez Perce. A strong tribal fish program employs nearly 50 full-time and part-time workers. Nez Perce co-management responsibilities extend to the Columbia, Snake, Tucannon, Grande Ronde, Imnaha, Clearwater, and Salmon drainages. Tribal members fish on the Clearwater River, which runs through the reservation near its northern and eastern borders, and on the Columbia, Rapid, and Selway rivers.

The General Council, which includes all voting-age members of the tribe, elects the nine-person Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee (NPTEC), the tribe’s governing body. The tribe’s fish and wildlife committee is directly elected during General Council. The Nez Perce delegation to CRITFC consists of the NPTEC Natural Resources Subcommittee and the members of the Fish and Wildlife

The Nez Perce Tribe has combined traditional knowledge with state-of-the-art science to create an innovative hatchery in the heart of their reservation. There isn’t a straight concrete rearing pond in sight; instead, you find ponds that mimic the swift Idaho rivers and streams that flow throughout the Nez Perce reservation.

Nez Perce Tribal Lands

The Nez Perce reservation is dark green and the land they ceded to the United States is light green. The Columbia Basin is dark tan.

Nez Perce at a Glance


  • North-central Idaho
  • 750,000 acre reservation


  • Nez Perce (related to Sahaptin)
  • English


  • Seven Drums
  • Christian denominations

Pre-Treaty Economy

  • Hunting
  • Fishing
  • Gathering
  • Trade from Great Plains areas westward down the Columbia
  • Horse breeding

Tribal Enterprises