The rivers, canyons, and prairies of the Columbia Basin are the homeland of the Nez Perce. The Nez Perce, or Nimiipuu, inhabited much of what is now north central Idaho and portions of Oregon and Washington for thousands of years. The story of how western settlement drastically affected the Nimiipuu is one of the great and at times tragic sagas of American history.
Renowned western historian Alvin M. Josephy Jr. describes the Nimiipuu’s attachment to the land and their way of life, religion, and vibrant culture. He also chronicles the western expansion that displaced them, beginning with the Lewis and Clark Expedition in 1805 and followed by the influx of traders and trappers, then miners and farmers. Josephy traces the ill fortune of the Nez Perce as their homeland was carved up by treaties, creating an atmosphere of hostility that would culminate in the Nez Perce war of 1877 and conclude with Chief Joseph’s famous pronouncement: “I will fight no more forever.”
Despite the challenges of the past, the Nimiipuu have maintained their ties to the land. In his introduction to the book, Jeremy FiveCrows details how the tribe has fought for self government to undo the damage wrought by shortsighted practices.