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Nez Perce Country

Alvin M. Josephy Jr.

Publication Year: 2007

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.

Published by: University of Nebraska Press

List of Illustrations

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pp. vii

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Introduction: I Am Of This Land

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pp. ix-xvii

I am of this land. Growing up on the Nez Perce reservation, I often heard this simple phrase and believe that it captures the essence of who the Nez Perce are. The rivers and valleys, mountains and forests of Nez Perce country hold my heart and connect me with my past. Living on the land where my culture was born, was almost destroyed...

Editorial Note

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pp. xviii

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Welcome to Nez Perce Country

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pp. xix

The Nez Perce Country of northeastern Oregon, southeastern Washington, and north-central Idaho is a land steeped in America's western heritage. Once it was home only to the Nez Perce Indians, but with the passage of time other people came to this land. The flow of new inhabitants began as a trickle with Lewis and Clark's...

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1. Before the White Man

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pp. 1-20

In that mythical age, the principal character was Coyote, a trickster and transformer. At times Coyote was a silly rascal who got himself into ludicrous scrapes. At other times he was super-human and able to change himself and others, as well as the forces of nature, into different forms and to accomplish wondrous...

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2. Omens of Change

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pp. 21-32

Long before they saw the first white men, the Nez Perce began to feel their influences. Russians first appeared on the Alaskan coast only in the 1740s, and European and American seamen did not begin to trade with tribes along the Pacific Coast south of Alaska until several decades later. But Spaniards, who had been in the Southwest since...

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3. The Fur Traders

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pp. 33-39

Because of snow in the mountains, the Lewis and Clark expedition camped for several weeks among the Nez Perce in the Kamiah Valley. The longer the explorers were with the Nez Perce, the higher grew their regard for them. The Nez Perce "has shown much greater acts of hospitality than we have witnessed from any nation or tribe since...

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4. Agents of Change

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pp. 40-58

Some anthropologists, notably Deward E. Walker Jr., believe that certain Christian ideas may have diffused into the Plateau region as early as the eighteenth century, prior to the whites' arrival, and influenced some of the beliefs and practices of a "prophet cult" among the Nez Perce. The cult, according to Walker, included a number of...

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5. Time of Crises

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pp. 59-82

The decade after the killing of the Whitmans was one of turbulence and tragedy for all tribes in the Northwest. Even if the bloodshed at Waiilatpu had not occurred, the subsequent course of history may not have differed greatly, for white settlers and miners, riding the tide of westering Manifest Destiny, poured into the Oregon Country...

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6. The Gathering Storm

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pp. 83-107

On July 22, 1859, a new agent, A. J. Cain, informed Lawyer and many headmen of both factions that the treaty they had made with Stevens in 1855 had finally been ratified and that they could now feel secure on their lands within the reservation boundaries. Despite his assurances, the Nez Perce lands were anything but secure. West of the...

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7. War Comes to the Non-Treaties

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pp. 108-135

On June 14–15, the second group of raiding Nez Perce continued the work of the first, killing or wounding more than a dozen other whites along the Salmon River with whom they had scores to settle. Word of their angry retribution sped through the countryside, in one case being carried to the miners at Florence by an alarmed Nez Perce...

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8. Aftermath

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pp. 136-155

During the sad years of exile, Joseph never ceased trying to persuade the government to allow the non-treaties to return to their homeland. In the fall of 1878 Commissioner of Indian Affairs E. A. Hayt visited the Nez Perce camp and saw their deplorable living conditions but agreed only to try to get Congress to appropriate money...

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9. Today

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pp. 156-161

One area of activity has been the pursuit of claims. The first one began in 1946, when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced plans to build the Dalles dam on the Columbia River, whose backed-up pool would destroy the traditional Indian fisheries at Celilo Falls. Though the Corps promised to pay the affected tribes...


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pp. 163-174

E-ISBN-13: 9780803276338
E-ISBN-10: 0803276338

Page Count: 224
Illustrations: 12 photos, map, index
Publication Year: 2007