Nez Percé Indians

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Nez Percé Indians. A French appellation signifying “pierced noses.” Also called:

  • Â’dal-k’ato’igo, Kiowa name, signifying “people with hair cut across the forehead.”
  • Anípörspi, Calapooya name.
  • A-pa-o-pa, Atsina name (Long, 1823).
  • A-pū-pe’, Crow name, signifying “to paddle,” “paddles.”
  • Blue Muds, name applied by traders.
  • Chopunnish, Lewis and Clark.
  • Green Wood Indians, Henry-Thompson Journal.
  • I’-na-cpĕ, Quapaw name.
  • Kamŭ’inu, own name.
  • Ko-mun’-i-tup’-i-o, Siksika name.
  • Mikadeshitchísi, Kiowa Apache name.
  • Nimipu, own name, signifying “the people.”
  • Pa ka’-san-tse, Osage name, signifying “plaited hair over the forehead.”
  • Pe ga’-zan-de, Kansa name.
  • Pierced Noses, English translation of name.
  • Po’-ge-hdo-ke, Dakota name.
  • Sa-áptin, Okanagon name.
  • Shi’wanǐsh, Tenino name for this tribe and the Cayuse, signifying “strangers from up the river.”
  • Tchaχsúkush, Caddo name.
  • Thoig’a-rik-kah, Shoshoni name, signifying “louse eaters(?).”
  • Tsuhárukats, Pawnee name.
  • Tsútpeli, own name.

Nez Percé Connections. The Nez Percé Indians were the best known tribe of the Shahaptian division of the Shapwailutan linguistic stock, to which they gave the name commonly applied to them by Salish tribes.

Nez Percé Location. The Nez Perce occupied a large part of central Idaho, and sections of southeastern Washington and northeastern Oregon. (See also Montana and Oklahoma.)

Nez Percé Subdivisions

The following bands are given by Spinden (1908):

  • Alpowē’ma, on Alpaha (Alpowa) Creek.
  • Atskaaiwawixpu, at the mouth of the northern fork of Clearwater River.
  • Esnime, Slate Creek Band, the Upper Salmon River Indians.
  • Ilasotino, at Hasutin, opposite Asotin City, Wash.
  • Hatwēme, on Hatweh Creek.
  • Heswéiwewipu, at the month of Asotin Creek.
  • Hīnsepu, at Hansens Ferry on the Grande Ronde.
  • Imnáma, on Imnaha River.
  • Inantoīnu, at the mouth of Joseph Creek.
  • Isäwisnemepu, near Zindels, on the Grande Ronde.
  • Iwatōǐnu, at Kendrick on Potlatch Creek.
  • Kamiaxpu, at Kamiah, at the mouth of Lawyer’s Creek; this band also called Uyame.
  • Lamtáma, on Salmon River.
  • Lapwēme, on Lapwai and Sweetwater Creeks.
  • Makapu, on Cottonwood or Maka Creek.
  • Painīma, near Peck, on Clearwater River.
  • Pipū’ǐnīmu, on Big Canon Creek.
  • Saiksaikinpu, on the upper portion of the Southern Fork of Clearwater River. Sakánma, between the mouth of Salmon River and the mouth of Grande Ronde.
  • Sálwēpu, on the Middle Fork of Clearwater River, about 5 miles above Kooskia, Idaho.
  • Saxsano, about 4 miles above Asotin City, Wash., on the east side of Snake River.
  • Simīnekempu, at Lewiston, Idaho.
  • Taksehepu, at Agatha on Clearwater River.
  • Tamanmu, at the mouth of Salmon River.
  • Tewepu, at the mouth of Oro Fino Creek.
  • Toiknimapu, above Joseph Creek on the north side of the Grande Ronde. Tsokolaikiinma, between Lewiston and Alpowa Creek.
  • Tukē’lǐklikespu, at Big Eddy.
  • Tukpāme, on the lower portion of the South Fork of ‘Clearwater River. Tunèhepu, at Juliaetta on Potlatch Creek.
  • Walwáma, in Willows Valley.
  • Wewī’me, at the mouth of the Grande Ronde.
  • Witkispu, about 3 miles below Alpowa Creek, on the east side of Snake River. Yaktō’ǐnu, at the mouth of Potlatch Creek.
  • Yatóīnu, on Pine Creek.

The Nuksiwepu, Sahatpu, Wawawipu, Almotipu, Pinewewewixpu, Tokalatoinu, and other bands extended about 80 miles down Snake River from Lewiston.

Nez Percé History. In 1805 Lewis and Clark passed through the territory of the Nez Perce Indians. The first friction between this tribe and the Whites followed upon the discovery of gold in the West and the consequent influx of miners and settlers. By treaties concluded in 1855 and 1863 they ceded all of their lands to the United States Government with the exception of one large reservation. The occupants of Wallowa Valley refused to agree to the final cessions, and the Nez Percé war of 1877 resulted, distinguished by the masterly retreat of Chief Joseph toward the Canadian line, which was almost attained by him before he was overtaken. Joseph and his followers to the number of 450 were sent to Oklahoma, but they lost so heavily from disease that in 1885 they were removed to the Colville Reservation, Washington, where a few still live.

Nez Percé Population. Mooney (1928) estimates a population of 4,000 Nez Perce in 1780. In 1805 Lewis and Clark computed the total number at 6,000, if we deduct the estimated population of the two tribes later reckoned as distinct. Wilkes (1849) gives 3,000 and Gibbs (1877) estimates more than 1,700 in 1853. In 1885 the official figure was 1,437. In 1906 there were 1,534 on Lapwai Reservation and 83 on Colville Reservation, Washington. The census of 1910 reported 1,259, of whom 1,035 were in Idaho. The Report of The United States Indian Office for 1923 gave 1,415 and the report for 1937, 1,426. In 1930 the Shahaptian division of the Shapwailutan stock numbered 4,119.

Connections in which the Nez Percé have become noted. The Nez Perce have claims to remembrance:

  1. As the largest and most powerful tribe of the Shapwailutan stock.
  2. As having given a name applied to them to the principal division of the formerly independent Shahaptian family. From this tribe Nez Percé County, Idaho, and the post village of Nezperce in Lewis County derive their names.


MLA Source Citation:

Swanton, John R. The Indian Tribes of North America. Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin 145. Washington DC: US Government Printing Office. 1953. AccessGenealogy.com. Web. 12 December 2014. http://www.accessgenealogy.com/native/nez-perce-indian.htm - Last updated on Jun 9th, 2012


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