|| Josiah Pinkham and Leroy Seth talk on the importance of a plung into the ice-covered river. (Interviewed by Josiah Pinkham February 2002)
Nimíipuu villages were very democratic and egalitarian and possessed a relatively simple social and governing structure. In each village, the people chose a council that named and advised a headman. Often that position was hereditary, but the council could substitute another man if the headman was ineffective. The headman was recognized for his qualities of wisdom, generosity, abilities at diplomacy and oratory, bravery, experience, and age.
The headman's duties were to act as spokesman for the village, mediate intravillage disputes, attend to the general welfare of village members, and provide an example of outstanding and generous conduct. In return for his services, the people often gave him food clothing, and other goods, especially for settling arguments.
Although a headman was a highly influential person, he could not overrule the council. The council, made up of several male heads of families, discussed village issues and made decisions by general agreement. It planned the details of fishing, hunting, gathering, and other village activities. It decided on the relations with other groups and maintained peace and harmony within the group. Although women were not known to be members of the council, they were able to influence male relatives on the council.
Rules were enforced by persuasion and influence. Dissenters within the village were free to go their own way. However, their respect for the headman and council, and the agreement that the decisions were necessary or good usually kept people from leaving.
Representatives of different nearby villages composed a band council, which elected a band leader. The bands unified the villages for group undertakings. Often various neighboring bands were unified into a larger group, or composite band. There was no centralized authority or single "chief" who ruled over all the bands.
|| Mylie Lawyer, tribal elder, discusses an early humorous story while growing up. (Interviewed by Ann McCormack and Josiah Pinkham February 2002)
© Nez Perce Tribe 2002
|| Leroy Seth on humor. (Interviewed by Josiah Pinkham February 2002)
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