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Nez Perce
Expedition Culture Geography People Maps Nature

We are Nimíipuu - Nez Perce Indians

In this module you will be introduced to the Nimíipuu, also called the Nez Perce. We have a rich and vibrant culture, which has existed since time immemorial and which continues to this day. As a result of your engagement in this module, you will gain a better understanding of the influence of the Nimíipuu not only on Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery, but also on American history and culture. You will also gain an appreciation of how the Corps of Discovery ...

Essential Questions

Geographical Location:
Date: September 20, 1805
City: Weippe Prairie

Essential Questions

Overriding Theme Questions

The following overriding theme questions are posed in this module. Many specific questions will be derived from these key questions, as listed below.
  • What is the Nimíipuu (Nez Perce) perspective on Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery?
  • Given that "Lewis and Clark" have come to symbolize for the Nimíipuu a larger historic and on-going relationship with Euro-American society,
    • What is the impact of Euro-American society on the Nimíipuu (changes brought after Lewis and Clark)?
    • And equally important, what is the impact of the Nimíipuu on Euro-American society?

Nimíipuu: What's in a Name?

  1. What does the term Nimíipuu mean and what is its origin? What does the term "Nez Perce" mean and how did it come about? What are the significances and differences in the name one calls oneself and in the name others call you?
  2. In the larger context, consider the history in which first Lewis and Clark and then other Euro-Americans imposed their terms and names upon the landscape of the Nimíipuu and their people. What are the many possible effects and significances of "naming" a river, a mountain, or some other aspect of the landscape, as well as of the use of such terms as "Squar" [squaw]?
  3. As used in this module, what does the term "since time immemorial" mean? And what are some of the implications for the Nimíipuu in their use of this term?

History: Disruptions and Continuities

  1. What were the major historical events and processes that have had a lasting effect on the Nimíipuu way of life?
  2. Despite the rather harsh history of Euro-American contact (for example, from the consequences of disease, war and allotment), in what ways have the Nimíipuu continued their cultural ways and values into the 21st century?
    For example, how has Nimíipuu involvement with the salmon and the horse in the 19th century continued into the 21st century? What cultural and management practices and values exemplify both eras?
  3. What are the legal principles as well as cultural and historical foundations underlying Nimíipuu sovereignty? How has that sovereignty been threatened?
  4. What were the principle intentions of Lewis and Clark after they crossed over the Bitterroot Mountains into territory the United States had no legal claim? As the lands west of the recently purchased Louisiana Territory were claimed by Britain up until 1846, as part of Canada, what did Jefferson and Lewis and Clark hope to gain by negotiating with the Nimíipuu?

Landscape: Matter of Perspectives

The eyes of Lewis and Clark and the Nimíipuu have viewed the same mountains and rivers.
  1. Consider the ways Lewis and Clark described the landscape along the Lolo Trail and Clearwater River and, generally, along their entire route to and from the Pacific Ocean. What were they interested in describing and recording in their Journals? What were their purposes in describing the items they recorded?
  2. Contrast the Lewis and Clark perspective with how the Nimíipuu see their landscape. How is the landscape along the Clearwater River viewed and understood by the Nimíipuu? How do the oral traditions, such as those involving Coyote, and spiritual practices contribute to the Nimíipuu perspective of the landscape?
  3. How have introduction of farming (via the missionary and government programs) and individual land ownership (via the Dawes Act), and such changes as damming the rivers altered how the Nimíipuu relate to and use their landscape? In comparing the time of Lewis and Clark with that of today, are there more continuities or discontinuities in Nimíipuu worldview?

Wetxuuwíis: Exchanges Between Lewis and Clark and the Nimíipuu

  1. In what ways did their association with the Nimíipuu assist the Corps of Discovery and what did they gain from the association?
  2. In what ways did their association with the Lewis and Clark assist the Nimíipuu and what did they gain from the association?
  3. Were there any negative consequences from the encounter with Lewis and Clark for the Nimíipuu?
  4. From the perspective of the Nimíipuu, what have the Corps of Discovery and Lewis and Clark come to symbolize and represent, and why?