Nez Perce National Historical Park
The rolling hills and plains of the Camas Prairie mark the heart of the Nez Perce Indian Reservation. 150 years ago, this treeless landscape saw a great deal of activity. In the spring, when the weather warmed up, Nimiipuu or Nez Perce families and bands moved from the river bottoms to the Camas Prairie. The Prairie was rich in resources - grasslands provided forage for horse herds and camas bulbs could be picked in patches all over the prairie.
Tolo Lake, at the south end of the prairie, was a well known gathering place and it was here that the Nimiipuu bands from the Wallowa Country in northeastern Oregon gathered in June, 1877 after being ordered to leave their homes. The subsequent violence that took place in the Salmon River and at White Bird would ignite the Nez Perce War of 1877.
With the passage of the Allottment Act by Congress in the 1880s, the amount of land on the Camas Prairie held by Nimiipuu families would shrink. In an attempt to reform the way reservations were managed, the Allottment Act provided for 160 acres to Nimiipuu heads of households. It was assumed this would provide the basic land base needed to start a family farm. Land that was not allotted to individual families was then open to general settlement. As a result, much of the land was converted to agriculture. Camas can be found in isolate patches but it's mostly gone.
Did You Know?
Josiah Red Wolf was five years old when the 1877 war began. His parents were killed at the Battle of Big Hole in Montana. He returned to Big Hole at the age of 91 to help dedicate the new visitor center in 1968.