Before the coming of the Latetelwit (human beings), the world according to the Nez Perce people was inhabited by animals that were endowed with the qualities and behaviors of humans. In this ancient past, the principal character was Niseweynu, Coyote, a trickster and transformer.
Coyote stories and legends convey teachings and practical information about familiar things such as notable landmarks found around their villages, the storms and winds of the mountains, the rattlesnakes among the basalt rocks in the canyons, the flowing streams and the salmon that come in the spring and summer, the insects, birds, animals, and trees.
The wildlife found in and around the sites of Nez Perce National Historical Park connects the Coyote stories of the past, with the present. Amphibians, birds, mammals, reptiles, and invertebrates abound at all sites. From the peregrine falcon to the ant, species diversity is of critical importance.
Also of importance are state listed threatened, endangered, and sensitive species. Gray wolf and bald eagle may be periodically seen in the park, but are not residents. Other sensitive species that may be found in the park include Montana arctic grayling, mountain plover, swift fox, great gray owl, boreal owl, and certain species of fish.
Did You Know?
Salmon is a sacred fish for the Nez Perce. It is sustained them for thousands of years and has shaped their culture and religion. Today the Nez Perce Tribe is playing a leading role in the restoration of wild Salmon runs in the Columbia River Plateau.