Nez Perce National Historical Park

nez perce teepees on a plain
Nez Perce teepees on a plain

Photo courtesy of BLM

Nez Perce National Historical Park encompasses land that has been home to the Nez Perce people for thousands of years. Lewis and Clark first encountered the Nez Perce in September 1805 on their westward journey. The Nez Perce had never seen Europeans until the Corps, when they - nearly starving - came out of the Bitterroot Mountains. The Corps would camp with the Nez Perce at Weippe Prairie. Once they were ready to continue onward, the Corps entrusted their horses to the Nez Perce until their return.

In early May 1806, the Corps of Discovery reunited with the Nez Perce. The Corps hurried back from the Pacific in the hopes of crossing the Lolo Trail early. Instead, the snow was too deep, and they would be forced to wait at least three to four weeks. On May 14, the Corps set up camp nearly opposite the present-day town of Kamiah, Idaho. This camp has become known by many names: Long Camp, Camp Chopunnish, and Camp Kamiah.

During their stay Clark became the Nez Perce's "favorite phisician" and spent much of his time tending patients. He treated ulcers, rheumatism, sore eyes and weak limbs, and Clark dressed wounds, drained abscesses and distributed salves, laxatives and eyewash. The Corps and Nez Perce also had a good time together - Clark recounted this merriment in his journal, "in the evening several foot races were run by the men of our party and the Indians; after which our party devided and played at prisoners base untill night. after dark the fiddle was played and the party amused themselves in dancing."

On June 10, 1806 the Corps left camp to continue their journey back:

". . . rose early this morning and had all the horses collected except one of Whitehouses horses which could not be found, an Indian promised to find the horse and bring him on to us at the quawmash fields at which place we intend to delay a fiew days for the laying in some meat by which time we calculate that the Snows will have melted more off the mountains and the grass raised to a sufficient hight for our horses to live. we packed up and Set out at 11 A M we set out with the party each man being well mounted and a light load on a 2d horse, besides which we have several supernumary horses in case of accident or the want of provisions, we therefore feel ourselves perfectly equiped for the Mountains . . ."

They traveled approximately eight miles northeastward to the southern portion of the Weippe Prairie, near the spot where they first met the Nez Perce a year earlier. Finally, on June 15, the Corps set out over the Lolo Trail on their journey home.

Last updated: October 30, 2017