Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How do a get a copy of the park's brochure?

A: If you would like a copy of the brochure for Nez Perce National Historical Park, Big Hole National Battlefield, or Bear Paw Battlefield, send us an e-mail with your name and address and we can drop one in the mail.


Q: Does the park administer the Nez Perce (Nee-Me-Poo) National Historical Trail?

A: No. This is managed by the U.S. Forest Service. Nez Perce National Historical Park, however, does manage some of the sites that the trail crosses. For more information, please visit the trail's website.


Q: Does the Nez Perce Tribe run the park?

A: No. The park is managed by the National Park Service, however, the Nez Perce Tribe is one the park's key partners. Tribal members work at the park and the Tribe is consulted whenever the park embarks on a major project.


Q: Can I go camping at any of the park's sites?

A: No. We do not have established campgrounds at any of the park's sites. You will find, however, many public and private campgrounds in close proximity to park sites.


Q: Can I reserve the picnic area at the Spalding site for a special event?

A: Yes. There is a portion of the picnic area that is reserved for special events. Please go to the picnic area page on the website and it will provide all of the information that you need to make a reservation.

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Q: How many Nez Perce people are there?

A: There are nearly 4,000 Nez Perce, but only about 3,100 of them are enrolled with the Nez Perce Tribe in Idaho.Approximately 1,800 live on the Nez Perce reservation itself. The Flight of 1877 dispersed some Nez Perce to places as far away as Canada and Oklahoma. There are many who have Nez Perce ancestors that live on the Colville Reservation in eastern Washington and the Umatilla Reservation in northeastern Oregon. There are also some descenants that live in Canada and Oklahoma.

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Q: Why are there so many non-Nez Perce living on the reservation?

A: Although the boundaries of the Reservation include 784,999 acres, only about 13% is now owned by the Tribe or tribal members. Most of the land passed into non-Indian hands after the Dawes Allotment Act of 1887. The Act, which affected most reservations nationwide, assigned 160 acres of Reservation land to each adult American Indian and up to 80 acres to each child. Often the sections assigned were not contiguous, so a single family might have claim to widely separated plots.

This policy was designed to break up traditional Indian family life and assimilate the Nimiipuu into ‘mainstream’ America. Lands not immediately assigned were sold to settlers and miners or given to white settlers under the Homestead Act. Since many settlers were already illegally residing on western Reservations, the Allotment and Homestead Act merely legalized their presence. The allotment process was carried out on the Nez Perce Reservation between 1889 and 1893, putting more than 70% of the Reservation into non-Indian hands. While a few Nez Perce families adapted to ranching and farming, most preferred the traditional hunting and gathering lifestyle and economy.

The concept of ‘owning’ a defined block of land, made ‘legal’ by a piece of paper was a foreign concept to the Nez Perce, who were used to having all of the land in common. Some sold their deeds to non-Indian farmers, further depleting the tribal land base. Today the Tribe is working to purchase back lands as they become available.
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Q: How did the Nez Perce get started with beadwork?

A: Nez Perce traditionally fashioned decorated bags, clothing, and jewelry from elk teeth, bone discs or tubes, porcupine quills, and various shells. Predating any European traders, the Nez Perce participated in an expansive trade network with other indigenous communities. This trade network is how the Nez Perce were able to obtain shells such as dentalium and cowrie from the West Coast. The first glass beads to reach the Nez Perce came through the trade network which connected Plateau people with their surrounding neighbors. When Lewis and Clark arrived in 1805, they found that the Nez Perce already had glass beads. In a letter from Captain Lewis to President Jefferson, Lewis stated that blue beads were the most popular. Beadwork bloomed in the 1840s-1850s with a more steady supply of beads. Floral patterns appeared in the 1860s with the widespread availability of seed beads (a small, glass bead roughly the size of a common seed). Nez Perce used a variety of techniques, including lazy stitch and overlay stitch, to create an array of geometric, floral, and pictorial motifs. Many of the patterns that were fashionable over the past two centuries are still revered today. One example is floral patterns. Over time, other designs grew in popularity as well. Nez Perce continue to make items in traditional forms and with traditional materials, but they also sometimes add a contemporary flare. Contemporary pieces often blend modern objects with traditional practices, such as a beaded baseball caps or vests.

Last updated: August 31, 2020

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

Nez Perce National Historical Park
39063 US Hwy 95

Lapwai, ID 83540-9715

Phone:

(208) 843-7001

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