There is a creation story at the center of every culture. For the nimí·pu·, or Nez Perce, the story of their people begins at the landmark near present day Kamiah, Idaho called timʼné•pe, or Heart of the Monster, where coyote (known as Iceye'ye to the nimí·pu·) killed a monster who was eating all of the animals.
Heart of the Monster Legend
Iceye'ye (pronounced 'it-see-yi-yi') was building a fish ladder at Celilo [Falls,Oregon]. He was busy at this when someone shouted to him, “Why are you bothering with that? All of the people are gone” “Well,” said Iceye'ye to himself, “then I’ll stop doing this because I was doing it for the people, and now I’ll go along too.
From there he went along upstream, by way of the Salmon River country. Along the way he took a good bath saying to himself, “Lest I make myself repulsive to his taste,” and then dressed himself all up, “Lest he will vomit me up or spit me out.”
From there he walked along down the throat of the monster. Presently Iceye'ye arrived at the heart and cut off slabs of fat and threw them to the people. And now Iceye'ye started a fire with his flint, and smoke drifted up through the monster’s openings. There was his fire still burning near the heart and now the monster began to writhe in pain and Iceye'ye began cutting away on the heart, whereupon very shortly he broke the stone knife. Immediately he took another and in a short time this one also broke and Iceye'ye said to all the people, “Gather up all the bones and carry them to his openings; pile them up and when he falls dead kick all the bones outside.” Then again with another knife he began cutting away at the heart. The third knife broke and the fourth, leaving only one more.
They carved the great monster and now Iceye'ye began dealing out portions of the body to various parts of the country all over the land; toward the sunrise. Toward the sunset, toward the warmth, toward the cold, and by that act destining and forenaming the various people; Coeur d'Alene Pend, Flathead, Oreilles, Crow, Sioux, et al.
Last updated: February 12, 2018