Nez Perce

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English, Nez Perce

Christianity, other

other Penutian peoples

The Nez Perce (pronounced /ˌnɛzˈpɜrs/) are a tribe of Native Americans who live in the Pacific Northwest region (Columbia River Plateau) of the United States. An anthropological theory says the tribe descended from the Old Cordilleran Culture, which moved south from the Rocky Mountains and west in Nez Perce lands.[1] The tribe currently governs and inhabits a reservation in Idaho.[2] The Nez Perce's name for themselves is Nimíipuu (pronounced [nimiːpuː]), meaning, "The People."[3]



The most common self-designation used today by the Nez Perce is Niimíipu.[3] "Nez Perce" is also used by the tribe itself, the United States Government, and contemporary historians. Older historical ethnological works use the French spelling "Nez Percé," with the diacritic.

In the journals of William Clark, the people are referred to as Chopunnish (/ˈtʃoʊpənɪʃ/). This term is an adaptation of the term cú·pʼnitpeľu (the Nez Perce people) which is formed from cú·pʼnit (piercing with a pointed object) and peľu (people).[4] Nez Perce oral tradition indicates the name "Cuupn'itpel'uu" meant "we walked out of the woods or walked out of the mountains" and referred to the time before the Nez Perce had horses. Nez Perce is a misnomer given by the interpreter of the Lewis and Clark Expedition at the time they first encountered the Nez Perce in 1805. It is from the French, "pierced nose." This is an inaccurate description of the tribe. They did not practice nose piercing or wearing ornaments. The actual "pierced nose" tribe lived on and around the lower Columbia River in the Pacific Northwest and are commonly called the Chinook tribe by historians and anthropologists. The Chinook relied heavily upon salmon as did the Nez Perce and shared fishing and trading sites but were much more hierarchical in their social arrangements.

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