Idaho Arts Quarterly » Reading Idaho

Nez Perce Country

by

(Bison Books)

The New York Times dubbed the late Alvin Josephy, Jr., our country's "leading non-Indian writer about Native Americans." Here Josephy describes the tribe that was the focus of much of his research and celebrates its "still-vibrant heritage."

The Nez Perce called themselves Nimí·pu·, "the people." Their homeland once encompassed some 27,000 square miles of what are today Idaho, Washington and Oregon, but all that remains is a small reservation.

Although the Nez Perce aided Lewis and Clark, relations soured after missionaries entered the area. Treaty negotiations with the U.S. government led to fatal divisions within the tribe, culminating in the Nez Perce War. It was then that Chief Joseph (whom the author shows to have been only one of several astute Nez Perce leaders) made his famous flight with some 750 followers. Caught just south of the Canadian border, Joseph surrendered: "From where the sun now stands I will fight no more forever."

Nez Perce Country concludes in the early 1970s, but tribal member Jeremy Fivecrows brings the story up to date in a wide-ranging introduction.