Nez Perces

The Nez Perces were the charming tribe, a highly intelligent people who had an advanced culture. Like the Flatheads, they had absorbed much Plains and Coastal culture, and had paid in kind. Not only the camas and kouse (the arrowhead) which they dug and dried passed along the trade routes, but their basketry, their woven bags, and especially their bows. The captains had seen Nez Perce bows at the Mandan villages – short, with a double curve, usually of horn and always backed with sinew. The most powerful bow used by Indians in the area of the United States, it brought premium prices. It was a bow for horsemen – and horses were the Nez Perces’ principal celebrity. In the broad Idaho valleys, a fine stock country, they raised great herds of them. Almost the only Indians who practiced selective breeding, they had developed a tough, strong, fast stock. When first the trappers and then the emigrants followed Lewis and Clark west, the Nez Perce horse made its breeders affluent for it outsold the scrubby “ponies” of other tribes. One strain they isolated became famous, lapsed from public knowledge, and has again been brought back – the strong and graceful Appaloosa with its characteristic markings, usually a spotted rump.