Naz Perce History and Culture - Essay Sample

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Wesleyan University
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The traditional American society has a rich history of the famous Red Indian culture. The Red Indian occupied the entire North American; however, different sub-communities formed the red India and among them are the Naz perce. The name Naz perce is French and means pierced nose, but the initial name of the tribe is the nimipu. The reasons why the French referenced them as Nez Perce is not know because there are no traditions or evidence in the community that indicate any form of nose piercing in the tribe. The term nimipu however, means the people (Spinden, 16). The Naz Perce community was significant as they lived in the larger parts of the Bitterroot mountains, they are said to have lived in the lower Snake River and the tributaries of clear water rivers and salmon, what is today the Oregon region, west of Washington and east of Montana. The climate of the area was warm summers and cold and snowy winter (Joseph, 9). They also enjoyed the fast-flowing rivers, the lakes, and the forest.

The Naz Perce tribe are also referred as the people of the plateau who practiced a semi-nomadic lifestyle. As people of the plateau, they practiced fishing, hunting, and gathering. They practiced fishing in the snake and Clearwater River and hunted in the mountain forest where they also gathered fruits and camas roots (Johansen, 18). The most commonly captured animals in the mountains of this tribe were the rabits, deer, and buffalos. Due to the introduction of horses in 1700, the community way of life begun to shift as people in the community embarked on traveling in the Great Plains to hunt. While visiting they were in contact with the native Indians of the Great Plains, and they borrowed the art of using buffalo hides. The Naz Perce plateau region was rich in grass, which enabled them to keep herds of horses (Walker, 49). The community was famous for breeding the spotted sturdy horse known as the appaloosa an elegant horse race that is lofty and durable.

The Naz Perce tribe nomadic lifestyle of hunting, fishing, and gathering made them have staple food like salmon and other fish. They also consumed meat from wild animals they hunted in the forest. To supplement this diet, they would gather fruits, roots, and vegetables. They collected the corn like roots and made the famous meal kouse (Spinden, 58). The Naz Perce tribe was notorious for using weapons such as spears, knives, arrows, clubs, and bows. Weapons that were commonly used for defense from intruders and during hunting (Johansen, 72).

The semi-nomadic lifestyle had the Naz perce live in semi-nomadic shelters that were easy to build and take down in their departure. There three basic shelters they build and lived in which were the tepees, a sub-subterranean pit house or a tule mat lodge (Johansen, 55). Each of this shelters was used and built in different seasons of a year. The pit house, for example, were commonly resided during the winter season. They were made of logs and sealed with dirt and grass which acted as an insulator. They were mostly built underground. In the summer the tule mat lodge and the tepee ware used. These houses were built above the ground. The tule mat lodge was constructed of the mats which were strong and durable. The carpets were made of tule reeds. The tepees were made of the animal skin, mostly that of buffalos.

The Naz Perce men traditional clothes were made of tree barks and the most common tree used was the cedar barks. Animal skins were also used mostly the deer and rabbit skin. Due to the introduction of horses and buffalo hunting, they began to use buffalo hides to make clothes. The clothes are worn varied with the season of the year. During winter they needed to keep warm, and therefore, they wore breechcloths and leggings, they used gloves and blanket, and in other instances, they wore shirts and robes. Most of the time they used belts with their clothes, and for their legs, they used the moccasins (Slickpoo, 29). The Naz Perce men decorated their clothes with fringes. They also wore breastplates for decoration. The breastplates were decorated with dentalium shells acquired from the coastal tribe during trade, and later they began to use buffalos bones for that same purpose. They also wore anklets, armbands, and wristbands, especially during ceremonies. They kept their hair long and decorated with plaits and beads especially during celebrations. They also wore headdresses made of feathers (Walker, 34).

The women had their different dressing they wore large hats made from dried leaves and fiber. Their dresses were very long, and they cover from the neck to the mid calves. The women during winter wore long knee moccasins (Spinden, 62). Due to their constant movements, they had large bags made called the parfleche which they used to carry and store foods and clothes. The bags were made from animal skin, and they were decorated. The most common ornaments used for decoration of cloths and other thing include bones, shells, seeds, porcupine quills, bird talons, nuts among other things (Slickpoo,57).

The Naz Perce were known for their excellent art and craft they made paintings, practiced basketry and quillworks, which were well decorated with ornaments.

The permanent travel lifestyle of the Naz Perce had them make dugout canoes which were made from tree trunks. They also used the dogs to pull travois which was a drug sled used to carry belonging on the land. When the horses were introduced, they adopted horses for fast travel (Johansen, 36).

The Naz Perce tribe was ruled by chiefs who were also religious leaders. Their role also included leading people into war and ensuring unity in the community. Some of the famous head in the community include chief Hollalhotsoot who was a lawyer. He had excellent oratory skill and ability to use different languages (McWhorter, 14). There is also chief Joseph and chief looking glass. They are both famous for they led the Naz Perce war in 1800 against the United States government (McWhorter, 24).

Works cited

Johansen, Bruce Elliott. The native peoples of North America: a history. Vol. 1. Rutgers University Press, 2006.

Josephy, Alvin M. The Nez Perce Indians and the opening of the Northwest. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1997.

McWhorter, Lucullus V. Hear Me, My Chiefs!: Nez Perce Legend and History. Caxton Press, 1952.

Slickpoo, Allen P. "Noon Nee-Me-Poo (We, the Nez Perces): the Culture and History of the Nez Perces." (1973).

Spinden, Herbert J. "The Nez Perce Indians." (1908).

Walker, Deward E. Handbook of North American Indians, Volume 12: Plateau. Smithsonian Institute, 1998.

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