The Nez Perce had many needs and several wants. One of the wants were horses. And then there were the basic survival needs, such as food, shelter, and clothing. Their food was mostly salmon and camas bulbs, which they smoked and stored for the winter. They wore clothes made of cedar bark, deer skin, and rabbit skin. They also wore basket hats. As far as shelter, they were nomads, so they needed something that was light and was easy to set up and tear down. The answer to this dilemma was tipis.


Horses were extremely important to the Nez Perce. The Spanish came in the early eighteenth century and they brought the horses with them. It changed life a whole lot for a lot of groups. The Nez Perce got used to their life with horses. They became lavish gifts and were considered an accurate measure of wealth. They bred, traded for, broke and trained, and even stole horses. They even created a new breed of horse, the Appaloosa. The horses allowed them to move up the Rockies to hunt bison and trade with plains people. The Nez Perce built one of the largest horse herds on the continent. Slaves and material objects didn't matter to them as much as their horses did. But of course horses were just wants. They aren't as important and the three basic needs.


Since the Nez Perce were nomadic, they had to move to get food and water. Since it was difficult to find food during the winter, they hadexternal image coho%20salmon.jpg to smoke salmon and store camas bulbs. They also gathered and hunted different things dependent on the season. In the spring the women collected root crops and the men fished for salmon. The Nez Perce found that a sweet syrup can be drawn from maple trees. Usually in March, they would collect this syrup and turn it in to hard candy. In the summer the women collect root crops and the men fish and hunt for big game. In the fall the men hunted for elk and deer and fished and the Nez Perce ate stored berries and roots from storage. Finally in the winter they collect and eat camas bulbs, bitteroot, klaus bulbs, wild carrots, wild potatos and other root crops. They also ate goose berries, hawthorn berries, huckleberries, currents, elder berries, chokeberries, black berries, raspberries, wild strawberries, pine nuts, sunflower seed and black moss. But to collect all this food, the Nez Perce had to be nomadic. So they built houses easy to build and easy to tear down

Shelterexternal image Buffalo%20Hide%20Tipi%20at%20Nez%20Perce%20National%20Park-275.jpg

In the winter the Nez Perce lived in the tule mat-covered long house. The length varied but they could be over 100 feet long. These houses were also used for ceremonial purposes. There were several rows of hearths in the center of the house. House pits or excavated dwellings were used by families simultaneously with the mat covered housing structures. They became less popular after the introduction of the tipi. The tipi is made using 12 wood poles with tule mat covers which were eventually replaced by bison skin during the late sixteenth century. And after the introduction of trade canvas covers eventually replaced the bison skin. The Nez Perce used tipis becuase in the summer they were nomadic. That means they had to move to get their food. They used the tipis because they were easy to set up and tear down.


Last but not least the Nez Perce needed clothing. Men and women wore different outfits.
Chief Joseph
Chief Joseph
The men wore long fringed buckskin shirts, leggings, belts, breech cloth, moccasins and gloves. The feathered hat was traditional. During the winter the men also wore bison skin robes. The women wore long belted buck skin dresses, corn husk basketry hats, and knee length moccasins. The dresses were decorated with elk teeth, beads made of shell bone, glass, porcupine quills, and vegetable and mineral dies.


As one can see, the Nez Perce were a highly capable tribe. They knew how to get food and water, clothing and shelter, and, of course, clothing. The way the Nez Perce met these needs was highly efficient and intelligent. They hunted and fished as well or better than tribes before them. They figured out ways to be in contact with the spirit world, wyakins and baths. A wyakin was a spirit helper that could either protect or punish the indian who possessed it. Baths were taken after contact with the spirit world. As one can clearly see, the Nez Perce were a highly advanced tribe who knew how to meet their needs and wants.


"Frequently Asked Questions." Nez Perce Tribal Website. 29 Sept. 2002. 7 Jan. 2008