Interpretive Sign Along Highway 12 - "Nez Perce Sikum"

Text from the interpretive sign

Sikum is the Nez Perce word for horse. The Nez Perce people were introduced to the horse in the 1730's. The word "appaloosa" was created by white settlers. The Nez Perce learned through selective breeding that they could produce a horse uniquely suited to their homeland and the country around you where they frequently traveled.

The Nez Perce National Historic Trail travels down Lolo Canyon and was a critical and frequently used route for the Nez Perce between their homeland and the bison rich plains to the east. According to Samuel Penny, Chairman of the Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee:

"This was our commerce trail. We followed this trail east to hunt buffalo. We came here for camas. We came here in our flight from the soldiers."

On February 15, 1806, Meriwether Lewis wrote of the Nez Perce horses in his journal:

"Their horses appear to be of an excellent race; they are lofty, elegantly formed, active and durable, in short, many of them look like fine English corsers and would make a figure in any country."

The rich history of the sikum lives on today with the Nez Perce through their Young Horseman Program. The Nez Perce maintain an active horse breeding program in Lapwai, Idaho. The Nez Perce horse of today is a unique cross between the Akhal-Teke of Turkmenistan and the Appaloosa. Through this program they maintain their repurtation as accomplished equestrians.

Special captions to accompany photos and illustrations:

"The Nez Perce Horse Registry represents the Akhal-Teke/Appaloosa cross, a horse of athletic prowess, endurance and toughness necessary to travel long distances and climb mountains. This breed is also quite competitive in modern equine sports."

"Nez Perce man's saddle, 1870-1900, with American cinch, 1888-1910."

"Nez Perce woman's saddle, 1870-1890."