History and Culture

Traditional Nez Perce Art

Image of beaded items featuring Nez Perce traditional designs

The Nez Perce have used a variety of traditional geometric and floral patterns in decorations and beadwork, along with representations of birds and animals and decorations of natural materials such as shells and fur and elk teeth.

Food and Tools of the Nez Perce

Villages of numerous pithouses grew up along the rivers, and small family groups made seasonal foraging trips throughout the Blue Mountains and the Wallowas. They hunted game and gathered a variety of different foods, including huckleberries and camas roots.

Indians made spear points by chipping away at (or "flaking") a chunk of stone - usually obsidian, which is glasslike - with tools made from antler, bone, or stone. Obsidian, formed volcanically, makes one of the sharpest edges known to man, even sharper than a steel knife.


Different shapes for spear points

Life Skills & Traditions

Long ago, Indian families had everyday lives much like we do today. Homes had to be built and kept neat. Treasures, tools and toys had to be carefully stored. Food had to be prepared for storage and cooked. Clothes had to be made and repaired. People found different ways to do these things, depending on what their homeland(s) offered.

This section is designed for kids up to about age 10 but may also be suitable for older students. Some of the projects described below may need the assistance of an adult or older student. Be sure to check out the links at the end for further information on topics you're especially interested in.

People, Battles, Quotes and Letters of the Nez Perce Conflict

The history of the American West has involved the broadest possible cross-section of human activity. In an on-going effort to acknowledge previously under-recognized players and noteworthy individuals in the American western drama, this section is designed to help you identify with these courageous men, women, and children.

Fort Skalkaho

The artists’ conception of Fort Skalkaho is based on the description given in an article by James B. Mitchell, published in the Missoulian, March 31, 1929.  “The dimensions of the fort, similar to that of Fort Corvallis, were about one hundred feet square, twelve feet high, having a base three feet thick, continuing to “port holes” at about four feet than gradually decreasing to eighteen inches wide at the top of the wall.”  The doorway to Fort Skalkaho faced the southeast.  The sketch was made looking toward the southeast.