The Nez Perce call themselves Niimíipuu – “The People.” The name nez percé (“pierced nose”) came from French Canadian fur traders in the 18th century, an erroneous identification as nose piercing was never practiced by the tribe.
The Nez Perce tribe was historically nomadic, traveling with the seasons from buffalo hunting in the Great Plains to salmon fishing at Celilo Falls. 17 million acres in what is now Idaho, Oregon, Washington and Montana made up the tribe’s homeland. Today, the Nez Perce Indian Reservation consists of 750,000 acres, of which the tribe or tribal members own 13 percent. The tribe, with an enrolled membership of about 3,500 (2011), is headquartered in Lapwai, Idaho.
The management of land and natural resources continues to be paramount for the Nez Perce. A strong tribal fish program employs nearly 50 full-time and part-time workers. Nez Perce co-management responsibilities extend to the Columbia, Snake, Tucannon, Grande Ronde, Imnaha, Clearwater, and Salmon drainages. Tribal members fish on the Clearwater River, which runs through the reservation near its northern and eastern borders, and on the Columbia, Rapid, and Selway rivers.
The General Council, which includes all voting-age members of the tribe, elects the nine-person Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee (NPTEC), the tribe’s governing body. The tribe’s fish and wildlife committee is directly elected during General Council. The Nez Perce delegation to CRITFC consists of the NPTEC Natural Resources Subcommittee and the members of the Fish and Wildlife Committee.