Aboriginal inhabitants in parts of Idaho, Washington, and Oregon, the Nez Perce faced dramatic changes to their peaceful and secure way of life after they welcomed members of the Lewis and Clark Expedition in 1805 and 1806. In the middle of the 19th century, the U.S. government pressured Nez Perce leaders to sign away a vast majority of their original 13-million-acre territory. But one of their leaders, Chief Joseph, made a valiant attempt to remain free, leading followers toward Canada and engaging the U.S. Calvary in battle until they were overtaken just 40 miles south of the Canadian border.
Today, the Nez Perce manage their own government, operate local businesses, and control their own schools, health services, and courts. They are important contributors to Native organizations in the Northwest, fighting to secure rights to their lands and resources. Read about these dynamic people of North America, how they shaped life in the Northwest, and how their legacy continues in the 21st century.