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EXPLORE AMERICA: Nez Perce National Historical Park

Nez Perce sites preserve the history of the people and natural beauty of the area

In 1855 the peaceful Nez Perce tribe signed a treaty with the U.S. government guaranteeing them a large swath of territory in what is now southeast Washington, northeast Oregon, and central Idaho. By 1863, however, gold had been discovered, and gold seekers demanded a renegotiation of the treaty to ensure gold-bearing land would be open to them. The new treaty substantially reduced the Nez Perce reservation and touched off skirmishes, battles, and a flight ending in Chief Joseph’s 1877 surrender just short of the Canadian border in Montana. In 1887 the General Allotment Act resulted in more than 78 percent of reservation lands being sold to whites. For a century now the Nez Perce have struggled to maintain their culture in the face of pressure to assimilate. Unusual in format, the park’s 38 separate sites scattered across central Idaho, Oregon, Washington, and Montana preserve the history of the Nez Perce and their interaction with settlers. Seeing all 38 sites of Nez Perce would require a 1500-mile drive, so most visitors choose some sites that are convenient to other trips.

Nez Perce National Historic Park is comprised of 38 sites that cover a large geographic area in the northwest. Telephone (208) 843-7001. http://www.nps.gov/nepe/

Photo credit: courtesy National Park Service

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