Nez Perce men caught salmon and other fish, and also hunted in the forests for deer, elk, and other game. Once they acquired horses, the Nez Perce tribe began to follow the buffalo herds like their Plains Indian neighbors. Nez Perce women also gathered roots, fruits, nuts and seeds to add to their diet.
Men hunted elk, deer, bear, beaver, game birds and other animals. Different plants were gathered through the seasons. Roots, such as kouse, camas, bitterroot, and wild carrot, were an important food source. These root foods were boiled and baked and some dried and stored for the winter.
The Nez Perce and other tribes picked and ate many kinds of wild berries —strawberries, blueberries, wild grapes, huckleberries, serviceberries, currants, cranberries, and many more. Researchers have found there were 36 different kinds of fruit that Indians dried to eat in the winter.
Nevertheless, many of the traditional foods are still considered important to the Nez Perce People. For example, salmon, elk, and deer are still being hunted and used for food. The integration of nontraditional foods into their diet has lead to health problems such as diabetes and heart disease.
The tribal diet commonly consisted of foods that were either gathered, grown, or hunted. The three sisters – corn, beans, and squash – were grown. Wild greens, mushrooms, ramps, nuts, and berries were collected. Deer, bears, birds, native fish, squirrels, groundhogs, and rabbits were all hunted.
The dried leaves of snowberry, wintergreen, and spruce and twigs of raspberry, chokecherry, and wild cherry were dropped into boiling water to make teas. Many kinds of flowers were dried and used to make teas.
The Nez Perce lived in the heart of salmon country – along the Salmon, Snake, Grande Ronde, Imnaha, Clearwater and Tucannon rivers; which historically were major salmon and steelhead producers.
The Nez Perce and other tribes called their beautiful portable homes “tipis.” You will often see the word spelled tepees or teepees, but the correct spelling is tipi. It means “living place.” Tipis were made from buffalo skins held up by poles.
They lived a semi-nomadic lifestyle fishing, hunting, or gathering wild plants for food. They lived in pit houses in the winter and and tule-mat lodges in the summer. The introduction of the horse in the 1700’s brought about a change in lifestyle and many of the people traveled to the Great Plains to hunt buffalo.
In the winter additional coverings and insulation such as grass were used to help keep the teepee warm. In the center of the teepee, a fire would be built. There was a hole at the top to let out the smoke. The Plains Indians also used buffalo hides for their beds and blankets to keep their homes warm.
Today the Tiguas are the only surviving native group in El Paso.
If the areas did not contain natural resources— salmon, elk, bison, camas, balsamroot, dogbane, lodgepole, pine, grasses, water, minerals, and fertile soil—the Nez Perce (nimí·pu·), the fur trappers, the missionaries, the pioneers, and the miners would not have come to these areas.
Cherokee women did most of the farming, harvesting crops of corn, beans, squash, and sunflowers. Cherokee men did most of the hunting, shooting deer, bear, wild turkeys, and small game. They also fished in the rivers and along the coast. Cherokee dishes included cornbread, soups, and stews cooked on stone hearths.
They sat on deerskins and dined on stewed peaches and corn. He noted their practice of flattening their foreheads, and also that they owned the largest iron cooking pots either he or any of his English trading companions had ever seen.