The Nez Perce were once the largest group of Native Americans in the western United States. Their number once exceeded 6,000 in over 50 separate tribes. Except for occasional clashes with neighbors, the Nez Perce lived peacefully in lush homelands on the Snake River in central Idaho, western Oregon, and western Washington. They welcomed Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery in 1804. The Nez Perce coexisted peacefully with whites for decades. However, a series of treaties in the mid-1800s greatly reduced their territory to make room for white settlers. In 1877, federal authorities ordered all Nez Perce to move within the boundaries of a reservation. A handful of Nez Perce warriors attacked and killed some white settlers in protest. Their hostile acts led to the Nez Perce War of 1877 and changed the lives of the Nez Perce forever.
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The American Indian culture consisted of specific customs and traditions that regulated everything from who would lead the tribes to who would marry within the tribes. They kept precise, detailed accounts of their tribal histories because they foresaw the importance of passing down their histories.