Nez Percés; Sahaptin

(French: pierced noses)

Indian tribe formerly located in Western Idaho and adjacent portions of Oregon and Washington. They were so named by French traders from their custom of wearing a dentalium shell through a hole bored in the septum of the nose. In their primitive condition they were a semi-sedentary tribe, depending on hunting and fishing, living in houses, and wearing skins. Polygamy was practised; inheritance was in the male line. Their religion was animistic and free from elaborate myth and ritual. The clan system was unknown, and the chiefs were usually elected. When first known, 1805, they numbered about 6,000; today there are approximately 3,300 tribal members. Christianity was introduced by the Catholic Iroquois and Canadian employees of the Hudson's Bay Company traders. The Jesuits, assisted by the Sisters of Saint Joseph, carry on missionary work among them at Saint Joseph's mission, Slickpoo, Idaho.

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