The Nez Perce North American Indian tribe lived in what is today known as North Central Idaho, right around the town of Kamiah. The Nez Perce lived on the grassy plains living off the bounty provided by gathering berries and herbs, hunting and fishing. In the summer months they would trek across the Bitterroot Mountains into Eastern Montana to hunt the buffalo, returning to their lodges in the sheltered Kamiah Valley and surrounding areas.
Captains Meriwether Lewis and William Clark were the first white men encountered by the Nez Perce. The Lewis and Clark Corp of Discovery waited with the Nez Perce in the Kamiah Valley for almost a month in the spring of 1806. The snow had been slow to melt making further passage across the Bitterroot Mountains on their Eastern return route delayed. The Lewis and Clark Discovery Corp were encamped on the present site of the lumber mill across the Clearwater River from the modern townsite.
Of the Nez Perce William Clark wrote “These people has shewn much greater acts of hospitality then we have witnessed from any nation or tribe since we have passed the rocky mountains.”
It was here in Kamiah that one of his own men brought Lewis a black and white bird highlighted with a red face and light breast. As was typical of the time, Lewis named the bird in his own honor and it is today known as the Lewis Woodpecker.
Sue McBeth was a Nez Perce missionary during the early 1800’s. Her home still stands in East Kamiah, located across the highway from the First Presbyterian Indian church – the longest continuous service church in the State of Idaho.
Here too is The “Heart of the Monster”, an important legen within the Nez Perce culture, in the Nez Perce Historical Park Site.