We, the Nez Perce people, call ourselves Nimi'ipuu, which means the "real people" or "we the people."
A tribal elder (Cecil Carter) mentioned a name we (Nimi'ipuu) used to call ourselves before we had horses, the name meant we walked out of the woods or walked out of the mountains, Cuupn'itpel'uu. He said it was an old word, before we used Nimi'ipuu.
Southern neighboring tribes (Shoshone, Bannock) referred to the Nimi'ipuu as "people under the tule" because Nimi'ipuu's main dwelling was the tule mat-covered, double lean-to long house. The principal dwelling switched from tule mat-covered long house to a conical structure (tipi) by the 1800's. Tule is a long thin reed that when wet slightly increases in size to make a tight seal on the tules (tules are tied together to form the walls). In the summer time the tules allow the air to flow and circulate. The southern neighbors also referred to Nimi'ipuu as "Khouse eaters" because we Nimi'ipuu not only hunted for food but we also gathered roots and berries. One of the roots we gathered was a root we call khouse. Khouse is used for food and medicine.
The name "Nez Perce" was given to us through an interpreter with the 1805 Lewis and Clark expedition. The French Canadians interpreted the meaning as "Pierced Nose." However this cultural practice was not common to the Nimi'ipuu.
(information by the Nez Perce language department and the cultural department)
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