The Nez Perce reservation is located in northern part of the U.S. state of Idaho, and encompasses 1,195.1 square miles (3,095.3 km2) of land. It comprises a small portion of the aboriginal land of the Nez Perce tribe. The reservation’s landforms include canyons, plateaus, grassland, forests, mountains, and rivers.
The tribal population living at the Nez Perce reservation was about 3,250 people in 2010. The city of Lapwai hosts the reservation’s tribal headquarters, and just over 80% of its citizenry is Nez Perce Indian. Orofino, however, is the largest city on the reservation.
Nez Perce Indians living on the reservation engage in a variety of occupations. Some of these include working in agriculture, fishing, and forestry. Other tribe members often work in hospitality and other jobs created by the advent of tribe-owned casinos.
The natural habitat of the Nez Perce reservation is home to many forms of wildlife. Animals such as the gray wolf, the Chinook salmon, and the greater sage grouse live in the region. Some important plants native to the area are Indian ricegrass and camas plants, which traditionally provided food for the Nez Perce Tribe.
The water supply is a concern for the people of the Nez Perce reservation. Since there is quite a bit of plateau land, the recharge rates of the aquifer and available ground water have to be carefully monitored. Distribution of water for agricultural irrigation and other purposes requires thoughtful planning to ensure that enough water gets to where it is needed.
Climate conditions at the Nez Perce reservation vary greatly because the land elevation and topography is so varied. The land in some areas is arid to semi-arid. Depending on the location, rainfall ranges from about 13 in (33 cm) to up to 50 in (127 cm) per year. Summers tend to be dry and hot, while the winters are fairly cold.
In 1855, the landmass of the reservation was about 7.5 million acres (30,351 km2). This included much of the Nez Perce ancestral lands in what are now Idaho, Oregon, and Washington state. In the 1860s, gold was discovered in the region, and the Nez Perce landholdings were reduced to 757,000 acres (3,063 km2). By the 1890s, the Nez Perce Reservation was reduced to its current size, primarily due to the homesteading policies of the United States as settlers moved west. Nez Perce Indians also currently live in Canada and on the Colville reservation in Washington state.