Essay The Nez Perce and Their Horses

Submitted By donovan122594
Words: 1124
Pages: 5

Author Elliot West chronicles the life and journey of the Nez Perce people, in his fascinating novel The Last Indian War. While the Nez Perce were a diverse and prosperous people, one thing influenced their lives more than anything else, the horse.
“The Nez Perces got their first horses sometime during the first thirty years of the eighteenth century, probably from Shoshonis to the south. Tribal tradition says that a pregnant white mare became the seed of what in time became enormous herds” (West, 16).
However the species was first integrated into Nez Perce society, once the horse . The horse was exceedingly beneficial to the Nez Perce people before their exodus from their home land, and while they waged war against the Americans, however would eventually prove to be the downfall of the tribe. While the Nez Perce were quite a prosperous tribe before their acquisition of the horse, they would soon find that many facets of their life would drastically change for the better. With the integration of horses into their trading system they were not only able to trade much farther away, but much more often as well. The sudden arrival of the horse to the Nez Perce society can be compared to the creation of the transcontinental railroad to American society. Both equine and locomotive technologies were rapidly adopted into a culture, where they made immense changes _____. The ability to travel distances in fraction of the time has a extremely strong effect on a cultures trading habits. Similarly to the Americans' rail system, the horse allowed the Nez Perce to expand their trading routes, allowing for access to new resources that would otherwise be outside their reach. In his book, Elliot West states that “Dried bison meat became increasingly a staple of their diet” (West, 17). While adding bison meat to their diet may not seem like an overly drastic change for a Native American tribe, it symbolizes the new trading being done by horse capable Nez Perce. These are a people who for the most part have been living the same routines for century, collecting most of their resources from the valley in which they dwell. Consistent trade and the adoption of foreign resources into their daily lives shows a people that is becoming more outwardly aware, and building a functioning economy between various tribes. It is also important to note that this was not unusual ammong the various tribes as many of the Native people had already aquired horses by the time the Nez Perce did. However what the Nez Perce were able to accomplish with the horse was truelly extrordinary. Elliot West states that “They became one of the continent's greatest horse cultures” (West, 16). Through selective breeding the Nez Perce were able to create better and stronger horses that even the Europeans who first brought them to the country. Their skill with horses became widely known among natives and whites alike, serving to put their name on the map so to speak. As Elliot West suggests with his title The Last Indian War, the Nez Perces' idealic society does not last forever. When the U.S. Government forces the Nez Perce onto reservations many of the people refuse, turning a broken treaty into an all out war. While the United States obviously vastly outnumbered the Nez Perce, they found the tribe to be an extremley resiliant foe, mainly because of the Nez Perces' horses. For decades the tribe has been hunting buffalo and skirmishing neighboring tribes on horseback, which ensentially became the perfect training for a war againt the U.S. Army. In contrast the western outposts of U.S. Soldiers were unprepared for batlle after the recent Civil War. West states the in these outposts drills were rare and “Horsemanship was just as neglected”(West, 149). The Nez Perce warriors had manueverability and skill on their side, allowing them to turn the tides against an enemy with military tactics, better weapons, and more soldiers. The Army had no other option then to face the Nez…