I love Wallowa County – Arts. Music. Recreation. And Nez Perce Country

Welcome To

Wallowa County, Oregon

More than the arts, music, and pristine landscapes

the waláwas are the ancient homeland of the Nez Perce (Nimiipuu)

His Indian name was Hin-mut-too-uah-lat-kekht, meaning (roughly) “Thunder Rolling in the Mountains.” His father was a chief and was known as Old Joseph. The son was widely known as Young Joseph.

Surrounded by the Eagle Cap Wilderness,

glacial lakes, working ranches, and the wide open spaces of Eastern Oregon, it is considered the gateway to Hells Canyon and one of the seven Wonders of Oregon.

In addition to the pristine landscapes and endless recreational opportunities you will find the rich and more than 15,000 year old history of the Nimiipuu. 

The Nez Perce call themselves Nimiipuu which means “The People.” The name nez percé (“pierced nose”) came from French Canadian fur traders in the 18th century, an erroneous identification as nose piercing was never practiced by the tribe. 

The Nez Perce tribe was historically nomadic, traveling with the seasons from buffalo hunting in the Great Plains to salmon fishing at Celilo Falls. 17 million acres in what is now Idaho, Oregon, Washington and Montana made up the tribe’s homeland. Today, the Nez Perce Indian Reservation consists of 750,000 acres, of which the tribe or tribal members own 13 percent. The tribe, with an enrolled membership of about 3,500 (2011), is headquartered in Lapwai, Idaho.

The management of land and natural resources continues to be paramount for the Nez Perce. A strong tribal fish program employs nearly 50 full-time and part-time workers. Nez Perce co-management responsibilities extend to the Columbia, Snake, Tucannon, Grande Ronde, Imnaha, Clearwater, and Salmon drainages. Tribal members fish on the Clearwater River, which runs through the reservation near its northern and eastern borders, and on the Columbia, Rapid, and Selway rivers. 

The Nez Perce reservation is dark green and the land they ceded to the United States is light green. The Columbia Basin is dark tan.

The Treaties

In 1855, Hinmut-too-yah-lat-kekeht’s father, the man known to white men as Old Joseph, entered into a treaty with Isaac Stevens, governor of Washington. Old Joseph and a number of other chiefs gave some of the land they had always called their own to the white man, but they made sure that the Wallowa Valley was left to them. It would never be given away or sold to “The Hairy Man” from the East.

The treaty of 1855, the first ever signed by White men and Nez Perce, was quickly broken. Annuities promised by the government either arrived late or never arrived at all. The Nez Perce were justifiably upset.

In 1863, the government decided to negotiate yet another treaty. Old Joseph attended the negotiations, but when he discovered the white men wanted possession of his valley, he refused to sign. Others, however, did sign, and the government laid claim to the sacred land. The treaty caused a split among the Nez Perce. And on all horizons, war clouds, black and angry, were gathering.

What the

has to say

Whether you come for the remote and wild beauty, the independent spirit, or the backcountry grit, Wallowa County is for the intrepid. It’s for those willing to make the trek, weather through, and come out shining and changed somewhere along the way. It’s a place for residents, prospective residents, business owners and visitors who value the natural world and the wild unknown, who seek experiences that are worth seeking.

While you are here, explore and enjoy!

4th of July Parade

Wallowa, Oregon

Always the weekend before Chief Joseph Days

Always the last week in July

Encampment Pavilion

Saturday, during Chief Joseph Days


Josephy Center

Wallowa County Museum

Wallowa Lake

Wallowa Band Nez Perce Interpretive Center

Maxville Heritage Interpretive Center

The Arts & Galleries

Hells Canyon Scenic Byway

Select Recommended Nez Perce (Nimiipuu) Literature

The Nez Perce Indians And The Opening Of The Northwest

The Nez Perce Indians And The Opening Of The Northwest

By Alvin M. Josephy Jr.

Is there any chapter in American history more dramatic than that of the Northwest from the time of Lewis and Clark to the tragic defeat of Chief Joseph in 1877? Heroic – and not so heroic -characters abound: explorers, fur traders, miners, settlers, missionaries, ranchers, Indian chiefs and their tribespeople. Now, when interest in Lewis and Clark and the American Northwest has never been higher, comes the first complete and unabridged paperback edition of Alvin Josephy’s masterwork.

Nez Perce Country 1

Nez Perce Country

By Alvin M. Josephy Jr. and Jeremy FiveCrows

The rivers, canyons, and prairies of the Columbia Basin are the homeland of the Nez Perce. The Nez Perce, or Nimiipuu, inhabited much of what is now north central Idaho and portions of Oregon and Washington for thousands of years. The story of how western settlement drastically affected the Nimiipuu is one of the great and at times tragic sagas of American history.

Thunder in the Mountains:

Chief Joseph, Oliver Otis Howard, and the Nez Perce War

By Daniel J. Sharfstein

Oliver Otis Howard thought he was a man of destiny. Chosen to lead the Freedmen’s Bureau after the Civil War, the Union Army general was entrusted with the era’s most crucial task: helping millions of former slaves claim the rights of citizens. He was energized by the belief that abolition and Reconstruction, the country’s great struggles for liberty and equality, were God’s plan for himself and the nation.


Chief Joseph's Own Story

by Chief Joseph - compiled by by George Percés Burrows

Joseph’s speeches from when he traveled to Washington, D.C. First hand, his words.

I Will Fight No More Forever: Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce War

by Merrill D. Beal

Unpublished letters and diaries by eyewitnesses, interviews with decedents, an intimate knowledge of the country enrich this narrative of the heroic Nez Perce Indian War waged in 1877 against relocation.
The result is a well documented chronicle offering new perspective on prewar Indian-white relations, United States government pressures and nontreaty rebellions, the five battles, subjection and surrender, and on the character of the leaders on both sides.

The Last Indian War: The Nez Perce Story

(Pivotal Moments in American History)

By elliot West

To tell the story, West begins with the early history of the Nez Perce and their years of friendly relations with white settlers. In an initial treaty, the Nez Perce were promised a large part of their ancestral homeland, but the discovery of gold led to a stampede of settlement within the Nez Perce land. Numerous injustices at the hands of the US government combined with the settlers’ invasion to provoke this most accomodating of tribes to war. West offers a riveting account of what came next: the harrowing flight of 800 Nez Perce, including many women, children and elderly, across 1500 miles of mountainous and difficult terrain. 


by Kent Nerburn

lewis and clark among the nez perce

Strangers in the Land of the Nimiipuu

by Allen V. Pinkham and Steven R. Evans

This extraordinary new look at Lewis and Clark among the Nez Perce represents a breakthrough in Lewis and Clark studies. Lewis and Clark Among the Nez Perce is the first richly detailed exploration of the relationship between Mr. Jefferson’s Corps of Discovery and a single tribe.

James Ronda’s groundbreaking Lewis and Clark Among the Indians (1984) reversed the lens for the first time, to look broadly at the Lewis and Clark expedition through the Native American point of view.

Yellow Wolf: His Own Story

by L.V. McWhorter

The Nez Perce campaign is among the most famous in the brief and bloody history of the Indian wars of the West. Yellow Wolf was a contemporary of Chief Joseph and a leader among his own men. His story is one that had never been told and will never be told again. A first person account, through author L.V. McWhorter of the Nez Perce’s ill-fated battle for land and freedom.

Hear Me My Chiefs!: Nez Perce Legend and History

by L.V. McWhorter

McWhorter uses interviews with other Nez Perce and available documents to tell pre-War stories of Nez Perce origins, their battles with other Indians, of missionaries and treaties and then of the War itself.

Days with Chief Joseph

by Erskine Wood

This is the century old diary of a young white boy who lived in the Nez Perce camp of Chief Joseph following exile to Colville, WA. Erskine’s father, aide-de-camp to General O.O. Howard, befriended Chief Joseph and sent his son to live with Joseph & his wives in their teepee at Nespelem, WA, for two seasons in 1892 & 1893.


The Nez Perce Indians And The Opening Of The Northwest

by Alvin M. Josephy

The encyclopedic account, beginning in 1805, of the settlement of Oregon and Washington as it relates to the Nez Perce people.

I will tell you of my war story

I Will Tell of My War Story: A Pictorial Account of the Nez Perce War

by Scott M. Thompson

A middle school art teacher and scholar of Native American culture presents, discusses, and interprets the contents of a valuable firsthand pictorial account of events during and after the 1877 Nez Perce war. Produced by an anonymous Nez Perce warrior who participated in the conflict, the small pocket notebook (simply titled Cash Book ) illustrated with red, blue, and black pencil is reproduced in the present volume, which also discusses the circumstances surrounding the volume’s preservation and analyzes the drawings. 

A Little Bit of Wisdom: Conversations With a Nez Perce Elder

by Horace P. Axtell

In A LITTLE BIT OF WISDOM, Horace Axtell, a contemporary Nez Perce elder and spiritual leader, recounts to Margo Aragon his family’s history and his own personal journey. It is a book about growing up Christian while maintaining a strong tribal identity, about going first to war and then to prison, and then coming home to rediscover the Long House and the sacred practice of the Seven Drum Religion and the Sweat House.

Nez Perce Women in Transition, 1877-1990

by Caroline James

Includes unique individual accounts recorded directly from personal interviews with Nez Perce women ranging in age from twenty to ninety. The narratives, in combination with a broad selection of photographs, present some of the major historical, political, and cultural changes that have occurred and provide an opportunity to view Nez Perce women as they made and continue to make dramatic transitions.

Treaties Nez Perce Perspectives Paperback

by Nez Perce Tribe

Writings by members of the Nez Perce tribe on the perspectives of past Nez Perce leaders

From the Wallowas

From the Wallowas

by Grace Bartlett

A collection of essays about people and places around the county, includes a few details of early settler interaction and understanding of the Nez Perce.

The Wallowa Country 1867-1877 LG

The Wallowa Country 1867-1877

by Grace Bartlett

Almost a day-by-day account of the last years of Indian tenure and first years of white occupation of the Wallowa Country. Includes some early photographs.

Salmon and His People: Fish & Fishing in Nez Perce Culture

by Dan Landeen

Details, stories and quotes exploring the role of fish in Nez Perce life.


by Eugene S. Hunn

This ethnogeographic atlas of Native place names presents a compelling account of interactions between a homeland and its people. A project of the Tamástslikt Cultural Institute at the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation – composed of the Cayuse, Umatilla, and Walla Walla Tribes in eastern Oregon – Cáw Pawá Láakni documents and describes more than four hundred place names. The full-color, detailed maps and the narrative that introduces and supports them paint a picture of a way of life. This meticulous assemblage of memory and meaning echoes cultural and geographical information that has all but disappeared from common knowledge.

Unlikely Alliances: Native Nations and White Communities Join to Defend Rural Lands

by Zoltán Grossman (Author), Winona LaDuke (Foreword)

Often when Native nations assert their treaty rights and sovereignty, they are confronted with a backlash from their neighbors, who are fearful of losing control of the natural resources. Yet, when both groups are faced with an outside threat to their common environment―such as mines, dams, or an oil pipeline―these communities have unexpectedly joined together to protect the resources. Some regions of the United States with the most intense conflicts were transformed into areas with the deepest cooperation between tribes and local farmers, ranchers, and fishers to defend sacred land and water.

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