The Nez Perce Reservation and Water Resources

This case study was written by Joshua Kryston, a lower division undergraduate student who is not an earth science major, as part of the DLESE Community Services Project: Integrating Research in Education. The pages in this case study reflect the personal views of the student author and not of MSU, SERC or the NSF.

The Nez Perce people are a people whose culture is forever intertwined with the landscape in which they live. It is often said that in order to understand the Nez Perce you must first understand their landscape; "the legends of their cultural ties to the land run as deep as the canyons of the Clearwater River; a land defined by weather, etched by rivers and freed from time." Today the Nez Perce are faced with numerous issues as a result of land and natural resource development; at the center of these issues is the development of water resources, which is provoking a wake of problems for the Nez Perce's environment and people. As the land is the soul of the Nez Perce, water is the soul of the land; to take away the soul of the land is to take away the soul of the Nez Perce.

"Poverty came with the Reservations. We were forced to live away from our salmon and our other resources. Our poverty is our lack of our Indian resources. These resources are being destroyed... That's what's causing our poverty." Nathan Jim, Sr., Warms Springs Fish Commissioner

Nez Perce Reservation highway entrance sign. Details

This case study has been developed to provide information on the environmental and social issues significantly impacting the Nez Perce Tribe as a result of resource developments. A collection of information concerning multiple earth science topics in the area will provide a solid basis necessary for investigating the central issue at hand - the impacts of water resource developments on the Nez Perce Tribe.

To get started, view pages, or follow the links below to pages that have been developed to illustrate the events that occurred on the Nez Perce Indian Reservation due to water resource issues:

  • Physiography - Explore the physiography and landforms of the Nez Perce Indian Reservation.
  • Geology - Explore the geology of the Nez Perce Indian Reservation including geologic maps, the tectonic setting, bedrock and major structures.
  • Hydrology and Water Resources - Explore the water resources, including surface water and groundwater quality and quantity.
  • Climate and Biota - Explore the climate, biology, and ecology of the Nez Perce area.
  • Cultural Heritage - Explore the culture of the Nez Perce Tribe up to present day.
  • Exploration and Development History - Explore the types of developments occurring in and around the Nez Perce Reservation.
  • Environmental Impacts - Explore the impacts to air, land, water, and wildlife due to resource developments on the Nez Perce Reservation.
  • Human Health Impacts - Explore the impacts on human health due to resource development on the Nez Perce People.
  • Policy - Explore political issues and projects related to resource development on the Nez Perce Indian Reservation.

For ideas on how to use these webpages in a classroom, a Study Guide is provided.

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