1. The Walking Out People
Page 1 of 18
William Clark’s Nez Perce Son
A Tsoopnitpeloo Legend
As Told by Otis Halfmoon
Of the Nez Perce Tribe
Part 1 of 18
he Nez Perce people — we have two names for ourselves. We call ourselves Ni-mee-poo,
which means “The People.” We also call ourselves Tsoopnitpeloo,
means “The Walking-Out People” — people from the mountains come to the plains, to hunt buffalo. And that was our old-time name. A long time ago, how these people communicate, was through sign language. And our sign was, accordingly, was the right finger out, and a downward motion in front of the face, to show, from the mountains, come to the plains to hunt buffalo. And somewhere along the way a French fur trapper, and some other tribes as well, thought that meant “pierced nose.” But we never pierced our nose. Nez Perce was a French word that does mean “pierced nose,” but we never did that. We had two names, Nimeepoo
Those are old time names.
You know, with those two names in mind . . . Back in 1805, when Lewis and Clark first came round to our country . . . It's kind of funny in a way, because . . . I told this story, that when they came through they said they “discovered” my people. In actuality, the Nez Perce people . . . We knew where we were . . . We discovered Lewis and Clark. Those were the ones that were lost. And to top that off, they had a Lemhi Shoshone guide that didn't know the country anyway, so what do you expect?