What Is the Religion of the Nez Perce?

Many of the Nez Perce Native Americans are members of the Seven Drums Religion, also known as the Washat or Longhouse Religion. Others are members of the Dreamer Religion, the Feather Religion or the Indian Shaker Church.

Originally, the Nez Perce were a loose federation of bands known as the Nimipuu, or the People, whose lives were guided by wyakin, guardian spirits that they met on individual vision quests. They had a strong belief that the land they occupied was a gift from a supreme entity and that they were predestined to occupy their homelands. With the incursion of missionaries in the early 19th century, many of the Nez Perce adopted Christianity. However, others rebelled against what they felt was the intrusion of white ways and embraced religions such as the Dreamers, which advocated a return to traditional tribal values, according to the Montana Historical Society Press. Resurgence of interest in traditional values in the 20th century led to the current popularity of the Seven Drums Religion.