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Life In Idaho's
River Valleys

Living on a riverine system, allowed the Nimi'ipuu a diversity of resources not easily had by the Sosoni' & Bannock
Peoples to the south.

The men hunted large game animals which lived in the mountains bordering the rivers, and small game such as rabbit, squirrel, and marmot which lived in the neighboring valleys. Game birds were also common in this area of river drainage. Ducks, geese and grouse would have been available as food.

The water in itself was a bountiful resource. Game birds would not only seek it out on their yearly migrations, but the People used the water systems for transportation, drinking, and as a source for fish. Many varieties of fish were included in the diet of the Nimi'ipuu. Salmon, dolly varden, trout, suckers, sturgeon, lampreys and squawfish would be either speared of trapped in weirs.

The women gathered and prepared many roots, such as camas, wild carrot and onion, kouse and bitterroot. Berries were also available in the form of gooseberries, serviceberries, hawthorneberries, currants and chokecherries. Pine nuts and sunflower seeds wer
e also gathered and processed by grinding with mortar and pestle.
Images: Idaho Museum of Natural History

The grassy valleys which provided roots, seeds and forage for large game also provided grazing for horses.

Horses had not been native in Idaho for 10,000 years, having become extinct in North America after the climatic change at the close of the Pleistocene Epoch. The Spanish conquest of America's southwest, however, ensured that horses would gradually spread throughout the Great Basin and Columbia Plateau.

The Nimi'ipuu acquired horses from peoples who had contact with the Spanish in California. The impact of the horse upon the people resulted in changes. With the aid of the horse as transportation, and a hunting partner, the Nimi'ipuu were able to travel into Montana in pursuit of bison which increased the wealth and food reserves of the tribe considerably.

Horses were bred for strength and for endurance, but not necessarily for colors. Boys were most often the herders of these large herds which eventually numbered in excess of five to seven horses per each person. Horses could be sold, traded or acquired also through raids on other tribes which had horses.

The use of horses as wealth encouraged elaborate horse trapping and great herds to be kept by families. Since horses were an indication of an individuals wealth, exchanges of horses would be made as gifts for marriages.