Some of the most common questions we hear at Native PTAC are variations of “How do I work with the Tribes?” As there are currently 567 federally recognized domestic sovereign nations within the United States, there is no one-size fits all direct answer. Each Nation is unique and each Nation works differently. That being said, there is one guideline that all businesses should embrace: Successful businesses take the time to learn about the market and clients they want to do business with.

The following is an overview of one particular tribe, the Nez Perce. We thank the Tribe for sharing this insight into their Nation. Qaacii’yewyew!

Nez Perce Tribe

As sovereign nations, the tribes have their own governments, health and education services, police forces, judicial systems, economic development projects, gaming casinos and resorts, agricultural operations, retail trade and service businesses, cultural and social functions, and other important regulatory activities. Providing these services creates significant economic and social impacts not only on the Indian reservations, but also in the communities surrounding them

The Nez Perce Tribe is continually one of the top three regional employers in north-central Idaho with 2,842 employees including the multiplier effects (direct, indirect, and induced labor). In 2013, the Tribe contributed $192.92 million to Idaho’s economy (sales transactions including multiplier effects) and the total local and state taxes generated from the Tribes economic activities was $9.7 2 million.


The Nez Perce Indians, who call themselves Nimiipuu (The People), have resided in what is now north-central Idaho, southeastern Washington, and northeastern Oregon for thousands of years. They followed the seasonal food rounds and were primarily traders, especially after the adoption of the horse. Lapwai, Idaho is the headquarters of the Nez Perce government.


The Nez Perce Tribe has a current membership of 3,526 people, half of whom live on or near the reservation. The total population living on the Nez Perce Reservation is 18,437. The Nez Perce Reservation is 770,453 acres located in Nez Perce, Lewis, Latah, Clearwater, and Idaho counties. The Tribe or individual tribal members own 19% of the land on the reservation. 385,227 acres are considered cropland, 261,954 acres are used for grazing and 100,159 acres are forest lands.

Tribal Services

The Nez Perce Tribe carries out a full range of functions, including government operations, law enforcement and police, education, health care, regulatory functions, economic development, law and justice system, environmental and wildlife protection and restoration, promotion of cultural functions, and promotion of overall well-being of the population.

“Since the decision to have a ‘for-profit side of the Tribe,’ it has not been as easy for the government side to develop economic drivers, but the Fisheries Restoration Program is the exception. Recognizing these efforts, the U.S. Forest Service honored Dave Johnson, Fisheries Manager with its Rise to the Future Award in the Tribal Accomplishment category” said Rebecca Miles, Nez Perce Tribe Executive Director.

The purpose of the Nez Perce Fisheries Resource Management Department is to recover and restore all populations and all species of anadromous and resident fish within the Nez Perce Territory. The fisheries program is the largest in the U.S. and operates with a $20 million annual budget. They manage several hatcheries, Cherry Lane and Kooskia, on the reservation and have many acclimation and collection facilities on and off the reservation. Recently, the Snake River Fall Chinook and Coho restoration projects provided benefits to the Tribe and the region, by bringing back these species to spawn in the wild. The program provides north-central Idaho with over 100 full-time jobs paying at the federal level.

Economic Development

Midway through 2013, the Nez Perce Enterprise Office, the for-profit side of the Nez Perce Tribe, held a grand opening to celebrate the completion of a new addition to the Clearwater River Casino/Lodge.

The $16 million expansion of the casino, located on Highway 95 east of Lewiston, now includes 20,00 square feet of gaming with 600 machines. The expanded facility includes an events/convention center that seats up to 1,400. Since the new events center opened, the Tribe has hosted several large conferences and entertainment events. The new addition also includes the new Yaw win ma 24-hour café/deli and the full menu Qe Qiit Bar & Grill, a gift shop, and a culture walk hallway featuring an 11 foot tall bronze statue of Young Chief Joseph by artist Doug Hyde, a Nez Perce Tribal descendant. The adjacent RV Park offers 33 parking sites and an outdoor pool. The lts’e ye-ye Casino, located in Kamiah, Idaho, recently grew to 102 gaming machines.

Another recent project is the Camas Express Truck Stop and Convenience Store on Highway 95 between Winchester and Craigmont, Idaho. The Enterprise Office worked with the Idaho State Transportation Department to form a first ever public/private partnership agreement to designate the Camas Express as an official State of Idaho Traveler’s Oasis Rest Area. This public designation has increased patronage to the store/restaurant significantly.

Future Growth

Industrial Park

In 2012, tribal leadership approved a land purchase of 67.2 acres located 11 miles east of Lewiston, Idaho on Highway 95 for development of a business/industrial park to increase business and economic commerce opportunities on the reservation”. The designation is an important step in the development of future commercial, industrial, and manufacturing facilities.

New Developments

Financial Community Development Fund

Established in 2013, the Nimiipuu Community Development Fund seeks to promote economic revitalization in the tribal community, which is considered low-income. The Fund does this through entrepreneurial capacity-building providing access to business capital, creating opportunities, and advancing the Nimiipuu entrepreneurial spirit and preserving cultural ways.

Tribal Agricultural Center

TAC was established ín 2013 with the mission of producing local, sustainable, and healthy food for the Nimiipuu and surrounding communities. It is developing guidelines for best agricultural management practices on tribal lands in coordination with USDA-NRCS, monitoring compliance, evaluating agricultural impacts to resources and traditional gatherers on tribal lands, and developing restoration protocols for traditional food and fiber plants.

Technology and Information Services

The Tribe will be laying a dark fiber optic cable connection between Lewiston and Lapwai. This state of the art communications network will enhance the status of Idaho users, like the Tribe, as technology and business leaders in the U.S. and the world. The KIYE-FM 88.7 radio station out of Kamiah will soon have a sister station in Lapwai. Broadcasting will begin after the design and implementation schedule is developed.

Tribal Employment Rights

The mission of the Nez Perce Tribal Employment Rights Office (TERO) Compliance Program is to protect and assert Indian employment and contracting rights for the economic, social and cultural prosperity of the Nez Perce Reservation communities.

Through enforcement of the tribal law TERO hopes to reduce joblessness and raise the standard of living for all enrolled tribal members.

The Nez Perce TERO Compliance Program is a tribally established and operating Indian Preference enforcement and compliance program, which insures that Indians gain their rightful share of employment, training, business and all other economic opportunities on or near the Nez Perce Reservation.

To provide this service, the TERO Program collects a fee, negotiates compliance plans, monitors construction sites for compliance, maintains a skills bank and hiring hall, and dispatches qualified Indian workers from the TERO Hiring Hall.

Visit for more information. Current RFPs can be found under the Links section of the homepage.

Printed with permission by Julie Kane, Nez Perce Tribe Managing Attorney. Prepared by Steven Peterson, “The Economic Impacts of the Five Tribes of Idaho on Idaho’s Economy’.  TERO information provided by Melvin Wheeler, TERO Director.