The traditional territory of the Nez Perce covered some 17 million acres. Today the Nez Perce Reservation encompasses approximately 750,000 acres in the Idaho Panhandle comprised of cropland, grazing land and forestland, and the proper management of land and natural resources remains paramount for the Tribe.
The overall goal of the University of Idaho Nez Perce Extension program is to increase the quality of life on the Reservation through agriculture and natural resources education and life skills development for youth and adults. The objectives include development and implementation of education programs for youth, related to life skills development, leadership, equine science, agriculture and natural resources; development and implementation of educational programs for adults related to managing small acreages profitably, natural resource stewardship, land tenure issues, and parenting; providing horticulture and food safety education for youth and adults to improve the nutrition and health of Reservation residents; and being the center of education outreach efforts on the Reservation.
Youth horseman program
The Tribe owns 60 horses and has the facilities for an equine science, management and horsemanship program for youth and adults. The horseman program has been a long-term success, even developing a new breed of horse along with a registry. The program includes numerous education and internship opportunities, particularly for youth and young adults, to learn & apply workforce skills. Participants in the horsemanship program learn how to safely handle a horse on the ground, including grooming, picking up feet, saddling, and bridling. They gain confidence and skill in controlling a horse and many have improved their balance and riding skills. Some have even purchased horses as a result of their participation. Dozens of students, ages 2 to 50. have taken part.
Agriculture and natural resources
Soil health, water quality and crop productivity are major concerns to those feeding the world. University of Idaho Extension programs support small grains and alternative crops, which are key to the Nez Perce economy. The Tribe has a tremendous land and natural resource base that provides a variety of outdoor learning opportunities. Ten acres of land was set aside for use as a demonstration site for education in land management, farming, livestock production, and 4-H project activities with emphasis on life skills development for youth and young adults.
Landowners are learning how to better manage soil fertility, improve production methods, and reduce weeds for more sustainable use. More families are growing their own food, making healthier food choices, and making better use of traditional foods. As the community develops a locally grown food system it is increasing long-term food security.
4-H Youth Development
4-H is a leader in guiding Idaho youth to become responsible, productive citizens who make positive contributions to their communities and meet the changing needs of a diverse society. Youth who participate in 4-H programs gain confidence and demonstrate improved leadership, decision-making and communication skills. Both the young people and adults who take part become healthier due to the physical activity involved. Participation also fosters interest in careers related to science, technology, agriculture and natural resource related fields, and students are more likely to pursue higher education.
Danielle Scott – Program Director