The Food for the People Garden Project

cimúuxcimux céeqet

Local Blackberries

Benefits of the Food for the People Project

  • Provide Easily Accessible Free Fresh Edible Food when in Season
  • Teach the Origin of Food and Provide Sustainability for Nimiipuu Way
  • Improve Dietary Habits through Education and Action Promote Food Security
  • Increase the Food Supply for Pollinators
  • Strengthen the Community Bond and Camaraderie in the Town
  • Beautify Main Street and Instill a Sense of Pride

Kúckuc Temenikées Paaqáham // Five Little Gardens

Welcome to Nez Perce country. Lapwai, Idaho is headquarters of the Nez Perce Tribe, a federally recognized Indian Tribe with more than 3,500 strong enrolled Tribal members. At present, Lapwai is the highest concentration where Nez Perce live and work every day.

Lapwai got its name for being home to a variety of butterflies many years ago. The name ‘Lapwai’ comes from a Nimiipuutimpt, Nez Perce word, łepłéepwey, which means place of the (łéepłep) butterflies. At certain times of the year the butterflies would be in such abundance that they could be visible even from a far distance.

For thousands of years, before being placed on this reservation, the Nez Perce people followed seasonal food and traveled to where they knew ample food supplies would be for the taking. The Nimiipuu, the People, harvested their foods with extended families. Depending on the band of people their diet consisted of primarily plants, roots, berries, meat and fish when available. They consumed fish, especially salmon, wild meats such as elk, deer, big horn sheep and bison, plants such as qém’es (camas), qáws, huckleberries, other roots and medicines harvested for use. The Nez Perce became experts at preserving large amounts of food stored in caches for their winter supply and trade.

The initial focus of ‘The Food for the People Garden Project’ was to develop zeroscape food gardens that replenish themselves with wild traditional and garden variety foods. The gardens were built in Tribal communities on the Nez Perce reservation and offer free food for our people. These gardens work to reduce food scarcity, provide pollinators for the bees and butterflies and educate using the Nez Perce language about traditional foods. The gardens work to support the Nez Perce Tribe Food Sovereignty Initiative that encourages a healthier life-style among the Nimiiipuu people.

According to the U.S. Food Sovereignty Alliance, “Food sovereignty goes well beyond ensuring that people must reclaim their power in the food system to meet their physical needs. It asserts that people must reclaim their power in the food system by rebuilding the relationships between people and the land, and between food providers and those that eat.”

For more information about Nez Perce traditional foods go on the Nez Perce Tribe website, and/or Nez Perce National Historical Park,

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Plant Key

Himéeq’is Qe'ciyéw’yew’ // Thank You

Thank you, himéeq’is qe'ciyéw’yew’, to our partners and friends that have contributed to the success of this project. Wisteqn’eemit, a nonprofit arm of the Nez Perce Tribe, especially wants to recognize the generous grant provided by the Steele-Reese Foundation to support this project. We could not have done it without you! It is rewarding to acknowledge that we have influenced the community to continue to grow little gardens in more places to provide free edible food and give our educators a hands-on place to teach the community about Nez Perce traditional healthy garden variety foods. Thank you.


  • AmeriCorps NCCC
  • Lapwai Church of God
  • Lapwai City Hall
  • Lapwai United Methodist Church
  • Moccasin Flats
  • Nez Perce Tribe
  • Nez Perce Tribe HIPT Food Alliance
  • Steele – Reese Foundation
  • Wisteqn’éemit


  • Nez Perce Circle of Elders
  • Nez Perce Language Program
  • Lucinda Simpson, Nez Perce Tribal Member, Traditional Food Gatherer and Culture Bearer
  • Ethel Greene, Nez Perce Tribal Member, Traditional Food Gatherer and Culture Bearer
  • Rebecca Walrod, Master Gardner
  • Dr. Nan Vance, Ecologist Researcher
  • Harry H. Slickpoo Jr., Nez Perce Language Teacher & Collection Specialist for Hitéemenwees Research Library, who provided all the language translations.