Kamiah is nestled on the banks of the beautiful Clearwater River, surrounded by the scenic foothills of the Bitterroot Mountains. Older than the recorded history of the American West, the Nez Perce cam here to fish and to manufacture “Kamia”, ropes. Kamiah means “many rope litters”.
The area is rich in history. Only about 10 miles north of here the Nez Perce first mad contact with members of the Lewis and Clark expedition on September 20, 1805. They were gracious hosts, sharing food, information, guides and horses. Lewis and Clark and their expedition, charged by President Thomas Jefferson with finding a waterway connecting the Eastern States with the Pacific Ocean, left supplies and horses with the Nez Perce, when they continued their journey to the Pacific Ocean. Upon their return in 1806 all their goods were returned to them and, at the invitation of the Nez Perce, they spent nearly a month at a long camp on the north end of Kamiah, waiting for the snow on Lolo Pass to melt, before they could continue their journey east.
It is believed that the Nez Perce heard first about the Bible from members of the expedition. In 1831 several Nez Perce made the dangerous trek across the western territories to St. Louis, Missouri, the then most western outpost of the United States in their now famous search for the “White Man’s Book of Heaven.” Only one of the original six Braves returned to the Northwest, the others perished on the way. But word of their desperate search had reached the population centers in the eastern United States. A few years later the first missionaries arrived in the Lapwai, Idaho area.