1877 - Nez Perce War

A reluctant Chief Joseph led his people to war to protect their homes and the land they had lived on for countless centuries.

         Chief Joseph, who had not signed a treaty with the United States, refused to be put on a reservation in Oregon because it was a tiny fraction of his tribes' aboriginal land holdings.

      A treaty in 1863 had stolen six million acres of Nez Perce land.  In 1877, when Joseph and other Nez Perce leaders were pressured to move onto a reservation, he agreed in hopes of avoiding war, but an altercation between his warriors and some white troops quickly flared into an all-out war.

Nez Perce Warriors

Nez Perce warriors

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         Thus began what General Sherman once called "The most extraordinary Indian war of which there is any record."  After fighting and winning several big battles with the U.S. Army, after being chased for four months and 1,500 miles, Joseph, thinking they had reached safety in Canada,  decided to let his people rest in the Bear Paw mountains of north central Montana.  It was there that General Miles caught up with him, and where he delivered his famous surrender speech, "From where the sun now sets, I will fight no more forever."

Nez Perce Trail

         After spending almost ten years in Oklahoma as prisoners of war, the Joseph and the Nez Perce were allowed to return to their homelands in the Northwest in 1885.