Travels in Eastern Oregon, Idaho and Western Montana
August 1999

Following a long fascination, based on what I now admit was an appaling movie (although the first I'd ever seen to portray "injuns" sympathetically!) called "I will fight no more forever" viewed when I was very young, I've wanted to visit the area from where Chief Joseph and The Nez Perce came from.

Chief Joseph or Heinmot Tooyalaket (Thunder rolling over the mountains) of The Nez Perce 

Chief Joseph is possibly one of the most famous and tragic of all the great Indian Chiefs. He is best remembered for two things 

1. His great evasive manoever and military brilliance in outflanking and out manoevring two pursuing bands of American soldiers intent on removing them from their beloved Wallowa Valley in Eastern Oregon to the Lapwai Reservation. This despite a treaty or decree from President Ulysees Grant in June of 1873 granting the Wallowa Valley to the Nez Perce. 

2, Possibly the most moving and eloquent speech of surender of any man; The incredible "I will fight no more forever" speech 

Of course the white man had had his eye on the beautiful fertile Wallowa Valley much longer than 1873 and was not likely to giveup the fight for it so easy. It is said that passing throug this area in 1805 the Lewis and Clark expedition would have surely straved to detah but for the generosity and kindness of this peaceful band of Indians. However only 50 years later the white man, in the form of Governor Isaac Stevens of the Washington Territories  sought to repay the Nez Perce by setting up the first restrictive reservation in the area. Chief Joseph's Father, Tuekakas, refused to sign the treaty, allegedly saying "Take away your paper, I will not touch it with my hand" and afterwards urged his people to refuse all blankets and other gifts from the white man claiming very wisely, that "...after a while they will claim that you have accepted pay for your country".   

 A link to a good site about Chef Joseph and the Nez Perce

This is the view down into White Bird Canyon, from White Bird Grade, where Chef Jospeph was encamped with his people in 1873 when ordered by General Howard that they had 30 days to move from here to the Lapwai reservation. 

It was here thet the first scuffle between The Nez Perce and Generla Howards Army took place on 17th June 1873, when The Nez Perce, though outnumbered two to one managed to kill one third of Howards Band and rout the rest of them before retreating across the Mountains to Clearwater to meet up with Chief Looking Galss. So shrewd were Joseph's military manoevres that allegedly his tactics were later taught in West Point.

Another View of White Bird Canyon

Below a sign at Clearwater Chrek where Looking Glass and his Band were encamped when joined by Joseph after their retreat from General Howard.

Of course Howard was in stroing pursuit and the second engagement took place here, after a council of the chiefs decided that their only course at this stage was to attempt to flee to Canada to Sitting Bull.


This is another view of Clear Water Creek area near where the second engagement between The Nez Perce and General Howard took place.

This site is maintained and updated by Peter Jordan,

Last Updated 5th April 2001

© Peter Jordan, 1999-2001

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