The Nez Percé people lived in peace with white intruders in their homelands from the time of Lewis & Clark until 1863 when a treaty called for the tribe's removal to a reservation in Idaho. Chief Joseph (1840-1904), headman of the Nez Percé band in northeastern Oregon's Wallowa Valley, became the greatest diplomat, philosopher, and--from necessity rather than choice--war leader of his people and among the most respected Indian leaders of American history.
In this meticulous and moving new study of Joseph's life, Candy Moulton--
who has traveled over all the trails he and his people blazed--emphasizes the pivotal year of 1877, when the frontier military tried to force Joseph and his people onto the reservation. Instead of meekly following these outrageous orders, he led 750 Nez Percés on a 1,500-mile, four-month flight from western Idaho across Montana and through the Yellowstone country and northwest Wyoming toward safety in Canada. After many battles, the flight ended at the Bear Paws mountains in north-central Montana, just forty miles from the Canadian border and potential refuge. There the U.S. Army surrounded the Nez Percés, captured their horse herd, killed all but two of their primary chiefs, and forced capitulation. When Joseph surrendered to military leaders he told them, "From where the sun now stands I will fight no more forever."