The Nez Perce War was an armed conflict between several bands of the Nez Perce tribe of Native Americans and their allies, a small band of the Palouse tribe led by Red Echo (Hahtalekin) and Bald head (Husishusis Kute), against the United States Army. The conflict, fought between June–October 1877, stemmed from the refusal of several bands of the Nez Perce, dubbed "non-treaty Indians", to give up their ancestral lands in the Pacific Northwest and move to an Indian reservation in Idaho. This forced removal was in violation of the 1855 Treaty of Walla Walla, which granted the tribe 7.5 million acres in their ancestral lands and the right to hunt and fish in lands ceded to the government.
After the first armed engagements in June, the Nez Perce embarked on an arduous trek north initially to seek help with the Crow tribe. After the Crows' refusal of aid, they sought sanctuary with the Lakota led by Sitting Bull, who had fled to Canada in May 1877 to avoid capture following the 1876 Battle of the Little Bighorn.
The Nez Perce were pursued by elements of the U.S. Army with whom they fought a series of battles and skirmishes on a fighting retreat of 1,170 miles. The war ended after a final five-day battle fought alongside Snake Creek at the base of Montana's Bears Paw Mountains only 40 miles from the Canadian border. A majority of the surviving Nez Perce represented by Chief Joseph of the Wallowa band of Nez Perce, surrendered to Brigadier Generals Oliver Otis Howard and Nelson A. Miles. White Bird, of the Lamátta band of Nez Perce, managed to elude the Army after the battle and escape with an undetemined number of his band to Sitting Bull's camp in Canada. The 418 Nez Perce who surrendered, including women and children, were taken prisoner and sent by train to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
Although Chief Joseph is the most well known of the Nez Perce leaders, he was not the sole overall leader. The Nez Perce were led by a coalition of several leaders from the different bands who comprised the "non-treaty" Nez Perce, including the Wallowa Ollokot, White Bird of the Lamátta band, Toohoolhoolzote of the Pikunin band, and Looking Glass of the Alpowai band. Brigadier General Howard was head of the U.S. Army's Department of the Columbia, which was tasked with forcing the Nez Perce onto the reservation and whose jurisdiction was extended by General William Tecumseh Sherman to allow Howard's pursuit. It was at the final surrender of the Nez Perce when Chief Joseph gave his famous "I Will Fight No More Forever" speech, which was translated by the interpreter Arthur Chapman.
The New York Times wrote in an 1877 editorial on the Nez Perce War that: "On our part, the war was in its origin and motive nothing short of a gigantic blunder and a crime"
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