In the aftermath of the 1863 Treaty with the U.S. government, the Wallowa Valley in northeastern Oregon was left outside of the Nez Perce reservation. Joseph and his brother Ollokot met with General O.O. Howard at Fort Lapwai in the spring of 1877 in an attempt to forestall a forced eviction from their homes. Their parley failed and Joseph returned with sad news - the Nez Perce had to leave. Howard gave them only thirty days to pack and move to the Nez Perce Reservation. Although at the time they did not know it, Joseph would never be allowed to return to their homeland again.
Dug Bar was a traditional crossing point for the Nez Perce. In the late summer, after water levels traditionally drop, it was a relatively safe place to cross the river. Unfortunately, the bands had to cross the Snake River at the end of May with their horses and cattle when it was running high and fast with the spring runoff. When the Nez Perce forded the river on May 31, they lost several head of cattle in the churning water.
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