Nez Perce
National Historical Park
NPS Arrowhead logo Big Hole
National Battlefield

Introduction and Acknowledgments

Nez Perce National Historical Park, established in 1965, comprises thirty-eight discontiguous sites in four states (Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Montana) describing the history and culture of the Nez Perce (Nee-Me-Poo) Indians. Several of these properties (including sites authorized by Congress in 1992), along with others within Yellowstone National Park, relate to the conflict between the Nez Perces and the U.S. Army in 1877. Their collective association with the events of 1877 prompted the National Park Service (NPS) to prepare a study that would bring together site-specific as well as contextual information to aid the planning, management, and interpretation for all major land resources related to the U.S. Army-Nez Perce War.

It is this study, "Historic Resource Study: The U.S. Army and the Nee-Me-Poo Crisis of 1877: Historic Sites Associated with the Nez Perce War," completed in 1996, upon which this book is based. That study was, as is the book that follows, necessarily, a military history, based upon the voluminous body of documentary materials that comprise the history from that perspective, as compared to the relative scarcity of materials that embrace the Nez Perce viewpoint. Nevertheless, Nee-Me-Poo perspective is vital to gaining a comprehensive understanding of the events of 1877, and fortunately, through the efforts of Lucullus V. McWhorter, Walter M. Camp, Edward S. Curtis, and others who actively sought out Indian recollections during the early years of the twentieth century, an important reservoir of first-person participant reminiscences exists that has been incorporated into this study to ensure perspectives from both sides. Similarly, the accounts of participants from other tribes have been included whenever available. Further, because past and recent histories of the Nez Perce struggle have relied heavily upon previously published secondary works, the present study has concentrated more exclusively on archival materials, published government records, and participant accounts, many never before used. With hopes for achieving greater objectivity about the war, the study has refrained from using published secondary renditions beyond those needed to establish background, and those articles and books that focus on specific occurrences considered in the narrative (and required for consideration of interpretations of the events). Two exceptions are Alvin M. Josephy, Jr., The Nez Perce Indians and the Opening of the Northwest (1965), and Francis Haines, The Nez Perces: Tribesmen of the Columbia Plateau (1955), both recognized standards that were contextually important for this study. Of special value to the fieldwork involved throughout this study was Cheryl Wilfong, Following the Nez Perce Trail: A Guide to the Nee-Me-Poo National Historic Trail with Eyewitness Accounts (1990). In addition, as a matter of procedure, all quoted material has been directly footnoted; all other data, unless critically singular in importance, have been consolidated in multiple-citation footnotes.

A note regarding terminology: In recent years there has been a tendency, especially on the part of the federal government, to refer euphemistically to the events of 1877 as a "conflict" instead of as a "war," perhaps in subliminal attempt to soften the reality of what happened to the nontreaty Nez Perces and make it easier to accept. Certainly for the Nez Perces, whose very existence was at stake, their struggle against the army following the outbreak amounted to a defensive war for survival in which they utilized their limited numbers and resources to the maximum. Conversely, as the instrument of the federal government determined to defeat the Nez Perces and thereby protect its citizens, the army employed its own resources in offensively applying the strategies and tactics that characterized its role and very purpose for existence. Moral issues and modern judgments aside, from such perspective the contest was in its purest sense indeed a war and is thus designated as such in the pages that follow.

This study could not have been completed without the help of many people and institutions. Rodd L. Wheaton, Assistant Regional Director, Cultural Resources and Partnerships, Intermountain Regional Office, National Park Service, Denver; and Stephanie Toothman, Pacific West Region, Columbia Cascades Support Office, National Park Service, Seattle, were instrumental in formulating the project, in defining and redefining its scope, and in providing administrative support through its completion. Elizabeth M. Janes, former Chief, Branch of Planning, Eastern Team, Denver Service Center, approved my detail to the (then) Rocky Mountain and Pacific Northwest regional offices for twenty months. I must also thank Franklin D. Walker, then Superintendent, Nez Perce National Historical Park, who provided enthusiastic and total support throughout the research and writing effort. Former National Park Service Chief Historian Edwin C. Bearss promoted my involvement and offered his unique insights and valuable advice throughout the completion of the study. Others in the respective regional offices who extended information and assistance at various times during this work include: Richard J. Cronenberger, Regional Historical Architect; Adrienne B. Anderson, Regional Archeologist; David Ruppert, Cultural Anthropologist; Anne Johnson, Archeologist; Rosemary Sucec, Cultural Resources Specialist; Kathleen McKoy, Regional Historian; and Charles Troje and Christine Maylath, administrative assistants (all in the Rocky Mountain Regional Office, Denver); and Gretchen Luxembourg, Regional Historian; Fred York, Regional Ethnographer; James Thompson, Regional Archeologist; and Wendy Chin, Budget Assistant (all in the then Pacific Northwest Regional Office, Seattle). Douglas D. Scott, Archeologist, Midwest Archeological Center, Lincoln, Nebraska, shared his counsel and expertise regarding Indian wars sites on many occasions.

At Nez Perce National Historical Park, I must thank Susan J. Buchel, former Manager, and Jon G. James, present Superintendent, Big Hole National Battlefield and Bear Paw Battlefield Unit; Mark O'Neill, former Manager, White Bird Battlefield and Upper Clearwater Units; Arthur C. Hathaway, former Manager, Spalding Unit; Otis Halfmoon, Idaho Unit Manager; Teresa Seloske, former Park Ranger, White Bird Battlefield and Upper Clearwater Units; Paul Henderson, former Manager, Oregon/Washington Unit; Robert Chenoweth, Park Curator; Chrisanne Brown, former Librarian; Diana Miles, Park Ranger, Spalding Unit; Linda Paisano, Museum Technician, and Tony Schetszle, former Superintendent, Big Hole National Battlefield—all of whom variously provided resource information and/or administrative support throughout the study. I must also thank Charlie Moses, Chief Joseph Band of Nez Perces of the Colville Indian Reservation, Nespelem, Washington, for reviewing the work. At Yellowstone National Park, Lee H. Whittlesey, Historian, and John Lounsbury, Lake District Ranger, helped in the collection of documentary materials and reviewed parts of the manuscript. Elsa C. Kortge, Acting Curator, assisted in finding pertinent historic photographs in the park's vast collections. And Aubrey L. Haines, of Tucson, Arizona, furnished information about sites within Yellowstone and loaned me materials from his own extensive files. Still within the National Park Service community, I also received help and materials from Paul L. Hedren, Superintendent, Niobrara/Missouri National Scenic Riverways, O'Neill, Nebraska; Douglas C. McChristian, Historian, Intermountain Region, National Park Service; and Kitty Deernose, Curator, Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, Crow Agency, Montana. At the Denver Service Center Library, Jannette S. Wesley and Katherine S. Tudek, Librarians, helped process my many requests for interlibrary loan materials.

Many repositories around the country responded enthusiastically during my research trips or to my mail requests for data. I must thank the entire staff of the Old Military Branch, National Archives, and especially reference archivists Michael T. Meier, Tod Butler, Michael P. Musick, and Michael E. Pilgrim. At the Smithsonian Institution, National Anthropological Archives, Photo Archivist Paula Richardson Fleming gave guidance and assistance. At the U.S. Army Military History Institute, Army War College, Carlisle, Pennsylvania, I must acknowledge the help of Richard J. Sommers, Chief Archivist-Historian; David Keough, Assistant Archivist-Historian; Pamela Cheney, Archives Technician; John Slonaker, Chief Reference Historian; Louise Arnold-Friend, Reference Historian; and Dennis Vetock, Reference Historian. I must thank the staff of the archives and library of the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, New York, particularly Alan C. Aimone, Associate Librarian for Special Collections; Susan Lintelmann, Manuscript Librarian, Special Collections; and Charlyn Richardson and Sheila Biles, Library Technicians, Special Collections.

At the Archives, University of Colorado at Boulder Libraries (Western History Collection), I received most generous help from Cassandra M. Volpe, Archivist; Paulette D. Foss, Assistant Archivist; and David Hays, Assistant Archivist. At the Library and Archives of the Montana Historical Society, Helena, I benefited repeatedly from the knowledge and assistance of former Society Librarian Robert M. Clark. The collections at Washington State University, Pullman, were particularly important to my work, and I thank John F. Guido, Head, Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections Division; Lawrence R. Stark, Assistant Archivist; and José Vargas for allowing my examination and use of materials in the McWhorter and other collections. Likewise, Terry Abraham, Director, Special Collections, University of Idaho Library, Moscow, permitted me access to the rich materials in his charge. Also, I must thank Wayne Silka, Manuscripts Curator, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley; Peter J. Blodgett, Curator, Western Historical Manuscripts, The Huntington Library, San Marino, California; Laura Arksey, Curator, Cheney Cowles Museum, Eastern Washington State Historical Society, Spokane; Dale Johnson, former Archivist, Archives, Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library, University of Montana, Missoula; David F. Halaas, Historian, Colorado Historical Society, Denver; George Kush, Royal Canadian Mounted Police Historian and Curator, Fort Whoop-Up Interpretive Center, Lethbridge, Alberta; Michael Wagner, Braun Research Library, Southwest Museum, Los Angeles; Heather R. Munro, Reference Assistant, Manuscripts Department, The Lilly Library, Indiana University, Bloomington; Vicky Jones, Manuscripts Curator, and John Hawk, Special Collections Librarian, Knight Library, University of Oregon, Eugene; R. Eli Paul, former Research Historian, Nebraska State Historical Society, Lincoln; and Patricia A. Michaelis, Curator, Manuscripts Division, Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka. In addition, various staff members of the following repositories rendered assistance throughout the course of the study: Colorado Historical Society, Denver; Wyoming State Archives and Historical Department, Cheyenne; South Dakota State Historical Society, Pierre; National Library of Medicine, Bethesda, Maryland; Denver Public Library Western History Department; The Frontier Army Museum, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas; Library and Archives Section, Idaho State Historical Society, Boise; Manuscripts Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.; Merrill G. Burlingame Special Collections, Montana State University Library, Bozeman; Archives and Manuscripts Department, Special Collections Division, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah; Manuscripts and University Archives, University of Washington, Seattle; Research Library, Washington State Historical Society, Tacoma; Arvada, Colorado, Public Library; U.S. Geological Survey Library, Lakewood, Colorado; Manuscripts Division, Boise State University Library; Spokane Public Library; and Parmly Billings Library, Billings, Montana.

I must also acknowledge the assistance of many generous individuals who shared with me pertinent materials and also their extensive knowledge of resource areas during the course of my work. Many of them reviewed parts of the manuscript during its draft stage. Lillian Pethtel, of Kamiah, Idaho, gave freely of her time in accompanying me to numerous sites and in providing much valuable data. Eileen and the late Kenneth Bennett, Kilgore, Idaho, lent their expertise regarding the Camas Meadows encounter sites and supplied relevant documentary items, too. For their help in delineating the Nez Perces' possible routes down Clark's Fork, I am indebted to Stuart Conner, Kenneth Feyhl, and Michael Bryant, of Billings, Montana. At the Canyon Creek battlefield, Feyhl and Harold Hagen, also of Billings, and Michael Blohm, of Laurel, Montana, contributed much of their time and specific information about that site. LeRoy ("Andy") Anderson, of Chinook, Montana, shared his insights into the Cow Island, Cow Creek Canyon, and Bear's Paw encounters, while James Magera of Havre, Montana, graciously loaned me important materials from his personal library related to the Bear's Paw battle and accompanied me over the site of that encounter on several occasions. John D. McDermott, of Rapid City, South Dakota, and Don G. Rickey, of Evergreen, Colorado, respectively, gave me access to their vast files of Indian wars documents and contributed their counsel and knowledge of the subject matter. Brian C. Pohanka, of Alexandria, Virginia, readily responded to my request for data from his collection, and Kermit D. Edmonds, of Missoula, Montana, ardently shared his knowledge of Fort Fizzle, Camas Meadows, and other sites. Wayne T. Norman and Jeanne Norman Chiarot generously allowed me to use the 1877 John H. Fouch photograph "Gen. Miles and Command crossing the Yellowstone with Joseph."

Others who contributed valuably in various ways include Paul English, Havre, Montana; Sherry L. Smith, University of Texas at El Paso; Richard Bottomly, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Kooskia, Idaho; Dan Gard, U.S. Forest Service, Missoula, Montana; Alvin M. Josephy, Jr., Joseph, Oregon; Paul A. Hutton, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque; Robert M. Utley, Georgetown, Texas; Mr. and Mrs. Gary N. Dutcher, Stites, Idaho; Colonel Ben F. ("Absaroka Ben") Irvin, Globe, Arizona; Waldo M. Wedel, Boulder, Colorado; Leland H. Reyder, Cottonwood, Idaho; Margot Liberty, Sheridan, Wyoming; Milton Westin, Laurel, Montana; Carmelita Spencer, Grangeville, Idaho; Ruby Rylaarsdam, Grangeville, Idaho; John P. Langellier, Seabee Museum, Port Hueneme, California; John G. Lepley, Museum of the Upper Missouri, Fort Benton, Montana; L. Clifford Soubier, Charles Town, West Virginia; Andrew Masich, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Brad Dahlquist, Tacoma, Washington; Rom Bushnell, Western Heritage Center, Billings, Montana; James S. Brust, San Pedro, California; Larry Sklenar, Georgetown, South Carolina; the late Erwin N. Thompson, Golden, Colorado; Mary L. Culpin, Denver, Colorado; Virginia Parks, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Portland, Oregon; Michael J. Koury, Fort Collins, Colorado; Janine Caywood, Missoula, Montana; Thomas R. Buecker, Fort Robinson State Museum, Nebraska; Joellen El Bashur, Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, Howard University, Washington, D. C.; Richard W. Sellers, Santa Fe, New Mexico; and Jeffrey Merritt Greene, Arvada, Colorado.

Special thanks also go to Rick Newby, Helena, Montana, and Charles E. Rankin, Martha Kohl, Glenda Bradshaw, Kathryn Fehlig, Molly Holz, and Randi Webb, of the Montana Historical Society Press, and Kitty Herrin, Missoula, Montana, for their assistance in preparing this manuscript for publication.

To all of the above individuals and institutions I extend heartfelt thanks.


Nez Perce, Summer 1877
©2000, Montana Historical Society Press
greene/intro.htm — 05-Jun-2002