The letter below was written on the 100 anniversary.

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The Readers' Voice

The Nez Perce Flight to Canada

— Lethbridge Herald — October, 1977

Each month one reads syndicated article after article about places around the world people can explore to catch a feeling for the past. One week it's Rome, another time it's Britain, or possibly the great Wall of China. I find it almost unbelievable that Canadians completely neglect their own backyard.

Exactly 100 years ago a most dramatic story unfolded only a few hundred miles south of Lethbridge. Briefly the story concerns a group of 250 Nez Perce warriors who, while, burdened by 500 women and children, made a most impressive trek across I,700 miles of the most rugged terrain. It was a desperate effort to escape the American Cavalry and reach the safety of the Queen's law in Canada. For 110 days the ordeal went on. Finally with only about 30 miles left and at last feeling secure that they had eluded all pursuers, Chief Joseph's weary group proceeded to rest at a site only a few miles south of where Havre, Montana is today.
Most of them never saw Canada. When they awoke the next morning they found another force had been sent from still another direction and all lines of escape had been crushed. For five days in snow and bitter cold the fighting continued. Finally, on Oct. 5, 1877, Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce with these words handed over his gun and his people:

The previous night Chief Whitebird with a number of others had, under cover of darkness, fled and eventually reached Canada. Fate was really no kinder to him. In 1882 he was murdered and is buried near Fort Macleod.

Today with a little planning, one can drive most of the route taken by Joseph and his people. When the Beartooth Pass is reached, 11,000 feet high, it should be remembered that they — the men, women and children — were on foot. It was exactly 100 years ago and they deserve a moment of reflection.


The Nez Perce Flight to Canada - An Introduction

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