Official Story of famous flight contradicted

— Lethbridge Herald — March 5. 1995

George Kush, president of the Lethbridge Historical Society, is writing a book dealing. with the Nez Perce movement into southern Alberta in the late 1880s.

The title will be, In the Grandmother's Land: The Nez Perce Experience in Canada.

"My objective is to make Americans aware of the Canadian connection with the Nez Perce," says Kush. "It will complete their whole story, a story of how many survived in Canada and how this group of Nez Perce continued to resist and never surrendered."

The book will also add to the movement by the American National Parks Services, the Nez Perce council and a few other interested American parties to tell the entire story of the Nez Perce and establish the Bear Paw Mountains Battleground Park near Chinook, Montana. The Nez Perce-Bear Paw saga began in early July of 1877 in the Wallowa Valley near the Washington-Idaho-Oregon borders and culminated in October, 1877 in the Bear Paw Mountains. The contents of the book will cover about three decades, from the 1877 flight to about 1910.

"More than half of Chief Joseph's people managed to make it to Canada," says Kush. "In the end Joseph was left behind with the women, children and the sick.

White Bird took the rest of the people into Canada. About 105 warriors made it to Canada according to Supt. James M. Walsh of the North West Mounted Police.

"This was not really a victory for the American army, that was 'why they had to build up the capture of Joseph, making it far more than what it was. All the army actually did was capture Joseph and a handful of men left behind to protect the women and children."

Indian accounts of the final battle and surrender say White Bird and his followers simply rode away from the Bear Paw battlefield in the dead of night The soldiers saw them, but did nothing to stop them.

Writing in 1915, Yellow Bull, a very prominent Nez Perce warrior, says White Bird said no to the surrender by Joseph. Yellow Bull chose to go north to Canada with White Bird.

"We crept out silently," Yellow Bull wrote "The soldiers saw us but were afraid to fire."

"White Bird would never give up his gun, his horse and land to the white man. He never believed in the white man."

Kush says soldiers' accounts of the escape showed the army privates were relatively uneducated men, mostly immigrants, who knew from experience the Indians were crack shots. They also knew they, and their army buddies, were poor shots. If they fired at the retreating Nez Perce they knew the Indians would return the fire and they'd be in the middle of yet another battle.

"They didn't want to get into that, so they just said to themselves, 'Go, for god's sake go,"' says Kush.

The soldiers were no more willing than the Indians to fight another battle. That is evident through the soldiers' accounts, says Kush.

But officers' accounts are much different. The officers built up the capture of Joseph as a great accomplishment and brushed off the Nez Perce who had escaped. They concentrated on the capture of Joseph and the women and children as a great victory.

Kush has photo-copied hand-written army reports, one from General Nelson A. Miles, saying he was satisfied the trouble with the, until July, peaceful Nez Perce was ended.

The whole incident was begun after a brief conflict with a handftil of Nez Perce warriors and some belligerent whites.

"They should be allowed to return home and control their own affairs," Miles wrote about the captured Joseph band. He spent the next 30 years fighting for the Nez Perce, with support from General Terry, to have them restored to their Wallowa Valley home.

But Generals William T. Sherman and Sheridan had other ideas. Sheridan wrote that the Nez Perce should be made to sleep in the bed they had made for themselves.

"I think all these Indians, who have started back, should be arrested and sent back to join the others in the Indian Territory (now part of Oklahoma)," wrote Sheridan,

The Flight tof the Nez Perce - An Introduction

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