The latest volume in Nebraska’s Bison Books series is a history of the Nez Perce Indians in the Columbia Plateau, which covers parts of Idaho, Oregon and Washington.
Alvin Josephy takes us through the stages for the Nez Perce’s tribal development: early legends; acquisitions of horses and firearms; meeting Lewis and Clark; and encounters with fur-trading Mountain Men. Although the Nez Perce prided themselves on a tradition of friendship with the whites, they, ironically, suffered eventually the same abuses received by hostile tribes such as Apaches and Blackfoot. Their reservation in 1867 was reduced in size to one-tenth of its original extent. White pressure led to the tribe splitting into two factions. The off-reservation band, led by Chief Joseph and warrior chiefs such as Looking Glass, was driven into a conflict by Gen. O.O. Howard. The Indians won most of the battles, but they lost the war. The unfortunate Nez Perce War was perhaps the saddest, most unnecessary of all our Indian wars.