Nez Perce National Historic Trail
The Nez Perce National Historical Trail follows the same journey undertaken by a band of the Nez Perce Indian tribe in 1877 during their attempt to flee the U.S. Cavalry. The 1,170 mile (1,883 km) trail was created in 1986 as part of the National Trails System Act and is managed by the U.S. Forest Service. The trail traverses through portions of the U.S. state
U.S. state
A U.S. state is any one of the 50 federated states of the United States of America that share sovereignty with the federal government. Because of this shared sovereignty, an American is a citizen both of the federal entity and of his or her state of domicile. Four states use the official title of...

s of Oregon
Oregon is a state in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States. It is located on the Pacific coast, with Washington to the north, California to the south, Nevada on the southeast and Idaho to the east. The Columbia and Snake rivers delineate much of Oregon's northern and eastern...

, Idaho
Idaho is a state in the Rocky Mountain area of the United States. The state's largest city and capital is Boise. Residents are called "Idahoans". Idaho was admitted to the Union on July 3, 1890, as the 43rd state....

, Wyoming
Wyoming is a state in the mountain region of the Western United States. The western two thirds of the state is covered mostly with the mountain ranges and rangelands in the foothills of the Eastern Rocky Mountains, while the eastern third of the state is high elevation prairie known as the High...

 and Montana
Montana is a state in the Western United States. The western third of Montana contains numerous mountain ranges. Smaller, "island ranges" are found in the central third of the state, for a total of 77 named ranges of the Rocky Mountains. This geographical fact is reflected in the state's name,...

 and connects 38 separate sites across these four states that commemorate significant events which occurred to the Nez Perce during their attempt to escape capture by the U.S. Cavalry who were under orders to move the Indians onto a reservation.


One band of 750 Nez Perce who were not under any treaty with the U.S. Government, fought numerous engagements with the 7th Cavalry during their attempt to reach Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

 and escape being forced into an Indian Reservation
Indian reservation
An American Indian reservation is an area of land managed by a Native American tribe under the United States Department of the Interior's Bureau of Indian Affairs...

. Beginning near Wallowa Lake in eastern Oregon, the Nez Perce headed east into Idaho. They crossed Lolo Pass
Lolo Pass (Idaho-Montana)
Lolo Pass, elevation , is a mountain pass in the United States, in the Bitterroot Range of the northern Rocky Mountains. It is on the border between the states of Montana and Idaho, approximately west-southwest of Missoula, Montana....

 into Montana and fought a major battle at what is now known as Big Hole National Battlefield
Big Hole National Battlefield
Big Hole National Battlefield is a memorial located in Montana, United States. The Nez Percé, under Chief Joseph Big Hole National Battlefield is a memorial located in Montana, United States. The Nez Percé, under Chief Joseph Big Hole National Battlefield is a memorial located in Montana, United...

. After that, the Nez Perce continued traveling south and east, back into Idaho and then into Wyoming entering Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park, established by the U.S. Congress and signed into law by President Ulysses S. Grant on March 1, 1872, is a national park located primarily in the U.S. state of Wyoming, although it also extends into Montana and Idaho...

 near West Yellowstone, Montana
West Yellowstone, Montana
West Yellowstone is a town in Gallatin County, Montana, adjacent to Yellowstone National Park. The population was 1,177 at the 2000 census. The town is served by Yellowstone Airport...

. The tribe left the park crossing Sylvan Pass
Sylvan Pass
Sylvan Pass is a mountain pass located in the Absaroka Range in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. The pass provides access to the park from the east entrance....

 and followed the Clarks Fork River back into Montana. From there the Nez Perce headed almost straight north for Canada and almost made it. The Nez Perce were near starvation and exhaustion after fighting their last battle north of the Bear Paw Mountains
Battle of Bear Paw
The Battle of Bear Paw was the final engagement of the Nez Perce War. Some of the Nez Perce were able to escape to Canada, but Chief Joseph was forced to surrender the majority of his tribe to Oliver O. Howard...

, less than 40 miles (64 km) from the Canadian border, when they surrendered to U.S. authorities. Chief Joseph
Chief Joseph
Hin-mah-too-yah-lat-kekt, popularly known as Chief Joseph, or Young Joseph was the leader of the Wal-lam-wat-kain band of Nez Perce during General Oliver O. Howard's attempt to forcibly remove his band and the other "non-treaty" Nez Perce to a reservation in Idaho...

 is widely credited with leading the Nez Perce on this journey, but he functioned more like a camp supervisor and guardian who was entrusted with handling the logistics of camp and travel and taking care of the women and children.

At the time of the surrender, Chief Joseph was the most prominent surviving leader among the group and was ultimately the one who decided that they must surrender. A few members of the tribe did manage to escape to Canada, but the vast majority were relocated to Kansas
Kansas is a US state located in the Midwestern United States. It is named after the Kansas River which flows through it, which in turn was named after the Kansa Native American tribe, which inhabited the area. The tribe's name is often said to mean "people of the wind" or "people of the south...

 and Oklahoma
Oklahoma is a state located in the South Central region of the United States of America. With an estimated 3,751,351 residents as of the 2010 census and a land area of 68,667 square miles , Oklahoma is the 28th most populous and 20th-largest state...

 for eight years before being allowed to return to Idaho, near their ancestral home.

Trail description

The trail passes through numerous National Park Service managed areas, National Forests
United States National Forest
National Forest is a classification of federal lands in the United States.National Forests are largely forest and woodland areas owned by the federal government and managed by the United States Forest Service, part of the United States Department of Agriculture. Land management of these areas...

, and Bureau of Land Management Public Lands. While Oregon was already a state, the other three states the trail now passes through were still merely territories. None of the forest lands were managed by the federal government, but Yellowstone National Park was created 5 years prior to the Nez Perce journey. The trail also passes through privately owned property and it is best advised to obtain permission to enter these areas from local landowners. Little of the trail is actually a foot trail, but much of the journey can be closely followed by roads. Attempts are underway to continue to preserve right of way to allow greater access for visitors.

External links

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