Great Victory!

Page 13 of 18

Part 13, Great Victory!

A Tsoopnitpeloo Legend

As Told by Otis Halfmoon Of the Nez Perce Tribe


In 1877 the war, that no one wanted, started. Clark's son was right there with them. With the non-treaty Nez Perce. He was there with them the whole time period. He witnessed all the battles that took place in 1877. He saw each one of 'em. He's an old man now. He's in his seventies. He witnessed June 17 at the Whitebird Battlefield. He witnessed probably one of the greatest victories the Nez Perce ever had against the white people. Ninety-nine soldiers of the First Cavalry came down the White Bird Battlefield.

The Nez Perce wanted one more time to have a truce. We don't have to fight. They sent a white flag out there to the soldiers, to negotiate, "talk about this, before we fight." And here, the first shot of the whole battle, the whole war, was not by the Nez Perce, not by the soldiers, but by a civilian volunteer. He shot at that white flag. That Nez Perce with the white flag, he threw — his name was Wetti-wetti-How-lits — he threw that flag down, and he retreated. The Nez Perce attacked. Both flanks — left and right flank. And they riddled those soldiers. Chased them out of that valley. And of the ninety-nine soldiers that came down that valley, thirty-three of them were killed. Another thirty was wounded. Two-thirds of this command was taken out. Casualties of the Nez Perce? Not one Nez Perce was killed. Four wounded. Great victory!

It must have been a beautiful sound, a beautiful thing to hear, 'cause these warriors had the most motive of all to fight — it was the women, and children. And the elders. And one of those elders was Clark's son. He was there, inside the camp, witnessing this. With the women that was going through making the sounds, the sounds with the tongue, they quiver it there, to encourage the men to fight. He was there with them. Great victory!