Flight for Freedom

Page 14 of 18

Part 14, Flight for Freedom

A Tsoopnitpeloo Legend

As Told by Otis Halfmoon Of the Nez Perce Tribe


The Nez Perce again moved towards the Clearwater Battlefield, and that's where they met General Howard. Another battle took place. Thirteen soldiers killed, and I think it was twenty-some wounded. The Nez Perce KIA's, it was four Nez Perce killed and three wounded. But again they both called a victory. The Nez Perce decide to have a meeting one more time, in Weippe Prairie. "What 're we gonna' do?" And again, the old time way of our leaders was, the decisions were made among the chiefs. But they also included the voices of the warriors. And also, too, the women probably had a role as well.

The elders. It's always been that way, to respect the elders, listen to their wisdom—what do they have to say? And I'm sure somebody probably asked Clark's son, being an elder by then.

It was decided then. They smoked, and they talked. They decided then that they should go to Crow country. y' know, people wonder about that, in 1877. Chief White Bird, he wanted to go directly to Canada. He wanted to go to Canada right away.

"Let's get outa here. Let's go to grandmother's country. The soldiers can't touch us up there."

They talked about that, and talked about that. Pretty soon Chief Joseph, he was sayin':

"Let us stay in our country and fight. We know this area. Maybe we can hide from the soldiers. We can sue for peace, eventually. We can negotiate."

They smoked, and talked about that. Pretty soon Chief Looking Glass—it was his idea to go to Crow country.

"Let's go over there, 'cause the Crows owe us a favor."

In the 1870s, the Battle of Pryor Creek. We had thirty lodges of Nez Perce that were there with Chief Plenty Coups and his people. The Sioux and the Cheyenne made an attack upon the Crow village, and the Nez Perce helped 'em. And that's what they remembered. In fact, the Crows gave a pipe to the Nez Perce, to remember that battle, and that pipe still exists, even though it sits in a museum at Lewiston, Idaho. It's in the Luna House Museum now. It would be good to have back that pipe, again maybe to sit down and smoke with the Crows again, to remind 'em.