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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


August 9, 2003 - Issue 93


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Horse Club Retraces Flight of Nez Perce

by Shawn White Wolf Helena Independent Record
credits: art by Carol Grigg

art by Carol GriggOne of the most noted captures of American Indians by the U.S. Army in Western history has been almost completely retraced for a third time by club members of Idaho's Appaloosa Horse Club.

This year's annual trail ride will complete the entire route taken by the Nez Perce Indians while fleeing the U.S. Army in 1877.

The Nez Perce flight started in Wallowa Lake, Ore, and stretched to the Bear Paw Mountains in north-central Montana.

"The 2003 trail ride marks the 39th anniversary and the 13th year of the third circuit through the ride," said Anne Stott, the club's public relations coordinator.

The trail ride will begin on July 27 in James Kipp Park near Lewistown, and will end on Aug. 2 in the Bear Paw Battlefield, near Chinook.

Chief Joseph, Chief Looking Glass, Chief White Bird, Chief Ollokot, Chief Lean Elk, and numerous others led nearly 750 Nez Perce men, women, and children and numerous horses over 1,170 miles through the mountains, on a trip that lasted from June to October in 1877, according the trail ride organizers.

The trail riders started on the Nez Perce route 12 years ago in Wallowa Lake, Ore., then headed northwest and crossed the Snake River at Dug Bar.

After Dug Bar, the riders entered Idaho at Lewiston and cut across north-central Idaho near Lolo Pass. The riders continued on through the Bitterroot Valley, after which it re-entered Idaho at Bannock Pass and traveled east back into Montana at Targhee Pass to cross the Continental Divide.

Next, the riders bisected Yellowstone National Park, then followed the Clark Fork of the Yellowstone out of Wyoming into Montana.

This year the riders will head north to the Bear Paw Mountains, ending 40 miles from the Canadian border.

"The trek takes 13 years to complete and covers 1,300 miles," said Stott. "As a progressive system, the camp will move daily, covering 15-20 miles per day."

In June of 1877, U.S. Army Generals Howard, Sturgis and Miles attempted to force the Nez Perce to the Lapwai Reservation. Reluctantly, the Nez Perce fled in hopes of peace in Canada, but fell short of reaching the border by 40 miles.

Among today's trail riders are such special guests as Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter Ken Overcast, and performer Tim McNeil. Both will entertain the participants in evening performances throughout the week. Also, the Chief Joseph Foundation sponsored 12 Nez Perce youths and six adults to participant this year.

An awards ceremony will be held to honor Don Johnson of Walla Walla, Wash., and Anne Mischel of Amity, Ore., for their 39 years of participation in the trail ride.

The ceremony for Johnson and Mischel is on Aug. 2 beginning 2 p.m.

The trail ride began in 1965 with 40 participants. Since then participation has grown to nearly 400 participants.

The Appaloosa club organizers said that only Appaloosa horses are allowed on this trail ride and must be at least four years of age. All horses must also be registered with the club. In addition, the organizers said that Montana Livestock Inspectors will be on hand to inspect horses.

Nez Perce (Nee-Me-Poo) National Historic Trail
The Nez Perce (Nee-Me-Poo) National Historic Trail (NPNHT) was designated by Congress under the National Trails System Act in 1986 to commemorate the 1877 flight of the non-treaty Nez Perce from their homelands in eastern Oregon, Idaho, and Washington across what are today the states of Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming.

Nez Perce Trail Map

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