Metis Assist the Nez Perce

Because of the refusal of several bands of the Nez Perce, to give up their ancestral lands they were pursued by elements of the U.S. Army with whom they fought a series of battles and s irmishes on a fighting retreat of !,!"# miles. A final five$day battle was fought alongside Sna e %ree at the base of &ontana's Bears Paw &ountains only (# miles from the %anadian border. As they fled north they were assisted by a &etis %amp on the &il )iver and *ather +enin their priest. A ma,ority of the surviving Nez Perce represented by %hief -oseph of the Wallowa band of Nez Perce, surrendered to Brigadier +enerals .liver .tis howard and Nelson &iles. /hire Bird, of the Lamátta band of Nez Perce, managed to elude the Army after the battle and escape with an undetermined number of his band to Sitting Bull's camp in %anada. 0he (!1 Nez Perce who surrendered, including women and children, were ta en prisoner and sent by train to fort 2evenworth,3ansas. *ather +enin reported4 *or s of the &il )iver, &. 0., 5ec. !6, !1"". 0he for s of the &il )iver were mentioned as being a good place to spend the present winter. 0here never was a stationary priest among these hunters, onl7' when a few years ago )ev. *ather 2estance of *ort +arry consented to spend part of his time in winter among them, or lately when the people would go up to Sun river to *ort Shaw to get one of the -esuit fathers for a short visit of three or four wee s. 8No less than !9# families from 5a ota, belonging to the St. %loud diocese, gathered around me for the winter. 0hey built here a small log chapel forty feet by twenty$two, with an addition east for my room. 2i e all other winter camps it will be abandoned in the spring, but the boards of the chapel floor, made with a pit saw, have already their destination. 0hey will be used to build a flatboat, which two half$breeds will ta e down the &il and &issouri rivers to Bismarc , where they will land the priest and the collection. 0hese people are doing all they can to ma e me succeed. :f they do not give me enough to fill the need, it will be because they are not able to, and then other charitable hands east, : trust, will finish the wor . : concede it is a singular enterprise, but as : stated above, one decided upon on account of necessity and one which : may accomplish, although doing the wor of missionary at the same time. 8As we were ,ust preparing to enter our winter ;uarters, one very dar night, our camp was suddenly filled with Nez Perce :ndians. Among them was /hite Bird, a Nez Perce chief. Nearly all e<cept him were badly wounded. /e had heard the cannon fire two days previous, but did not now anything about the Nez Perces' war. 0he fight could not have been over fifteen miles from us. : began at once the wor usually performed in hospitals. =ow could a priest refuse his attention to suffering humanity> 0he good half$breeds fed those poor :ndians, whilst : washed and wrapped their wounds. 0he +ros ?entres :ndians

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treated differently those they happened to reach. 0hey illed them and were praised by the people of the United States, whilst the action of the half$breeds and mine evo ed a serious suspicion in army ;uarters. =owever, the cloud soon vanished, and the officers understood that we could not reason, at such a ,uncture, upon the merits or demerits of that so une<pected war. A thing occurred one morning worthy of note4 As we had been ta en by surprise by the arrival among us of those :ndians, a neighboring camp was e;ually astonished very early after daybrea . Another band of the same nation, many of them women, came into their midst weeping and yelling terribly. :n running away from the soldiers' reach, they had placed their small children on the bac s of horses, and thus ran all night, only to find in the morning that the children were missing. 0he desolation of the mothers was great. 0o go bac was to find sure death. Ah @ but the feeling of the mother's heart was greater than the fear of death, and the men had to use tomahaw s and whips to drive the women ahead toward Sitting Bull's camp. So great was the fear of the :ndians of being hanged that we saw one pass on horsebac with only one hand. =e himself had cut off the other and both his feet, to free himself from his chains. .n the battle field they had fought li e lions, to the concession of all our soldiers. 0heir battle ground, situated between two ravines, formed a triangle with underground passages of communication, very deep, and outside breastwor s of an admirable order and solidity of construction. 0he women under that shelter had constructed a cistern about fourteen feet s;uare and two feet deep. .nly a little water was flowing in one of the ravines, but they managed to have plenty all the time for all purposes, and they could have held the fight long and hard only for the want of wood in that cold weather, causing suffering among the poor little children. After so many difficulties encountered, you might thin , now everything will be peaceable, yet it is not so. 0he Nez Perces who went to Sitting Bull's camp are now for the second time on the old battle field near Bear's Paw &ountain and have Sitting Bull and some of his :ndians with them. 0hey go after some supplies of ammunition, sugar, tobacco, etc., which they had concealed there after the war. .f course another e<citement may be e<pected daily. : regret sincerely that the %anadian officers of police petted Sitting Bull so much, instead of reinforcing our wor by advising him to surrender, and put an end to all trouble. Since the commission met at %ypress =ills Sitting Bull has received a reinforcement of some !AB &innecon,ou Siou<. =e is not the same man that he has been. 2i e any other :ndian, seeing all the tal he gave rise to, he feels proud and is less able to understand sound reason. Cours respectfullv, 8-. B. &. +enin, 8&issionary Apostolic.8 %ollection of the =istorical Society of North 5a ota State, ?ol. :, !A#D4 pp. B"($BA!.

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%ompiled by 2awrence Bar well %oordinator of &etis =eritage and =istory )esearch 2ouis )iel :nstitute

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