Native American Conflicts and Wars

California and the Northwest

Extremely bitter feeling marked Native American conflicts in California and the Northwest. During the 1850's, many California tribe members died from disease and in warfare against miners and local militia. In the Northwest, the Whitman massacre in 18747 led to the Cayuse War of 1847-1850. Few Cayuse survived this war. Whites also committed many atrocities in the Rogue River wars of the 1850's.

The Modoc War (1872-1873)

The Modoc of northern California and southern Oregon could barely survive on the poor reservation given them in 1864. In 1872, a group led by Captain Jack (also called Kintpuash) escaped to return to their old hunting grounds. Fighting broke out between the group and Army troops in late 1872, when the Army tried to force the Modoc back to the reservation. With the Army in pursuit, they fled to Tule Lake in California. There, lava beds formed by an extinct volcano furnished almost perfect fortification. The fighting resumed in early 1873, at Tule Lake. A small band of about 60 poorly armed Modocs' held out for about five months, until the Army forced them to surrender. The Army hanged Captain Jack and three of his men for the murder in October 1873.

The Nez Perce War (1877)

It began when a band of Nez Perce under Chief Joseph to move from their home in the Wallowa Valley in Oregon. A group of warriors attacked settlers during negotiations in 1877, and Joseph reluctantly went to war. In June, about 70 Native Americans held off about 100 soldiers at White Bird Canyon in Idaho. Chief Joseph then led about 800 of his people in a remarkable retreat southeast through Montana and then back north across Yellowstone Park. They traveled over 1,000 miles and escaped from several army forces while trying to reach safety in Canada. They stopped to rest near the Bears Paw Mountains in Montana 40 miles from the Canada border, thinking that they had shaken off their pursuers. But Nelson A. Miles the a colonel, led his troops in a rapid march of over 200 miles to catch the tribe. Joseph and his weary band after a five day battle.

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