Sign for Bear Paw Battlefield
Bear Paw Battlefield

Bear Paw Battlefield

The Bear Paw Battlefield is not as well known as the Little Bighorn Battlefield, the Bear Paw Battlefield is just as significant. This is the site of the last battle in the 1877 Nez Perce War. This was a 5 day battle and siege between the Nez Perce led by Looking Glass and other chiefs and the US Army. By the end of the battle, Looking Glass and several other chiefs were dead. Chief Joseph decided that it was time to end the battle and surrendered the band under his leadership.

His surrender speech ended with "I am tired. My heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands I will fight no more forever."

Chief Joseph Surrendering
I will fight no more forever

The visitor center for the Bear Paw Battlefield is located at the Blaine County Museum, 501 Indiana Street in Chinook.k. Other than a small parking lot three are no facilities--no water and no bathrooms at the battlefield itself. So before you set out be sure you've got water.

The battlefield is a peaceful place. There is beauty here with the Bear Paw mountains in the background behind the prairie farmland. But as you walk the battlefield you are reminded that there was a battle here. The mass grave of U. S. Army dead show that this was a serious fight. The soldiers buried here were move to Custer National Cemetery in 1912.

Sign for Mass grave for troops killed during battle
Site of mass grave
Site of mass grave

The battlefield is a peaceful place. There is beauty here with the Bear Paw mountains in the background behind the prairie farmland. But as you walk the battlefield you are reminded that there was a battle here. The mass grave of U. S. Army dead show that this was a serious fight. The soldiers buried here were move to Custer National Cemetery in 1912.

There are several signs marking the battlefield.You can get a good sense of the battle by walking the trail and reading the signs.

Signs at Bear Paw Battlefield

The Nez Perce where here because they were trying to reach Sitting Bull in Canada. They had fought the army in several battles while traveling over 1,500 miles. They stopped here, about 40 miles from safety, because they believed they were ahead of the army and because they needed to rest. An army group they were unaware of caught up with them here and the battle began. When it ended about 431 Nez Perce surrendered. A small group slipped away and made it to Canada.

A short account of the battle can be found on the US Army site Nez Perce War. The Wikipedia story of the battle is at Bear Paw Battle.

Bear Paw Battlefield
Bear Paw Battlefield.
Black and White of Bear Paw Battlefield
Bear Paw Battlefield
Chief Joseph Surrender Speach

Chief Joseph's surrender speech:
"Tell General Howard I know his heart. What he told me before I have in my heart. I am tired of fighting. Our chiefs are killed. Looking Glass is dead. Tu-hul-hul-sote is dead. The old men are all dead. It is the young men who say yes or no. He who led the young men [Ollokot] is dead. It is cold and we have no blankets. The little children are freezing to death. My people, some of them, have run away to the hills, and have no blankets, no food no one knows where they are &ndash perhaps freezing to death. I want to have time to look for my children and see how many of them I can find. Maybe I shall find them among the dead. Hear me, my chiefs. I am tired; my heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands I will fight no more forever."