Chiefs Joseph, Looking Glass, and White Bird with a band of warriors in the spring of 1877
Chief Joseph led the “non-treaty” Nez Perce and returned to Wallowa country where he died and Young Joseph became chief in 1871. Young Joseph was described as a tall handsome man, powerfully built and with a serious look. General Howard met with Joseph and the other chiefs and told them they had to move to the reservation within thirty days or the army would “move them by force.” Joseph took his tribe to Camas Prairie in Idaho to meet one last time with his fellow chiefs. While there, some young Nez Perce warriors rode off to avenge another murder by the miners. Joseph and three other chiefs decided to take their Nez Perce bands and move to Montana where the buffalo still roamed.
The Battle of the Big Hole was fought in Montana Territory, August 9–10, 1877, between the United States Army and the Nez Perce tribe
Joseph became the camp chief in charge of about 800 women and children as they braved the cliffs, mud and rugged Bitterroot Mountains. They agreed not to molest any whites, even stopping for several days at Stevensville to trade and rest. Soldiers under command of Colonel John Gibbon caught up to the fleeing natives where the peace was shattered at the Battle of Big Hole. In the surprise attack the soldiers fired into the tepees killing eighty Nez Perce, including fifty women and children. Chief Joseph said after the wars that the Nez Perce never killed women and children, for “they would be ashamed to do so.” Gibbon lost thirty-four men. The chase resumed, and Joseph led them on a trail that lasted a thousand miles.
Map of the 1877 flight of the Nez Perce under Chief Joseph