The Causes and Conduct of The Flight of the Nez Perce

(Editor’s Note: This is a college essay I finished in 2006. It’s one of the best papers I’ve ever written and it’s about one of my favorite figures in  American History. I hope you get something from it.)

In September of 1805, several Nez Perce children were approached by mysterious creatures riding on horseback.  The Nez Perce noted the hair on their faces, thinking that perhaps they were descendents of some sort of canine (Nerburn, 4).­­­  The Nez Perce took in the disheveled travelers and helped them restore the strength they had lost during their long journey.  The Nez Perce provided the weary voyagers with food and a place to rest while the Dog Men generously gave gifts to the Nez Perce and amazed them with guns and modern medicine.

This was “first contact” between the Nez Perce and America.  The “Dog Men” were none other than Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, and the Corps of Discovery.  Lewis and Clark parted on amiable terms with the Nez Perce; so much so that when they returned, they saw a Nez Perce chief flying the American flag they had given him (Nerburn, 6).

Unfortunately, the Nez Perce, like many Native American tribes and nations before them, would become a proud people nearly destroyed by the avarice of the Whites.  Despite their early friendship, the relationship between the Nez Perce and the Whites would soon sour due to the hypocrisy of early missionaries and settlers and a basic misunderstanding of Nez Perce culture by the Federal Government. These factors would produce the grievances that would culminate in the epic “Flight” of the Nez Perce.

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