The Trail Ends on a Reservation
After Little Bighorn, General John Pope announced that he would deal with the Sioux "as maniacs or wild beasts, and by no means as people with whom treaties or compromises can be made." In Colorado, Colonel John M. Chivington, a former minister, slaughtered 150 Cheyenne who had gone to the governor for protection. Most were women and children. Chivington called it "an act of duty to ourselves and civilization ." But the Indians didn't want his civilization. As a Minnesota chief put it, they just wanted to keep their way of life. He said: "The whites were always trying to make Indians give up their life and live like white mengo to farming, work hard, and do as they didand the Indians did not know how to do that, and did not want to. If the Indians had tried to make the whites live like them, the whites would have resisted. The Indians wanted to go where they pleased and when they pleased; hunt game wherever they could find it, sell their furs to the traders, and live as they could."
That was how the tribe of the Nez Perce felt, too. Their landwhich was where today Idaho, Washington and Oregon come togetherheld lush valleys, grassy prairies, steep mountains, and canyons that seemed to have been cut by a giant's steam shovel . The Nez Perce shared that land with elk, deer, antelope, rabbits, fowl, and mountain goatsand with bears, wolves, foxes, and coyotes. Fish, especially the high-jumping salmon, splashed in their streams. The Nez Perce were mighty hunters, and known for their strong bows. When horses arrived in their region, they became skilled riders. They befriended the outsiders from the East who began to pass through their land. And until gold was found on their land in 1860, it was easy to cultivate peace. But then miners couldn't be kept away . Some Nez Perce signed treaties to give up their land, but others wouldn't do it. One of them was the father of the greatest Nez Perce of them all, Chief Joseph . He counseled his son, "Stop your ears whenever you are asked to sign a treaty selling your home."