La Grange man elected to lead the Nez Perce Trail Foundation

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By The Staff

The Nez Perce Trail Foundation elected a La Grange resident as its president during the foundation’s annual meeting Oct. 19.

The Nez Perce Trail Foundation works closely with the Nez Perce National Historic Trail which is administered by the U.S. Forest Service. Congress passed the National Trails Act in 1968 and the Nez Perce National Historic Trail was recognized by an act of Congress in 1986. 

Jim Zimmerman first became interested in the history of the Nez Perce in the early 1970s when he was raising and showing Appaloosa horses. 

The Nez Perce were known for their horsemanship and breeding expertise and are credited with the development of the Appaloosa. The Nez Perce National Historic Trail is 1,170 miles in length and begins in the Wallowa Valley in Northeastern Oregon and ends at Bear Paw in north central Montana. 

The Nez Perce National Historic Trail follows the 1877 route taken by the Wallowa band as well as several other bands of Nez Perce who were attempting to flee and avoid war with the U.S. Army. 

In spite of a congressionally approved treaty granting the Nez Perce their homeland, the government decided to force the Nez Perce from their homeland and they were to be relocated to a small reservation in Idaho. Rather than submit to the imprisonment of a reservation, the Nez Perce who did not submit to the new mandate fled from Oregon and Idaho to find a new home and freedom. 

The Army continued to pursue the Nez Perce that were made up of approximately 800 men, women, children, including the elderly and over 3,000 horses. The number of warriors at the beginning of the war was approximately 175. They were outnumbered by the army 10 to 1. 

Their journey took them through some of the most rugged mountains and terrain in North America. The war lasted just three and a half months and produced nothing but heartache, misery, and death. In some battles, more women and children were killed than warriors.

Even though they fought a superior Army in numbers and sophisticated weapons, the Nez Perce won almost every encounter. 

The Nez Perce attempted to escape into Canada but were finally cut off and surrounded 40 miles from the Canadian boarder snow-covered Bear Paw Montana. 

It was Chief Joseph who brought the Nez Perce War of 1877 to its conclusion with his speech that included the words, “From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever.” 

For a people who broke no laws and abided by a treaty which was ratified by Congress, the theft of their homeland and the suffering they endured proved to be one of the darkest periods in the U.S. Government’s relationship with Native Americans. 

The Nez Perce Trail Foundation’s mission is to preserve, protect, and commemorate the memory of the Nez Perce people who traveled, fought and died on this trail who were only seeking peace and freedom.

Zimmerman has given numerous presentations on the Nez Perce War of 1877 throughout the U.S. For more information on the Nez Perce Trail Foundation visit, www.nezpercetrail.net.