Escape From Big Hole portrays how the Nez Perce were a peaceful tribe located along the tributaries of the Snake and Salmon rivers. In 1855 a treaty with the United States Government granted them possession of the land on which they lived. However, in 1863, a new treaty was drawn up which reduced this area to a fourth. Those bands within the area signed it; those outside rejected it, and they became known as the Non-Treaty Nez Perce.
Young Chief Joseph was an important leader among the latter group. In spite of their peaceable deportment, pressures of advancing frontier settlements caused friction and a government commission in 1877 gave the Indians thirty days to move from their ancestral grounds to the Lapwai Reservation. Some settlers were murdered by revenge-seeking young warriors and the military was sent after them.
After the Indians moved over Lo Lo Pass into Montana Territory they were overtaken in a surprise attack at the Big Hole Prairie on August 7. Although the Indians suffered severe losses, they forced the soldiers to retreat across the river while the rest of the tribe quickly broke camp and escaped.
In this picture, the Non-Treaty Nez Perce bands are traveling down the Big Hole Valley after the Big Hole Battle, with Chief Joseph in the foreground.
To see more images from John Clymer, click here