From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. A distinguished scholar of American history makes a significant contribution to Oxford's excellent series Pivotal Moments in American History in this definitive analysis of the United States' 1877 war with the Nez Percé. West (The Contested Plains
) integrates a broad spectrum of sources to depict the fate of a people whose history of friendship with the U.S. dated to 1805. The Nez Percé were caught up in the questions posed by the Civil War and the period of expansion that followed: who would be the Americans and what obligations would bind them together? Such questions influenced Idaho and Oregon, where the Nez Percé lived, as much as Massachusetts and Virginia. The 1877 war, the Nez Percé's epic journey to reach the Canadian border, American conquest and Indian exile is the heart of the book, and West tells it brilliantly. No less compelling is his account of the Nez Percé taking up farming and making and selling Indian trinkets, developing their image as beloved losers and negotiating their return home—on white terms, but with honor and integrity upheld. 40 b&w illus., maps. (Apr.)
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*Starred Review* The so-called Nez Perce War of 1877 was one of the most unlikely, heroic, and tragic episodes in the history of the American West. Since encountering and helping to sustain the Lewis and Clark expedition, the several bands of the Nez Perce had maintained harmonious relations with the U.S. government. Then, after the government insisted that all of the bands relocate to a reservation well removed from their homeland, a band led by Chief Joseph resisted, leading the army on a 1,500-mile chase that ended just short of the Canadian border, capturing, in the process, the attention, even sympathy, of the general public. West, a professor of American history at the University of Arkansas, has written a detailed and often moving chronicle of the conflict. He lays the groundwork with an excellent analysis of Nez Perce culture on the eve of their flight. He also asserts provocatively that the effort to relocate the Nez Perce was part of the larger, post–Civil War federal strategy to overcome sectional and ethnic divisions. The highlight of the narrative is the flight of the approximately 800 Nez Perce, including the iconic figures Joseph and Looking Glass, as they strive to battle and break free of their pursuers. This is a superb reexamination of a sad but memorable story. --Jay Freeman
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