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The Last Indian War: The Nez Perce Story (Pivotal Moments in American History) 1st Edition

4.4 out of 5 stars 76 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0199769186
ISBN-10: 0199769184
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Editorial Reviews

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.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

*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 --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Series: Pivotal Moments in American History
  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (May 27, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199769184
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199769186
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 1.2 x 6.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (76 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #142,270 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
In retelling the final negotiations between the nontreaty bands of Nez Perce and General Howard, Elliott West includes a quote from Toohoolhoolzote: "I would like to know who Washington is. Is he a Chief or a common man or a house or a place?"

In reading this book, I often felt the same. Elliott West has a tendency to lump: "A postwar Washington set out to consolidate into a tighter truer union..." and occasionally the narrative devolves into something bordering on rant. The lumping is often undermined by some of the more finely detailed evidence Elliott West provides.

The usual effigies are burned here. Custer gets numerous mentions though he was never more than a pawn. Kit Carson comes up once and that is regarding his "devastating campaign" against the Navajo. William T. Sherman gets a full page photograph but not a proper treatment. This is like blaming army generals for the Iraq war while leaving out names like Rice, Rumsfeld, and Cheney.

So who was "Washington"? Some armchair research suggests that the name Columbus Delano might be worthy of imfamy. Delano was the Secretary of the Interior who ordered the exploration (lead by Custer) of the Black Hills in 1872 "as it is supposed to be rich in minerals and lumber, it is deemed important to have it freed as early as possible from Indian occupancy." Delano had replaced President Grant's first pick, Jacob Dolson Cox, who resigned after feeling insufficient support from Grant to take on the widespread corruption under his post. The Department of the Interior was in charge of both the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the U.S. Geological Survey. Elliot West does an excellent job of showing how devastating a gold strike on treaty lands could be in writing about the 1860 discovery on Nez Perce land.
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Format: Hardcover
In "The Last Indian War," West has brought his exceptional storytelling skills to a compelling group of nineteenth-century Americans. I was particularly impressed at how he blended political and technological forces from across the country and at times around the world with the Nez Perce tale, demonstrating how they were connected to broader issues of the day rather than treating them like an anachronistic group, as is so often the case in Indian history. By demonstrating the complicated nature of the Nez Perce's existence, and their struggle to retain independence from various Euro-American competitors, West has created a work that will stand not only as an excellent narrative of that society but also a model for other historians of how to tell more complete, overarching cultural stories.
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Format: Hardcover
While the United States Army's campaign against the Sioux in 1876 has been immortalized by "Custer's Last Stand," the equally significant Nez Perce War of 1877 has received very little attention. There have been a few other books out on this subject, but nothing like the non-stop flow of Custer historiography. In The Last Indian War, Professor Elliott West (University of Arkansas) takes an academic look at the Nez Perce War and does a fine job casting it in a cultural context. Readers expecting a pure military history will be disappointed since only about half the book actually covers the war itself. Instead, the author's intent is to demonstrate how cultural misunderstandings between the United States representatives and the Nez Perce contributed to the deterioration of relations and eventual outbreak of war, as well as making it difficult for each side to understand the other's objectives once fighting did begin. There is a subtle nuance in these pages that greatly adds to our understanding of this conflict, yet without getting bogged down. Furthermore, the author demonstrates balance in not adopting an `all-Whites-are-bad, all-Indians-are-good' attitude or depicting the Nez Perce as noble victims, as they tried to depict themselves after they were defeated.

The Last Indian War consists of 18 chapters, plus footnotes and index, for a total of 397 pages. The author has also included 32 illustrations/photos, a chronology and five maps. Approximately the first third of the book traces the evolution of the Nez Perce and their interactions with White explorers, traders, missionaries, miners, politicians and settlers in the period 1805 to the 1870s.
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Format: Hardcover
The tragic story of the flight of the Nez Perce--a people long at peace with the United States--is familiar to most students of Western American history, a coda of deceit and betrayal so typical of relations between Indian peoples and the federal government. Elliott West's "The Last Indian War" recounts, in crisp and accessible prose, that story. But unlike many "popular" historians, he is also interested in more than just rehashing the same narrative for a new generation of readers. West sees the Nez Perce War as emblematic of deeper social and political changes that forever altered the course of the nation from the 1840s-1877, a period West argues should be known as the "Greater Reconstruction." This period saw the extension of the nation to the Pacific, the battle between regions and the increasingly powerful federal government, the spread of information and transportation technology, and most importantly, in West's view, a grappling with the meaning of citizenship and the inclusion of both newly free African-Americans and Indian peoples, the former willingly and the latter reluctantly. West has always been a master at showing the connections of seemingly unconnected events and in this book he uses O.O. Howard, particularly, to show both the issues facing freedmen in the South and Indians in the West as Howard was a crusader for African Americans (leading the freedmen's bureau and founding Howard University) and the officer in charge of capturing Joseph and the Nez Perce. West has written a book that should appeal to both serious scholars, who will find it especially useful for upper-division history classes, and those general readers who enjoy works by writers like Stephen Ambrose and Jeff Shaara.
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