Chief Looking Glass Recreation Area

Named for the man who led the Nez Perce out of Idaho and down the Bitterroot Valley, the recreation area has an historical information sign which commemorates the first camp the Nez Perce caravan made in the Bitterroot Valley after skirting around Fort Fizzle on the Lolo Trail. Because of the marshiness caused by so many creeks flowing into the river, the camp was probably on higher ground west of the river.

The Nez Perce reached the Bitterroot Valley ahead of the Bitterroot citizen volunteers who had been at Fort Fizzle. Fifty or sixty of the volunteers blundered into the first camp the Nez Perce made south of Lolo. The Nez Perce reaffirmed to the settlers the promise they had made at Fort Fizzle: they would not harm anyone or anything, and they would pass peacefully through the valley, as they had in prior years.

Looking Glass

When we overtook the Indians, Looking Glass told us he would not hurt any persons or property in the valley if allowed to pass in peace, and we could pass through his camp to our homes. We decided it would be silly to uselessly incite the Indians to devastating our valley, and I do not think our critics would have done otherwise had they and their families and homes been situated as ours. If they want Indians for breakfast they are still within reach, and have been ever since the fiasco at Fort Fizzle on the Lolo.

W. B. Harlan
Bitterroot volunteer
August 4, 1877

At this camp the chiefs made the final decision regarding which route to take: north via the Flathead reservation or south to their friends the Crows and buffalo country.

Looking Glass then called a council.... White Bird and Red Owl agreed, they wanted to go by the [Flathead or Salishl reserve. Joseph did not say a word. Looking Glass wanted to go by Big Hole and down the Yellowstone to join the Crows, according to agreement, because the Crows promised them that whenever the Nez Perces fought the whites, they would join them. There was a disagreement, but quarrelling among themselves they concluded it was best to let Looking Glass have his way

Duncan McDonald
Nez Perce reporter

Although this brand of consensus decision making perhaps sounds strange to our own majority-rule way of thinking, Chief Looking Glass had other factors operating in his favor. He had been in buffalo country several times while the leaders of the other bands had seldom or never traveled to central Montana. Thus he had been the acknowledged leader of the five nontreaty bands since the chiefs decided to leave Idaho.

The strategy behind this plan was to spend the winter with their friends, the Crows. Then, the following spring, when all the excitement had died down, they would return home to Idaho.



The Nez Perce Flight to Canada - An Introduction

 How do I participate in the student Sketchbook Project?

Back to Our Heritage Home Page