The Nez Perce scouts got ready for a surprise visit.

Early, at breaking light, I awoke the boys. All got ready. We saddled horses and rode on a swift gallop along a draw...

When we got there, we saw four persons lying close to the fire. Then we saw two more not so close, and a little apart was a small tent. These people were not soldiers, but all white people seemed our enemies. We talked what to do with them. I said we would kill them. But the half-blood, Heinmot Tosinlikt [Bunched Lightning or Henry Tababourl, said, 'No! We will capture them. Take them to the chiefs. Whatever they say will go."

Then some of us, not all, went close to the fire. Two boys stayed back. The white men were getting up.

Yellow Wolf

Others describd the encounter.

Before morning [on August 24] the entire Indian encampment was within a mile of us, and we had not heard an unusual sound, though I for one slept lightly.

I was already awake when the men began building the camp fire, and I heard the first guttural tones of the two or three Indians who suddenly stood by the fire....

Emma Cowan

Henry, our interpreter, told them we would not hurt them. The leader [A J.Arnold] was a fine looking man. He shook hands with us....

Because I shook hands with him put me in mind not to kill him. He looked at me and said, "I am going to ask you. Why you come here? I hear a little about you."

I answered by the interpreter, "Yes, I am one of the warriors."

Then these white men got afraid. The leader asked, "Would you kill us?" "They [the other warriors] are double-minded," I told him.

It was hard work, this talking to the white man. Not understanding many words of his language made hard work....

While we were there, the leading white man gave us sugar, flour, and two good pieces of bacon. The food made our hearts friendly.

But the white man from the tent [Cowan] showed mad. He said something to the leader, who then stopped giving the food.

Yellow Wolf

Yellow Wolf assumed that the man who gave them food was the leader and treated him as such. A.J. Arnold was not the leader of the party. There was no designated leader. Under pressure Arnold showed compassion while George Cowan was the bossy type.

... The Indians came into camp in small parties all on foot and well armed until they probably numbered at least fifty. About this time I noticed that one of the party had opened the sugar and the flour that was in the baggage wagon and was preparing to issue it out to the redmen who in turn were holding their blankets preparatory to receiving their share. I ran to the baggage wagon and thrusting the Indians aside with my rifle I ordered the man to tie up the sacks and to get down from the wagon stating that we had just about enough rations to last until we reached our homes and I did not care to be starved by a bunch of Indians.

George Cowan
tourist-Radersburg party

At first the Radersburg tourists were free to go. But then they ran into a larger group of warriors who were not as tolerant.

Becoming alarmed as to the safety of our horses I ordered one of the men to bring them into camp, harness up and prepare for the homeward journey. ... As I gave the command to start a band of about seventy-five mounted Indians rode out of the brush and formed in line in front of the baggage wagon, each with his horse facing in the direction of the wagon and with the but of his rifle resting upon his leg and held in his right hand. I turned to the Indian who had been doing the talking and told him that if he had any authority over these mounted Indians to tell them to get away and let the wagons pass. If not no doubt some of them would be hurt because I was becoming disgusted with the way that they were acting.

George Cowan

But in the Native tradition the leader of one scouting group does not have any authority over another.

... After we traveled part of that sun, I heard a great noise ahead of us. The other Indians had seen us. Not the chiefs, only the warriors. Quickly they made for us. The warriors mixed us up. They did not listen to anybody. Mad, those warriors took the white people from us. Going on, I saw them no more for a time.

Yellow Wolf

Apporaching today's Nez Perce Creek they saw the extent of the group.

We could see about three miles of Indians, with one thousand or fifteen hundred ponies, and looking off to the left we could see more Indians looking at the geysers in Fire Hole Basin.

Frank Carpenter

from Yellowstone Park road sign



The Nez Perce Flight to Canada - An Introduction

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