Nez Perce and Peigans join in seven-drum ceremony
BROCKET, Alberta:In October 1995 hundreds of Nez Perce tribal members took part in a historic reunion here with Peigan relatives.
The Nez Perce, known as pierced noses by the early French-Canadian Voyageurs, though they only wore ornaments and did not pierce themselves, were the object of one of the American cavalry's longest pursuits in 1877.
Led by Chief Joseph, the Nez Perce Indians were chased from their Wallowa valley homelands over a twisting trail of thousands of miles for about five months to the Bears Paw Mountains in Montana. At Bears Paw the final battle took place. Joseph surrendered after many of his people were killed. The surrendering 418 Nez Perce were taken to Fort Keogh in eastern Montana and later to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
"Even a few days before the final battle some Nez Perce were sneaking off to Canada," said Otis Halfmoon, a Nez Perce park ranger with the U.S. National Park Service in Lapwai, Idaho. "My father and others have said as many as 160 to 233 of our people came north to Canada. Even after the war ended many stayed in Canada because they were afraid and didn't trust the U.S. government.
"They came into the country near the Cypress Hills, where they met with Sitting Bull and NWMP Superintendent James Walsh. Sitting Bull had wanted to go south to help the Nez Perce fight the army but Walsh stopped him."
The Nez Perce, under a war chief named White Bird, eventually worked their way into the area where Pincher Creek and Brocket now stand. Halfmoon said it is known many Nez Perce stayed in this area and married Peigans.
"Through the Years there's been much talk of our relatives up here," he said. "We have been working for years to come up here and meet our relatives and families and now we are back, after 118 years. "
Nez Perce and Peigans took part in a seven-drum ceremony. In the afternoon a sacred pipe ceremony was held, led by Nez Perce Elder Horace Axtell, with 45 war veterans and men in the sacred circle. Axtell also led an Empty Saddle Ceremony, where horses were led around the circle, their saddles empty to honor the Nez Perce lost not only in the 1877 war but in all wars. A list of 1877 Nez Perce warriors was read so the earth here would hear their names one more time. A 21-gun salute, the playing of the last post by historian George Kush, and prayers were offered for the Nez Perce who escaped to Canada.
The Flight tof the Nez Perce - An Introduction
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