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Moving to an

Indian Reservation

Your tribe has lived along the Columbia River for thousands of years. Now the U.S. Army wants you to move to a reservation.

Your chief refuses to surrender. Will you follow him on a dangerous journey north? Or will you surrender and move to the reservation?


After the dilemma:

What really happened

     At first, the Nez Perce tribe had peaceful relations with white colonists. When the Lewis and Clark expedition encountered the Nez Perce in 1805, they were given supplies and allowed to rest at the camp. As more white settlers moved west during the gold rush, the Nez Perce began to resent the invaders of their ancestral lands. 

     In 1855, the US government signed a treaty with the Nez Perce to protect their traditional hunting and fishing grounds. However, when gold was found in their territory, tens of thousands of white people flocked to Oregon. The U.S. government broke the treaty and forced the Nez Perce to move to a reservation in Idaho. During the journey, Chief Joseph decided to flee to Canada, along with 700 members of his tribe. 

     The Nez Perce travelled through harsh wilderness for three months, until they were surrounded by the U.S. Army, just 40 miles from the Canadian border. Many Nez Perce died during the journey, and a demoralized Chief Joseph finally surrendered. 

    Some Nez Perce did move to the reservation in Idaho. It is likely that many of the children were then sent to Indian boarding schools, such as the Carlisle Indian School, in Pennsylvania. At these schools, Indian children were beaten, sexually assaulted, and exposed to deadly epidemics of the flu and tuberculosis. 

Extension lesson plan: 

What does it mean to remove a people?



Westward Expansion, Native American Indians, Reservations, Indian Schools, Gold Rush, Treaty

***Special thanks to Andy Paparella for contributing to this dilemma.

Native Sun News
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