The Red River War of 1874 and 1875 broke the back of resistance on the southern plains forever. The Kiowa and Southern Cheyenne were forced onto reservations, and the last great Comanche chief, Quanah Parker, surrendered in June of 1875. But on the northern plains, the Sioux and Northern Cheyenne still followed the warpath across Wyoming and Montana, and into the Black Hills of Dakota Territory. Several thousand Sioux and Cheyenne warriors led by Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse surprised the impetuous Lieutenant Colonel Custer and the Seventh Cavalry at the Little Bighorn River on June 25, 1876. Eastern newspaper coverage of the nation's centennial celebration was eclipsed by banner headlines that told of the defeat and death of Custer and his men in the lonesome, rolling hills of Wyoming. In Washington and on the frontier, reaction to the tragedy led to an all-out offensive by the army to avenge the fallen Seventh Cavalry martyrs. The Little Bighorn victors were pursued relentlessly throughout the winter of 1876-1877. Sitting Bull and his followers fled to Canada. Crazy Horse surrendered and was subsequently assassinated.
In 1877, the most dramatic and defiant chapter of the
Indian Wars in the West was played out to its tragic conclusion as Chief Joseph led several hundred Nez Percé in
a running battle with U.S. troops all across Montana.
Joseph was forced to surrender his band just thirty miles
short of Canadian sanctuary after having traveled seventeen hundred miles from their Oregon homeland.
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