Throughout the 1850s, Native peoples of the inland Northwest actively resisted white encroachments into their traditional territories. Tensions exploded in 1858 when nearly one thousand Palouses, Spokanes, and Coeur d’Alenes routed an invading force commanded by Colonel Edward Steptoe. In response, Colonel George Wright mounted a large expedition into the heart of the Columbia Plateau to punish and subdue its Native peoples. Opposing Wright’s force was a loose confederacy of tribes led by the famous warrior Kamiakin.
Indian War in the Pacific Northwest is a vivid and valuable first-person account of that aggressive and bloody military campaign. Related by Lawrence Kip, a young lieutenant serving under Wright, it provides a rare glimpse of military operations and campaign life along the far western frontier before the Civil War. Replete with colorful prose and acute observations, his journal is also notable for its dramatic descriptions of clashes with Kamiakin’s men and compelling portraits of leading figures on both sides of the Plateau Indian War.
The new introduction provides the historical and cultural background and aftermath of the conflict, explores its effects on present-day Native peoples of the Columbia Plateau, and critically assesses Kip’s observations and interpretations. Also included in this Bison Books edition are two Native accounts of the conflict by Kamiakin and Mary Moses.
Clifford E. Trafzer, a professor of history at the University of California, Riverside, is the coauthor of Renegade Tribe: The Palouse Indians and the Invasion of the Inland Pacific Northwest.