White Bird Battlefield

The first battle of the Nez Perce War was fought at White Bird Battlefield on June 17, 1877. The battlefield is about 15 miles south of Grangeville, Idaho, between U.S. Highway 95 and the old White Bird Grade, approximately 0.5 miles from the town of White Bird, Idaho.

The site is approximately 1,245 acres of sloping topography that retains much of the appearance it probably had in 1877. The surrounding land is used for agriculture. There are excellent views across the battlefield, with minor intrusions from ranch and residential structures and associated features such as roads and fences. There are archeological sites and a few abandoned homestead remnants.

There is an interpretive shelter on U.S. Highway 95 that overlooks the battlefield. Exhibit panels inside the shelter describe events leading up to the battle and the U.S. Army and Nez Perce perspectives of what happened. An interpretive trail leads visitors onto the battlefield from the road along White Bird Creek.

"Five warriors, led by Wettiwetti Houlis...had been sent out from the other [west] side of the valley as a peace party to meet the soldiers. These warriors had instructions from the chiefs not to fire unless fired upon. Of course they carried a white flag. Peace might be made without fighting. From the north echoed a rifle report, and right away a white man on a white horse came riding swiftly south. He crossed that bench-flat along the foot of the rockline crowning the ridge. He did not look like a soldier. A bit white hat, he was dressed more like a citizen. When he came closer, we knew him...It was Chapman...Having an Indian wife was why we had been friends. He and my uncle, Old Yellow Wolf, had lived in the same house, just as brothers. Now he was first enemy we see. Changed, and trying to kill each other. It was he who fired the first shot we had just heard. Fired on our peace party." Yellow Wolf, June 17, 1877