Unpublished letters and diaries by eyewitnesses, interviews with decedents, an intimate knowledge of the country enrich this narrative of the heroic Nez Perce Indian War waged in 1877 against relocation.
The result is a well documented chronicle offering new perspective on prewar Indian-white relations, United States government pressures and nontreaty rebellions, the five battles, subjection and surrender, and on the character of the leaders on both sides.
"From where the sun now stands I will fight no more forever," Chief Joseph said in surrender. But as a guardian and protector of his people he at last succeeded in bringing back the remaining members of his tribe to their beloved valley.
Calling Professor Beal's book, "definitive, but not final," Herman J. Deutsch, professor emeritus of American history at Washington State University, writes in the foreword: "Joseph and his band remain an example and inspiration to those who today are seeking recognition as human beings, equal in the sight of God and therefore entitled to like status among men. Those who recognize that such aspirations must not for long remain unfulfilled can derive from Nez Perce history examples of the consequences of policies conceived in ignorance and colored with disdain of the culture and way of life of minority peoples. ...A world surfeited with deceptive success stories can ill afford to forget a people and their leader who attained their true moral stature as they were facing their doom."