Rocky Boy Tribe of Chippewa Indians of Montana

September 30, 1877 Battle of Bear Paw

After retreating from that Ojibway village at Great Falls on August 10, 1877, American Soldiers commenced a Siege of Great Falls to prevent supplies from reaching Ojibways living at Great Falls of Missouri River region. That siege lasted nearly two months. Ojibways were experts at food preservation, especially making pemmican. However, their livestock (buffalo) had nearly been killed off which meant they were certainly low on food. Ojibway leaders had to quickly decide on what to do. Winter was setting in and they had little food. Most wanted to surrender yet many wanted to fight on. Those who wanted to fight on, had agreed to commence an exodus to Canada. Ojibway leaders who wanted to surrender knew they would probably have to relocate to Blackfeet Reservation. They didn't want to lose Turtle Mountain Reservation. By Sunday September 30, 1877, American Soldiers intensified their siege. American Soldiers from Fort Benton held Great Falls north side, while Gibbons soldiers held Great Falls west side. Soldiers from Fort Logan held Great Falls south side. Soldiers led by General Miles held Great Falls east side. They prevented supplies from reaching those Ojibway villages.

General Miles (if General Gibbons was in fact commander of Montana District he gave those orders) then ordered his soldiers to commence to attacking Ojibway villages on September 30, 1877. A fierce battle ensued in which all Ojibway horses were captured and many casualties were inflicted. However, Ojibway leaders were wise and made certain they had an escape route which 1,000s of Ojibways used to reach Canada. Weather conditions were cold and snowy. Before battle had actually commenced, Ojibway leaders had ordered their soldiers to dig large and deep pits to shelter their women and children. Ojibway Soldiers also constructed barriers to defend themselves from their enemies superior weapons. Soon after that initial battle, an attempt to negotiate was made and agreed upon. Chief Joseph and five other Ojibway leaders met with Miles but Miles took chief Joseph hostage. Fighting continued and intensified on October 3. American Soldiers repeatedly bombed Ojibway villages yet Ojibway leaders refused to surrender. They didn't want to leave Great Falls. By morning of October 5, 1877, Ojibway leaders had agreed to stop fighting. They did so because they had been told they could stay at Great Falls. Afterwards, Siege of Great Falls ended. Chief Joseph continued to be held as prisoner and was forced to relocate to Oklahoma with other Ojibways. Between August 9, 1877 and October 5, 1877, Siege of Great Falls was kept secret. Casualties are not known yet must have been significant, especially Ojibway casualties. As we know, Americans kept their promise and allowed Ojibways to remain at Great Falls. Were yet waiting.

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