Chief Looking Glass
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Nez Perce Military Commander

During the American 1876-1877 Military Campaign against the Nez Perce Ojibway's of Montana, Idaho, Oregon and Wyoming chief Looking Glass was one of the major Nez Perce military commanders of that conflict. In the spring and summer of 1876, the United States launched an unprovoked attack against the Ojibway Nation and the Indian Nations who were allied with them. They commenced their military campaign in east Montana. Several thousand American Soldiers were sent by train then steamboat to a region near Fort Benton, Montana. At that time, the Americans had several forts in the Great Falls, Montana region including Fort Benton, Fort Shaw and Fort Logan. Southeastern Montana had no American Forts at that time for a reason. The United States no longer had use for forts in southeast Montana. North central Montana had an over abundance of farmland, while southeast Montana had little farm land. That is why the United States established forts around Great Falls in 1866 or during the 1865-1866 Powder River Expedition (aka Sun River Stampede).





A vicious war was going on between what is now Poplar, Montana and Helena, Montana in the mid 1860s. Most of the fighting took place between Fort Benton and Helena. Teamsters in teams of 100 to 200, brought in supplies to the white settlements of southwest Montana, using Mullan Road between Fort Benton and Helena. They were heavily armed with repeating rifles and revolvers. Ojibway Soldiers and their allies weapons were mainly bows and arrows along with what few guns they had. In 1866 and 1867 or after the Sun River Stampede and the establishments of Fort Shaw and Camp Cooke (they used Camp Cooke to convert Fort Benton to a military fort), the war intensified. In 1867, Ojibway Soldiers attacked Fort Buford which was located in far northwestern North Dakota, about a mile or so from Montana. Several battles were fought in 1866 and 1867 which led to a truce then the 1868 Treaties. American leaders agreed to leave their forts in southeast Montana. They no longer had use for them because they had accomplished what they really set out to do and that was establish forts near Great Falls, Montana. Those forts were Fort Benton, Fort Shaw and Camp Cooke.



After the failed 1868 Treaties (the United States refused to honor them or did not ratify them while the Ojibway Nation did) war resumed then intensified. In 1870, the United States attacked an Ojibway village near Fort Shaw. They killed up to 217 Ojibway People. It's known as the Marias River Massacre. It was an unprovoked attack. Later in October of 1870, a force of 800 Canadian Soldiers from probably Fort Edmonton with their Eskimo allies, attacked an Ojibway Village at what is now Lethbridge, Alberta. The battle is known as the Battle of Belly River. Be careful because white historians always write that the Battle of Belly River was a battle fought between one Indian Nation against another Indian Nation. It was a major battle. The Canadians and their Eskimo allies lost. Ojibway casualties were up to 90 killed and wounded. The casualties of the Canadians and Eskimos were up to 400 killed and wounded. Chief Big Bear was a principle leader of the Ojibway Soldiers during the Battle of Belly River. Later, in 1876, at Treaty 6 negotiations, chief Big Bear told white negotiators he would sign the treaty on condition he would not be hanged for his role in the Battle of Belly River.



War continued yet somewhat diminished. Then in early 1876, the Americans conspired to attack the Ojibway villages in the Great Falls, Montana region. At that time, north central Montana had an Indian population in the 100,000s. The Indian population was large because of the buffalo. American leaders also increased the number of their soldiers in Idaho, Oregon and Wyoming. The Ojibway's vast Reservation was yet intact and included all of northern Idaho, northeastern Oregon and most of central and eastern Washington and almost all of western Montana. American Soldiers were stationed near that part of the Nez Perce Ojibway Reservation in northeastern Oregon south of Wallowa Valley. However, the Americans first launched their military campaign in the Great Falls, Montana region. Though, Ojibway Soldiers and their allies weapons were primitive, they held an advantage in numbers. They had far more soldiers. The Americans summer military campaign of 1876 was a complete failure. They were lucky Ojibway Soldiers didn't destroy their forts in the Great Falls region. They had enough soldiers yet knew they would suffer very heavy casualties.



Chief Looking Glass was obviously leading Ojibway Soldiers during the summer of 1876 in north central Montana. Other Ojibway military commanders included chief Big Bear, Crazy Horse, Rocky Boy and Sitting Bull. After defeating the Americans in June and July of 1876, Ojibway leaders followed prophecy and commenced an exodus. This 1876 exodus may have first went west. However, by late summer of 1876, chief Big Bear was in the Cypress Hills with chief Sitting Bull following in October of 1876. I'm not certain if chief Big Bear participated in the battles fought during the summer of 1876. However, he showed up late (either late August or early September of 1876) at the Treaty 6 negotiations at Fort Pitt.



Chief Looking Glass remained in Montana. That could be an indication he was a higher ranking military leader. Chief Joseph was a minor military leader. American leaders were enraged after learning their military campaign of the summer of 1876 was a complete failure. They conspired to attack the Ojibway's again unprovoked, using a winter campaign. That happened in 1876 and 1877. On October 21, 1876 the Americans launched their 1876-1877 winter military campaign. The Battle of Cedar Creek was supposedly fought 76 miles east of the vast Ojibway Reservation. American Soldiers used Fort Buford to reach a location just east of the Musselshell River which is the eastern boundary of the vast Ojibway Reservation. It's western boundary is Columbia River. The Battle of Cedar Creek may have been fought west of Musselshell River. However, since historians have written that chief Sitting Bull requested to meet with General Miles, the location may have actually been 76 miles east of Musselshell River. When the meeting was held, it turned very negative then hostile. A short battle was fought in which the Americans captured around 2,000 Ojibway's and forced them to relocate to a new Reservation. That Reservation is Fort Peck Reservation. Chief Sitting Bull followed prophecy and fled to the Cypress Hills of Alberta and Saskatchewan.



Several other battles were fought during the American's 1876-1877 winter military campaign. They were probably fought in the Great Falls, Montana region. I don't believe white historians. Little came from the American's 1876-1877 winter military campaign. Chief Looking Glass was obviously involved in the 1876-1877 American's winter military campaign. American leaders again conspired to attack the Ojibway's unprovoked using a summer military campaign. However, instead of targeting the Great Falls, Montana region they sent thousands of their soldiers to the southern portion of the vast Ojibway Reservation. From Wallowa Valley and Pryor Creek (a distance of 465 miles) several thousand American Soldiers prepared to invade the vast Ojibway Reservation. They first targeted the Wallowa Valley and quickly brought that region under their control. They then attacked several Nez Perce Ojibway villages in northern Idaho then forced their way into Montana and Wyoming. They invaded that portion of the Ojibway's vast Reservation located in Yellowstone National Park. An Ojibway westward exodus to Washington was also halted. American Soldiers then invaded the southeastern portion of the vast Ojibway Reservation and caught a group of Ojibway's who had fled north to avoid them. The Battle of Canyon Creek was fought on September 13, 1877 about 27 miles northwest of Pryor, Montana.



American Soldiers were next sent to the northern part of the vast Ojibway Reservation. Chief Looking Glass played an extremely important role in battles fought in September and October of 1877. American Soldiers came up from the north, west and from the east. They knew 10,000s of Ojibway's were fleeing to the Cypress Hills. In late September of 1877, chief Looking Glass halted the exodus to prepare to combat the approaching American Soldiers. He ordered his soldiers to dig trenches to defend themselves against the American Soldiers who had gatlin guns (machine guns), repeating rifles and revolvers. Chief Looking Glass and chief White Bird stood their ground. They shrewdly used the terrain to their advantage to make certain most of the Ojibway's reached the Cypress Hills. A vicious battle was fought for almost one week in order to allow the 10,000s of Ojibway's to reach the Cypress Hills. During the long Battle of Bear Paw, chief Looking Glass was killed in action on October 5, 1877. He was possibly 45 years old at the time of his death. He was born in 1832. Chief White Bird managed to reach the Cypress Hills. Chief Joseph surrendered. For some reason chief Joseph is far more popular. However, he was a minor chief.



Chief Looking Glass may have been killed in action yet his family or descendants yet live in Montana, especially at Blackfeet Reservation and Flathead Reservation. In Ojibway, Looking Glass is pronounced as "Wa-ba-maan." In some dialects it's "Waab-maan." His descendants at Blackfeet Reservation and Flathead Reservation probably don't know they are related to chief Looking Glass.