This rifle was engraved in memory of the free or non treaty
Nez Perce Indians. The Nez Perce war took place in 1877.  
The first battle took place in Whitebird Canyon Idaho. The
canyon was named after Chief Whitebird of the Nez Perce, one
of the main war chiefs. The Soldiers were soundly defeated in
that battle and with luck about 2/3 of them survived the battle.
Most accounts say Nez Perce never lost a man.
General Oliver O. Howard was the general in charge of the Nez
Perce war. There are many existing photos of him throughout
his career.  This portrait most likely coincides with that era.  He
lost an arm in the Civil War and was a hero of that war.  In
spite of his reputation as a great military strategist, he was
barely a match for the Nez Perce.
The Nez Perce did not fight like other Indians.  Howard soon
found that out.  It was somewhat of a shock.
A few of the Nez Perce warriors actually were snipers. They
used Sharps rifles and 45-70 Springfield trapdoors. They were
better shots than the soldiers and according to some of the
soldiers in the war, made some kills at ranges as far as 1300
yards.  Nez Perce warriors said the calvary soldiers could not
ride and could not shoot very good. They were not respected
by the Nez Perce.
The Nez Perce did respect Gen Howard because he was
truthful.