Chief Joseph

 

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about 1840 – Sep 21, 1904

Indian Chief

Native American

“There was no hatred in his soul in spite of the wrongs our race had done him.” -- Erskine Wood

“I claim the right to live on my land and accord you the privilege to live on yours.”

The Nez Perce tribe helped Lewis and Clark in their travels throughout the Northwest. Lewis and Clark recorded in their journals how peaceful and helpful the Nez Perce people were.

Standing six feet tall with handsome features, Chief Joseph was a leader of the Nez Perce tribe. He is most remembered for being one of the greatest chiefs in Native American history. His words and actions showed that Indians were not savages but human beings with rights. At first, the Nez Perce welcomed and helped the white people who came through their land. By the time Joseph was a small digit, however, these strangers had brought the Indians unfavorable conditions. Believing there was enough for everyone to share, he and his numbers agreed to give up part of their land. Nonetheless, after signing treaties and compromises, Chief Joseph became wearied of the U.S. government not keeping its promises. He moved his people to keep them safe. They were angry about leaving their homes, and a war began. Rather than have their people stopped or placed on reservations, Chief Joseph and other Nez Perce chiefs decided to take their tribes to Canada. They traveled over 1,000 miles while three U.S. armies pursued them. With Chief Joseph’s courage and skills, they fought and won many battles along the way (even when they were outnumbered 2,000 to 250). When they were within only 40 miles of the Canadian border, soldiers caught them. A terrible battle in the cold and snow ensued and lasted for five days. Chief Joseph could no longer bear to see his wounded, freezing and starving men, women and children suffer. Before surrendering, he demanded the army let them return to their valley (in Idaho). The Nez Perce were then taken to live in a swamp in Kansas.