(ca. 1832 - 1904)
His name was Hinmaton Yalatkit which means "Thunder Rolling in the Heights". He was 6 feet 2 inches tall, strong and courageous. He relied on diplomatic methods to resolve issues rather than wage war.
However, as their reservation became smaller and smaller because of white encroachment, diplomatic negotiations broke down, The first battles between the Nez Perce and the US militia began. The first battles were fought locally in Idaho.
Realizing there was only one alternative, Chief Joseph and a number of other Nez Perce decided to go to Canada. In one of the saddest stories in US history, the militia chased the Nez Perce for 1500 miles. It was during this pursuit that Chief Joseph showed his military strategy. Dodging, ambushing and evading the constant onslaught, Chief Joseph was stopped 40 miles from freedom, the Canadian border.
His surrender speech displayed his oratory skills. His final statement was "....From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever". Joseph kept his promise, the US Government did not. They sent him to Oklahoma. After many negotiations, he was allowed to return close to home in eastern Washington state.
Chief Joseph is buried in the Colville Indian Cemetery just north of Nespelem, Washington.
Information compiled by Steve Grimm
Drawing by Richard Florence
Books About Chief Joseph
Nez Perce - Summer 1877 by Jerome A. Greene
A little dry in parts this book does have a complete history of the Nez Perce flight and the eventual capture.
Dreamers - On the Trail of the Nez Perce by Martin Stadius
What can I say about a book that is easy to read and covers everything you need to know about the Nez Perce War? If you are looking for a book concerning this aspect of history, this is the book to buy. The author travels the backroads following the flight of the Nez Perce and gives vivid scenery descriptions then provides the historical events covering the area. Simply a fine, fine book.
Chief Joseph Country by Bill Gulick
This fine book contains good narrative, great photos, maps and documents that illustrative the history of the Nez Perce.