The Great Native American Chiefs

Joseph (1832-1904)


Chief Joseph, born in 1832 in what is now the state of Washington, became one of the great Indian military commanders of the 19th century. Spurred on by the discovery there of gold, whites had encroached upon the lands of the Nez Percé, ignoring Joseph's protestations that their presence was unlawful. Finally the dispute brought about the use of arms, and in 1877 Chief Joseph led his people into battle, wiping out a U.S. force at White Bird canyon. Eighteen more battles followed, with the Nez Percés continuing to prevail, until the arrival of superior US forces prompted Chief Joseph to lead his people on a fighting retreat. They had covered over 1500 miles, constantly pursued by the Army, before they surrendered near the Canadian border. Despite the promises of the opposing commanders, the defeated Nez Percés were sent to the Indian Territory in Oklahoma. Resolved to fight no more, Chief Joseph remained the spokesman for his tribe and visited Washington D.C. several times before his death in 1904.

Source: Famous Native American Leaders - Dover Press


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