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Joseph, Chief

Joseph, Chief (1840–1904), Nez Percé Indian chief, leader of a band living in the Wallowa Valley of eastern Oregon.Neither father nor son had subscribed to the treaties that established and then reduced the Nez Perce Reservation in Idaho. When the federal government ordered all Nez Percés to settle on the reservation, Joseph complied, but en route some young men committed depredations that set off the Nez Percé War of 1877. In subsequent battles with the U.S. Army, and in the famed trek of 800 Nez Percés in a desperate bid for a Canadian refuge, Chief Joseph was one of several chiefs. Others, war chiefs, played a larger military role. However, in the final battle at Bear Paw Mountain, with other leading chiefs dead or escaping to Canada, Chief Joseph surrendered with the famous speech ending, “From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever.” Thus in white perceptions Chief Joseph became the “Red Napoleon” who had repeatedly outwitted American generals and conducted a humane war. Confined with his people in the Indian Territory (later Oklahoma), he endeared himself to Americans and in 1885 was allowed to move to a reservation in Washington, where he passed his remaining years.
[See also Native American Wars: Wars Between Native American and Europeans and Euro‐Americans.]


Alvin M. Josephy, Jr. , The Nez Perce Indians and the Opening of the Northwest, 1965.

Robert M. Utley

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