Chief Joseph

Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce tribe

Fast Facts about Chief Joseph
Who was Chief Joseph and why was this Native Indian chief famous? Summary: Chief Joseph (1840 - 1904) was a famous war leader of the Northwest Nez Perce Native Indians who fought against the white settlers who were confiscating Nez Perce tribal land. Chief Joseph formally surrendered to General Nelson A. Miles on October 5, 1877 in the Bear Paw Mountains of the Montana Territory.

He died in 1904 in exile from his homeland. The following fact sheet contains interesting facts, background history and information about the life of Chief Joseph and the events in history that led to his fame as a great Native American Indian leader.

Fast Facts about Chief Joseph

  • Tribe: Nez Perce
  • Clan: Wallowa band of Nez Perce
  • Alternative Name: Hinmahtoolatkekt meaning "Thunder Rolling down the Mountain"
  • Role: Principal chief and military strategist
  • Lifespan of Chief Joseph: 1840 - 1904
  • Place of Birth: Wallowa Valley, Oregon
  • Date of Birth: 03 March 1840
  • Date of Death: 21 September 1904
  • Place of Death: Colville Indian Reservation
  • Name of Father: Tuekakas
  • Name of Mother: Khapkhaponimi
  • Siblings: Sousouquee, Ollokut
  • Names of Wives: Heyoon Yoyikt, Springtime
  • Children: Jean-Louise
  • Native Indian Allies - Names of Chiefs: Looking Glass, White Bird, Ollokot, Poker Joe, Red Echo (Hahtalekin) and Bald head (Husishusis Kute)
  • Native Indian Allies - Names of tribes: Walla Walla, Spokane and Palouse
  • Wars: Nez Perce War (June - October 1877)

Chief Joseph
The distinction that Chief Joseph’s name had compared to other Native Americans can be traced back to his father, Joseph the Elder. He was the first Native American to establish a strong bond with the white settlers and had himself baptized in Christianity in 1838 and took up the name Joseph which was then passed down to his son. Chief Joseph was born in 1840 at Wallowa Valley in Oregon. Initially, his tribesmen referred to him by the name of Hinmahtoolatkekt which in their native tongue meant "Thunder Rolling Down a Mountain".

Chief Joseph Timeline
The following Chief Joseph timeline charts the life of this great war chief against the encroachment of Nez Perce lands

  • 1840: Chief Joseph was born on March 3, 1840 at the Wallowa Valley, Oregon
  • 1853: Washington Territory is established, dividing the Nez Perce homeland in two parts
  • 1855: Isaac Stevens (March 25, 1818 – September 1, 1862) , governor of Washington Territory, negotiates the Walla Walla treaty with the Nez Perce reserving 7,000,000 acres of Idaho, Montana, Washington and Oregon for the tribe
  • 1855: The Yakima War (1855-1858) erupts, fought by members of the Native Indian alliance including the Yakama led by Chief Kamiakin and the Walla Walla, Umatilla, and Cayuse tribes

  • 1860: The discovery of gold in Pierce, Idaho prompted an influx of unruly prospectors on the Nez Perce lands. The Nez Perce reservation in Idaho had been created at the 1855 Walla Walla treaty council

  • 1861: More than 1000 gold prospectors arrived in Pierce, Idaho.
  • 1862: An estimated $7-10 million in gold was taken from Nez Perce lands by more than 15000 prospectors
  • 1862: A new treaty was negotiated and the Lapwai reservation was established
  • 1871: Joseph succeeded his father as leader of the Wallowa band and the first settlers arrive in the Wallowa Valley
  • 1873: President Ulysses S. Grant signs an executive order granting half the Wallowa Valley to the Nez Perce
  • 1877: President Grant opens the Nez Perce homeland to more settlers. The U.S. government demands that all roaming Nez Perce bands move onto the Lapwai reservation in present-day Idaho
  • 1877: The forced removal of the tribe led to the killing of several white settlers. General Howard sent US soldiers to punish the Native Indians and the short-lived Nez Perce War began
  • 1877: The Nez Perce War (June - October 1877) led by Chief Joseph, his brother Ollikut, White Bird and Chief Looking Glass. On June 17, 1877 a force of 300 warriors routed the US soldiers at White Bird Canyon in Idaho but Chief Joseph realized he would not be able to compete against the full might of General Howard's forces . The Nez Perce fought a series of battles and skirmishes with General Howard and later, Colonel Nelson A. Mileson in a fighting retreat that covered 1,170 miles. They sought sanctuary with the Crow tribe but were refused help. The Sioux were unable to help as Sitting Bull and his warriors had been forced to flee to Canada following the Battle of Little Bighorn. The exhausted Nez Perce stopped at the Bear Paw Mountains in Montana, about 40 miles from the Canadian border. It was here that they fought a five day battle against Colonel Miles's troops. On October 5, 1877, Chief Joseph was forced to surrender.
  • 1877: Chief Joseph was assured that the Nez Perce would be permitted to return to their home country in Lapwai, Oregon however the promise was broken and they were sent to the Indian Territory in present-day Oklahoma
  • 1879: Chief Joseph went to Washington, D.C. to meet with President Rutherford B. Hayes and plead the case of his people
  • 1885: Some of the Nez Perce were allowed to return to the Lapwai Reservation in Idaho, but Chief Joseph and a few others were sent to the Colville Reservation in northeastern Washington
  • 1904: Chief Joseph died on 21 September 1904 and was buried Joseph is buried in Nespelem, Washington

The Story of Chief Joseph
For additional facts and information refer to the legend and Story of Chief Joseph.

Famous Native Indians
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