Chief Joseph
Nez Perce Indian chief

~1840 - 1904

Chief Joseph was a Nez Perce Indian chief. He became famous for a retreat he led through Idaho and Montana in 1877.

In June 1877, war broke out between Joseph's band and United States troops. The fighting began shortly after government officials had ordered the band to move from its homeland in the Wallowa Valley of Oregon to a reservation in Idaho. The government wanted the land opened to white settlers.

Joseph's forces won several battles, but he realized that they could not defeat the Army. He ordered a retreat to Canada, where he hoped to join forces with Sioux Indians who had fled there. Joseph conducted the retreat with great skill, fighting off the troops and leading a group of women, children, and old men more than 1,000 miles. In October 1877, he finally surrendered about 40 miles from the U.S.-Canadian border. In 1878, the government sent Joseph and his people to the Indian Territory in Oklahoma. After about 1885, he lived on the Colville Indian Reservation in Washington. A monument marks his grave in Nespelem, Washington.

Contributor: Cecil Corbett, D.D., Executive Director, National Indian Training and Research Center.

Additional resources

Beal, Merrill D. "I Will Fight No More Forever": Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce War. Univ. of Wash. Pr., 1963.

Sanford, William R. Chief Joseph. Enslow, 1994. Younger readers.

Yates, Diana. Chief Joseph. Ward Hill, 1992.


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