Chief Joseph was a member of the Nez Perce Indians. The Nez Perce Tribe lived between the Blue Mountains and the Snake River in the Wallowa Valley. He was given the name Hin-mah-too-yah-lat-kekt, or Thunder Rolling Down the Mountain, but was widely known as Joseph, or Joseph the Younger, because his father had taken the name Joseph from the Christian religion. Joseph one of the first members of his tribe to convert to Christianity. In 1855 he helped Washington's territorial governor set up a Nez Perce reservation that stretched from Oregon into Idaho. But in 1863, a gold rush led into Nez Perce territory, and the federal government took back almost six million acres of this land. Joseph, feeling himself betrayed, denounced the United States, destroyed his American flag and his Bible, and refused to move his tribe from the Wallowa Valley or sign the treaty that would make the new reservation boundaries official.
His is father died in 1871, and Joseph was selected to take his place. Joseph resisted all efforts to force his tribe onto the small Idaho reservation, and in 1873 a federal order to remove white settlers and let his people remain in the Wallowa Valley made it appear that he might be successful. But the federal government soon reversed itself, and in 1877 General Oliver Otis Howard threatened an attack to force Joseph's tribe onto the reservation. Believing military resistance futile, Joseph reluctantly led his people towards Idaho. Unfortunately, they could never travel there. About 20 Nez Perce warriors, enraged at the loss of their homeland, staged a raid on nearby settlements and killed several whites.
Immediately, the army began to pursue Joseph's band and the others who had not moved onto the reservation. General William Tecumseh Sherman was impressed with the 1,400 mile march. In over 3 months, the band of about 700, fewer than 200 of that were warriors, fought over 2,000 U.S. soldiers. Chief Joseph surrendered to the army on October 5,...
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