Chief Joseph

Chief Joseph

Original Name Hin-mah-too-yah-lat-kekt
Death 21 Sep 1904 (aged 64)
Burial Nespelem, Okanogan County, Washington, USA
Memorial ID 3502 · View Source
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Nez Percé Chieftain. Born in the Wallowa Valley in what is now northeastern Oregon, son of Joseph the Elder, he was given the name Hin-mah-too-yah-lat-kekt which loosely translates to Thunder Rolling Down the Mountain. When Joseph the Elder converted to Christianity he had his son baptized at the Lapwai Mission where he was given the Christian name by which he is best known. Up until gold was discovered on Nez Percé land, the nation had been on good terms with Americans. Old Joseph negotiated and signed an 1855 treaty that guaranteed the Nez Percé the rights to their homelands and created a Nez Percé reserve. The government wrote a second treaty in 1863, however, that took most of these traditional lands away from the Nez Percé, including the Wallowa Valley and they were left with a tenth of what they had originally been promised. Upon his father's death in 1871, Joseph took his place as chief and shared his father's disdain for the new treaty. The government ordered the Nez Percé bands to relocate to the new reservation but the three principle chiefs including Joseph refused to leave the Wallowa Valley. In 1873 a federal order to remove white settlers and let the Nez Percé remain in the Wallowa Valley made it appear that Joseph’s resistance was successful. The federal government reversed itself, however, and in 1877 General Oliver Howard threatened to force Joseph's holdouts onto the new reservation. Instead, Joseph led almost 600 Nez Percé in a remarkable 1,400 mile tactical retreat to the Canadian boarder. Joseph’s people were finally surrounded by government troops within 40 miles of the border. Joseph surrendered to General Nelson Miles with the famous speech: "Hear me, my chiefs; my heart is sick and sad. From where the Sun now stands, I will fight no more forever." They were sent to a reservation in Indian Territory (present day Oklahoma) where disease decimated the tribe. In 1885 Joseph and the remnants of his tribe were allowed to move to a reservation in Washington State. Joseph continued to appeal to government officials in attempts to return his people to their homelands for the rest of his life. He died in what he saw as exile, however, and was buried in the Colville Indian Cemetery on the Colville Reservation in Washington.

Bio by: Iola

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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Added: 27 Aug 1998
  • Find a Grave Memorial 3502
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Chief Joseph (3 Mar 1840–21 Sep 1904), Find a Grave Memorial no. 3502, citing Nez Perce Cemetery, Nespelem, Okanogan County, Washington, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .