#HeroWall - Chief Joseph

Chief Joseph (Hin-mah-too-yah-lat-kekt) made the hero wall for a lot of reasons. There is so much you can read about him. 

The story Drew loves about him is how he fought for his land and his people. In 1855 his father helped Washington's territorial governor set up a Nez Percé reservation that stretched from Oregon into Idaho. But in 1863, following a gold rush into Nez Percé territory, the federal government took back almost six million acres of this land, restricting the Nez Percé to a reservation in Idaho that was only one tenth its prior size. He resisted this and refused to sign a treaty making the boundaries official.

Once his father died, Chief Joseph continued the fight. Eventually because of cavalry threats, he led his people toward Canada, looking for political asylum. In over three months, the band of about 700, fewer than 200 of whom were warriors, fought 2,000 U.S. soldiers and Indian auxiliaries in four major battles and numerous skirmishes. Sadly, they never reached their goal. Just 40 miles shy of the Canadian border, the group found themselves surrounded by the U.S. Army. By then, the frigid weather, dwindling supplies, and endless miles of merciless terrain had taken its toll. Here is an excerpt of Chief Joseph's words at surrender: 

"I am tired of fighting. Our chiefs are killed. Looking Glass is dead. Toohoolhoolzote is dead. The old men are all dead. It is the young men who say, 'Yes' or 'No.' He who led the young men [Olikut] is dead. It is cold, and we have no blankets. The little children are freezing to death. My people, some of them, have run away to the hills, and have no blankets, no food. No one knows where they are -- perhaps freezing to death. I want to have time to look for my children, and see how many of them I can find. Maybe I shall find them among the dead. Hear me, my chiefs! I am tired. My heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands I will fight no more forever." 

He continued to fight for the rights of his people until he died in 1904, still in exile from his homeland, according to his doctor, "of a broken heart." 


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