The Last Stand Of Chief Joseph

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The fact that neither Joseph nor any other individual chief had been responsible for the outstanding strategy and masterful successes of the campaign is irrelevant. The surrender speech, taken down by Howard’s adjutant and published soon afterwards, confirmed Joseph in the public’s mind as the symbol of the Nez Percés’ heroic, fighting retreat. Although the government failed to honor Miles’s promise to send the Indians back to Lapwai, sympathy was aroused throughout the nation for Joseph’s people. At first the Indians were shipped by flatboats and boxcars to unfamiliar, hot country in the Indian Territory, where many of them sickened and died. But friendly whites and sympathetic societies in the East continued to work for them, and public sentiment finally forced approval of their return to the Northwest. In 1885 Joseph and most of his band were sent to the Colville Reservation in Washington. Joseph made many attempts to be allowed to resettle in the Wallowa but each time was rebuffed. In 1904 he died, broken-hearted, an exile from the beautiful valley he still considered home.

1 The Nez Percés wore pieces of shell in their noses—hence their name, which is French for “pierced nose.” The name, whether used in the singular or plural, is pronounced “nez purse.”