The Nez Percé tribe was one of the most powerful in the Pacific Northwest and in the first half of the 19th century one of the most friendly to whites. Many Nez Percé, including Chief Joseph’s father, were converted to Christianity and Chief Joseph was educated in a mission school.
His name lives on in the Chief Joseph Dam on the Columbia River, Chief Joseph Pass in Montana, and the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway in Wyoming. Most poignantly, it lives on in the places he loved best: Joseph Creek, Joseph Canyon and the small town of Joseph, Oregon, in the heart of the Wallowa Valley.
The leader of one band of the Nez Perce people, Chief Joseph was born Hin-mah-too-yah-lat-kekt in 1840 in the Wallowa Valley in what is now Oregon.
Chief Joseph—as non-Natives knew him—had been elected chief of the Wallowa band of Nez Perce Indians when he was only 31. For six difficult years the young leader struggled peacefully against the whites who coveted the Wallowa’s fertile land in northeastern Oregon.
In 1863, they told the Nez Perce to move out of the Wallowa Valley and into Idaho. Chief Joseph the Elder refused. He felt the governor had lied to him when he made the first agreement. In 1871, Joseph the Elder died and Young Joseph became chief.
Sitting Bull, Lakota Tatanka Iyotake, (born c. 1831, near Grand River, Dakota Territory [now in South Dakota], U.S.—died December 15, 1890, on the Grand River in South Dakota), Teton Dakota Indian chief under whom the Sioux peoples united in their struggle for survival on the North American Great Plains. 5
Haruo Aoki (1989: 16) notes that Chief Joseph “spoke in the Nez Perce language. His words had to be translated into English by an interpreter, who in all likelihood was Arthur Chapman [a white man who knew Nez Perce].
Chief Joseph was a Nez Perce leader who led his tribe called the Wallowa band of Nez Perce through a treacherous time in United States history. These indigenous people were natives to the Wallowa Valley in Oregon. Chief Joseph was a powerful advocate for his people’s rights to remain on their homeland.