The History Place - This Month in History

Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce (c1840-1904) known to his people as "Thunder Traveling to the Loftier Mountain Heights."

Chief Joseph led his people in an unsuccessful attempt to resist the takeover of their lands in the Oregon Territory by white settlers. In 1877, his tribe was ordered to move to a reservation in Idaho. Chief Joseph agreed but after members of his tribe killed a group of settlers he tried to escape to Canada with his followers. They traveled over 1,500 miles through Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Montana. Along the way they fought several battles with the pursuing United States Army. They finally surrendered on Octtober 5th, 1877.

His surrender declaration went as follows:

"Tell General Howard I know his heart. What he told me before, I have it in my heart. I am tired of fighting. Our Chiefs are killed; Looking Glass is dead, Ta Hool Hool Shute is dead. The old men are all dead. It is the young men who say yes or no. He who led on the young men 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. "