Professor Paul Hunter
8 October 2012
Several events in Chief Joseph’s term as chief of the Wallowa band show us he was more diplomat than warrior.The Voice of the West
The first event happened in 1885 when, Isaac Stevens, governor of the Washington Territory, organized a council to designate separate areas for natives and settlers. Joseph the Elder (“Young Joseph’s” father) and the other Nez Perce chiefs signed a treaty with the United States establishing a Nez Perce reservation encompassing 7.7 million acres in present-day Idaho, Washington, and Oregon. The 1855 reservation maintained much of the traditional Nez Perce lands, including Josephs Wallowa Valley.
The second event was an influx of new settlers caused by a gold rush led the government to call a second council in 1863.” Government commissioners asked the Nez Perce to accept a new, much smaller reservation of 780,000 acres (3,200 km2) situated around the village of Lapwai in Idaho, and excluding the Wallowa Valley.” In exchange, they were promised financial rewards and schools and a hospital for the reservation. One of the allied chiefs signed the treaty on behalf of the Nez Perce Nation, but Joseph the Elder and several other chiefs were opposed to selling their lands, and did not sign. Their refusal to sign caused a rift between the "non-treaty" and "treaty" bands of Nez Perce. The "treaty" Nez Perce moved within the new Idaho reservation's boundaries, while the "non-treaty" Nez Perce remained on their lands. Joseph the Elder demarcated Wallowa land with a series of poles, proclaiming, "Inside this boundary all our people were born. It circles the graves of our fathers, and we will never give up these graves to any man."
The third event was when Joseph the Younger succeeded his father as leader of the Wallowa band in 1871. Before his death, the latter counseled his...