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Biography of Chief Joseph – Nez Percé

Chief Joseph. Hinmaton-yalatkit. The leader of the Nez Percé in the hostilities of 1877. His mother was a Nez Percé, his father a Cayuse, who re­ceived the name Joseph from his teacher, the missionary Spalding, who was with Dr. A. Whitman and who went to the Idaho country in the late thirties of the 19th century. Chief Joseph’s native name was Hinmaton-yalatkit (Hinmaton, `thunder’; yalatkit, ‘coming from the water up over the land.’ – Miss McBeth), but both he and his brother Ollicot were often called Joseph, as if it were a family name. Joseph was a man of fine presence and impressive features, and was one of the most remarkable Indians within the borders of the Union.

Condition of the Idaho Indians in 1890

Early the summer of 1877 troubles arose in regard to the occupancy of the Wallowa valley by white settlers, it having been withdrawn in 1875 as a reservation under treaty of 1873, because of the failure, of the Indians to permanently occupy it. An Indian belonging to a band of non-treaty Indians under Chief Joseph was killed by some settlers; then the Indians insisted upon the removal of the settlers and the restitution of the valley to them. Upon the refusal of the government to do this, and after further efforts to compel all the non-treaty Indians to come into the reservation at Lapwai, an outbreak occurred, under the leadership of Joseph, which resulted in a number of pitched battles, with great loss. He was compelled to retreat, the forces under General Howard pursuing him eastwardly across the headwaters of the Snake River and through the Yellowstone national park, where the pursuit was taken up by the threes under General Terry, resulting finally in the capture of Joseph and his band. On the morning or September 30, 1877, Chief Joseph and his Nez Perces were met and surrounded by Colonel Nelson A. Miles and his command in the valley of Snake creek, northern Montana. On the 4th of October 1877, they surrendered. The length of this raid, the march of the troops, and the tact displayed by Joseph form one of the most extraordinary chapters in the history of Indian outbreaks, Eighty-seven warriors, 184 squaws, and 117 children surrendered. They were sent under guard to Fort Abraham Lincoln, North Dakota, thence to Fort Leavenworth, and afterward located in the...

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