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Biography of Chief Lawyer – Nez Perce

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Nez Perce Chief Lawyer 1861
Nez Perce Chief Lawyer 1861

Lawyer – With the exception of the Joseph war of 1877, the Nez Percé have almost uniformly been the friends of the Whites. Even in that conflict they were humane enough to abstain from scalping their captives, and even went so far as to give them water to drink when they found them wounded and alone. On many occasions they have saved hundreds of lives and thousands of dollars worth of property. When the “great audit is made up,” it may prove that these Indians have done vastly more for the conquerors of their land than they have received from them. Prominent among the friendly chiefs of this great tribe was Lawyer. He appears on the pages of historians from the time of Parker (in 1836) down. He was at that time a young man, famous for his natural eloquence and lawyer-like keenness, from which fact he received the name by which he has since been known. He was a son of the chief who had met Lewis and Clarke in so friendly a manner, and had cared for their horses during their stay down the river.

Chief Lawyer
Chief Lawyer, Nez Percé

Throughout the entire history of settlement, Lawyer was a friend of the Whites. He was especially prominent in the negotiations with Governor Stevens after the Yakima war of 1855. He threw the weight of his great influence in favor of the treaty, which established the existing reservations and confirmed the Indians in the property which they now hold. Though opposed in his peace policy by Owhi, Kamiakin, Peu-peu-mox-mox and Joseph, the persistence of Lawyer and the numerical strength of his people turned the scale in favor of the treaty. The benefit to the settlers by this event can scarcely be overstated. As was just, the astute chief was ever afterwards held in great favor.

In person Lawyer was a typical Indian. Though not of large stature, he was exceedingly straight and well-built with the eye of an eagle and the nose of a hawk. He has had few equals in general intelligence among his people.


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