Little Bits of History

Land Grab

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 5, 2015
Chief Joseph in 1877

Chief Joseph in 1877

October 5, 1877: The Nez Perce War ends. Hin-mah-too-yah-lat-kekt was born on March 3, 1840 to the leader of the Wal-lam-wat-kain band of Nez Perce, indigenous peoples of the Wallowa Valley in northeastern Oregon. In 1855, the US federal government coerced the Nez Perce to give up ancestral lands and move to the Umatilla Reservation along with the Walla Walla, Cayuse, and Umatilla tribes. All those being relocated were vehemently opposed to the move. The Nez Perce signed a Treaty which gave them the right to keep a large portion of their own lands in Idaho, Washington, and Oregon but at the cost of giving up 5.5 million acres of the their 13 million acre homeland. They would be permitted to hunt, fish, and pasture their horses on unoccupied regions of the ceded land.

Whites were not permitted on Nez Perce lands without permission but after gold was discovered in 1860, this was no longer enforced. In response to the Nez Perce indignation, the federal government again coerced the ceding of territory and left them with only 750,000 acres, or ten percent of their already reduced lands. Many of the Nez Perce did not accept the validity of the treaty and refused to be removed. Those who agreed with the treaty were mostly Christian Nez Perce while those who did not, were more traditional and lived in the Wallowa valley with Hin-mah-too-yah-lat-kekt as their leader. We know him as Chief Joseph. Nez Perce were murdered after disputes with whites and the murders were never prosecuted. Tensions continued to rise between the two factions.

As the Nez Perce were ordered off their lands and refused to move, deadlines were set and ignored. Finally Joseph and White Bird, another Nez Perce leader, joined forces and Looking Glass’s group joined with them to form a group of about 250 Nez Perce warriors and 500 women and children. They also had more than 2000 head of livestock. They engaged in a brilliant fighting retreat and covered about 1,170 miles. Small numbers of Nez Perce were able to hold off much larger American forces. Between June and October, the Nez Perce had managed to hold off about 2,000 American troops. They had fought in 18 engagements which included four major battles and at least four contested skirmishes.

At 2.20 PM on this day, Chief Joseph formally surrendered. The whites described him as the principal chief of the Nez Perce and the strategist behind the engagements. He was even called “the Red Napoleon” which was deemed to be high praise. The men who fought against the government removal did not consider him to be their chief. Rather, his younger brother Ollokot, Poker Joe (a French/Indian), and Looking Glass were considered to be those who formed the leadership of the Nez Perce while Joseph was mainly responsible for guarding the camp. It was his words which were immortalized and his name that was remember. His speech was translated by Arthur Chapman and written down by Lieutenant CES Wood, a writer and poet stationed with the American troops.

I am tired of fighting. Our chiefs are killed. Looking Glass is dead.

Toohoolhoolzoote is dead. The old men are all dead. It is the young men who say, “Yes” or “No.” He who led the young men [Ollokot] 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. – Chief Joseph’s surrender speech

Also on this day: “Send Us Work” – In 1936, the Jarrow March began.
PBS – In 1970, the Public Broadcasting Service began.
No Day – In 1582, the Gregorian calendar implied a time warp.
Black Friday – In 1945, Hollywood was rocked by rioting.
The Wake Island 98 – In 1943, 98 Americans were killed on Wake Island.

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