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Chief Joseph was a Nez Percé chief who, faced with settlement by whites of tribal lands in Oregon, led his followers in a dramatic effort to escape to Canada.
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"I am tired of fighting," he said. "Our chiefs are killed. Looking Glass is dead. Toohoolhoolzote is dead. The old men are all dead. It is the young men who say, 'Yes' or 'No.' He who led the young men [Olikut] 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."
Regarded in the American press as the "Red Napoleon," Chief Joseph achieved great acclaim in the latter half of his life. Still, not even his standing among the whites could help his people return to their homeland in the Pacific Northwest.
Following his surrender, Chief Joseph and his people were escorted, first to Kansas, and then to what is present-day Oklahoma. Joseph spent the next several years pleading his people's case, even meeting with President Rutherford Hayes in 1879.
Finally, in 1885, Joseph and others were allowed to return to the Pacific Northwest, but it was far from a perfect solution. So many of his people had already perished, either from war or disease, and their new home was still miles from their true homeland in the Wallowa Valley.
Chief Joseph did not live to see again the land he'd known as a child and young warrior. He died on September 21, 1904, and was buried in the Colville Indian Cemetery on the Colville Reservation in the state of Washington.
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