Chief Joseph 1900


Circle matted, colorized photo of Chief Joseph in front of a teepee.

Chief Joseph
Traditional Knowledge: 

Tribal Histories

Chief Joseph led his band of Nez Perce who refused to lead the Wallowa Valley until a war erupted between his people and the US Army. After years of exile in Oklahoma, Joseph accepted Chief Moses' offer to move to the Colville Reservation. He was never allowed to move back to his homeland.

In 1885, Chief Joseph and approximately 150 members of his band arrived at the Colville Reservation and were allowed to settle near Nespelem. This land was not good for animal grazing and they had to deal with miners encroaching on this property. In 1889, the US Government offered Chief Joseph's band the option to accept allotments on the Nez Perce Reservation at Lapwai, but Chief Joseph refused, hoping to return to Wallowa. He was allowed to visit Wallowa in 1899 and 1900 and was greeted warmly, but he was told he could never live there again.

The majority of Nez Perce villages were along the banks of the middle Snake River and Clearwater Rivers, and also some of the northern portions of the Salmon River. The Nez Perce territory was east on the Bitterroot Range and Blue Mountains. Their northern extent was the Northfork and Clearwater Rivers, while their southern boundary was the headwaters of the Middle Fork and Salmon River, and also the headwaters of some Salmon River tributaries.

Daily Life

Nez Perce lifeways were a mixture of seasonal salmon fishing and gathering along with year-round hunting. With the reintroduction of the horse, they would make annual trips to Montana to hunt bison. Their housing was typically mat-covered longhouses, with tipis used temporarily for seasonal trips.

Chief Joseph