Leadership, Accomplishment and Cultural Celebration

Chief Joseph

Patriotism: In Defense of a Homeland

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6-cent Cyrenius Hall "Chief Joseph" stamp

Chief Joseph (Hin-mah-too-yah-lat-kekt)

Chief of the Nez Perce

Standard-Bearer, Patriot, and Peacemaker

Although he opposed war, he was drawn into it and, even in retreat from forced relocation, fought a heroic 1400-mile running battle from his homeland in present-day Oregon, to near the Canadian border before laying down his weapons and vowing to “fight no more forever.”

Chief Joseph stood for a natural connection to his peoples’ land. His spiritual depth is revealed in his famous phrase: “The Earth and myself are of one mind.” At treaty councils he often recalled his people’s assistance to the Lewis and Clark expedition and simply requested justice: “We only ask an even chance to live as other men live. We ask to be recognized as men. We ask that the same law shall work alike on all men.” The Nez Perce or Nimi”ipuu are still working to regain lands reserved in their 1855 Treaty.

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Rifle belonging to Chief Joseph circa 1880 from the General Nelson A. Miles collection.
14/2183 Courtesy, Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian.
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“The Blue Face Bracelet” by Marcus Amerman, Choctaw, 2003, stands as an example of a continuum of respect for Chief Joseph by all Native people.
26/4251 Courtesy, Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian.