Chief Joseph was of many articulate Indian leaders who resisted white encroachment during the era of Manifest Destiny. Who were his people? Where was his ancestral land? How did Indian Removal policies affect his nation? What interactions did he and his people have with whites as they moved into his territory?

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Chief Joseph was the leader of the Nez Perce tribe of Indians. The term "nez perce" is French for "pierced nose," but Joseph's people did not pierce their noses. Joseph became the leader of his band after the death of his father in 1871. His father had told him to...

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Chief Joseph was the leader of the Nez Perce tribe of Indians. The term "nez perce" is French for "pierced nose," but Joseph's people did not pierce their noses. Joseph became the leader of his band after the death of his father in 1871. His father had told him to never abandon the tribe's homeland: the Wallowa Valley of Oregon.

Joseph became famous after a war between the Nez Perce and U.S. troops in 1877. His military skill led many to call him the "The Red Napoleon." Joseph was much more than a capable military leader, though. He was eloquent and he did his best to avoid war. He loved his people and their ancestral homeland, and he went to war only when there was no other choice.

The Nez Perce, one of the most-powerful tribes of the Pacific Northwest, had long enjoyed a peaceful relationship with white Americans. That amicable relationship started with the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Joseph's father became a Christian, and Joseph studied in mission schools. An 1855 treaty with Washington gave the Nez Perce rights to their Wallowa Valley. The Nez Perce, like the Sioux before them, were rankled by whites looking for gold on their lands. His tribe was given thirty days to move to Oregon. Violence erupted and a war began. Joseph had planned to join Sitting Bull in Canada; he moved his small band hundreds of miles, fighting battles along the way. Finally, Joseph was stopped in Montana and had to surrender forty miles short of the border. Sadly, Joseph and the surviving members of the tribe were never allowed to return to their beloved homeland.

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