In "An Indian's View of Indian Affairs," how do the leadership styles of Chief Joseph and General Howard differ?

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vangoghfan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The narrative known as “An Indian View of Indian Affairs” is narrated by a nineteenth-century Native American leader known as Chief Joseph, who tells (among much else) of his encounter with a military leader named General Howard, who represented the U. S. government in dealing with Chief Joseph and his tribe. The dealings between the two men illustrate two different kinds of leadership, which might be summarized as follows:

  • GENERAL HOWARD: As soon as General Howard introduces himself to Chief Joseph, he announces that he has a large army at his command and that he will bring them if he does not get what he wants. He thus uses the leadership style known as intimidation.
  • CHIEF JOSEPH: When General Howard makes the announcement reported above, Chief Joseph tries to “remonstrate” with him.  He thus uses the leadership style that might be called an appeal to reason.
  • CHIEF JOSEPH: When General Howard insists on delaying a conference, Chief Joseph tries to explain why he would like the conference to be held that day, especially since previous conferences have resulted in no positive results. Chief Joseph thus uses an appeal to historical precedent.
  • GENERAL HOWARD: When Chief Joseph argues that the meeting should be held immediately, General Howard responds by asking,

“You deny my authority, do you? You want to dictate to me, do you?”

He thus demonstrates what might be called short-tempered belligerence rooted in insecurity.

  • GENERAL HOWARD: When one of Chief Joseph’s followers challenges the authority of General Howard, the latter responds by saying,

“Shut up! I don't want to hear any more of such talk.”

He thus demonstrates what might be called angry disrespect for a negotiating partner.

  • GENERAL HOWARD: When the man just mentioned continues to challenge the general’s authority, the general replies,

"You are an impudent fellow, and I will put you in the guard house," and then order[s] a soldier to arrest him.

The general thus exemplifies a resort to force.

  • CHIEF JOSEPH: As the other Native Americans contemplate how to respond to this arrest, Chief Joseph reports that he counseled them to submit:

I knew if we resisted that all the white men present, including General Howard, would be killed in a moment, and we would be blamed.

Chief Joseph thus shows intelligent restraint and wise foresight.

  • GENERAL HOWARD: Trying to persuade Joseph and his people to abandon their lands, Howard makes Joseph an offer as they visit other territories:

General Howard, pointing to this land, said: "If you will come on to the reservation, I will give you these lands and move these people off."

General Howard thus employs a bargaining strategy that might be called offering to give away something that does not belong to him.

  • CHIEF JOSEPH: In response to Howard’s offer, Joseph replies,

“No. It would be wrong to disturb these people. I have no right to take their homes. I have never taken what did not belong to me. I will not now.”

Joseph thus displays a commitment to moral principles even when it might be advantageous to abandon them.

All in all, Joseph is by far the more ethically admirable leader, but ultimately Howard gets what he wants because he has superior force at his command.



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