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Chief Joseph

In June 1877, several Nez Perce band leaders who found themselves living outside the 1863 tribal reservation began to resettle within the new boundaries. At this delicate moment, a few young men attacked some white settlers, triggering military retaliation by the United States Army. In response, 600 Nez Perces fled across the Bitterroot Mountains to Montana. They tried to reach Canada, but most surrendered in October, just short of their goal. Their spokesman was a leader the whites called “Chief Joseph” (1840–1904).

Exiled to Oklahoma until 1885, Joseph eventually returned to the Northwest, but was forbidden from settling on the Nez Perce reservation. This photograph of Joseph and General John Gibbon, one of his adversaries in the summer of 1877, was taken in 1889.

Photographer unknown. General John Gibbon and Chief Joseph on the Shore of Lake Chelan, 1889.

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