Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Native American Warriors: Chief Joseph

Hinmaton Yalatkit, “Thunder Rolling in the Heights,” a Nez Percé chief, was a peaceful man who came to be known as one of the greatest Indian military commanders of the 19th century. He was born at the mouth of Joseph Creek, in Wallowa Valley, Washington, in 1832, the third child of Khapkhaponimi, a Nez Percé woman, and her husband, Tuekakas, a Cayuse man also known as Old Joseph. The younger got his name after being baptized by Christian missionaries. He would use the name for the rest of his life.

Joseph became chief at 30 when his father died. The 6’ 2’’ tall younger Joseph was brave but not a warrior chief. He relied instead on passive resistance in his relations with Whites. By 1835 (especially after gold was discovered) white settlers began to move onto the Nez Percé’s beautiful fertile land. Indians were forced to live on reservations. By 1863, a new treaty had reduced the reservation to about 550 square miles and no longer included the land of many of the tribal leaders land, including Joseph’s father, so some refused to sign it and continued to occupy their homeland in the Wallowa Valley in relative peace with their white neighbors.

Finally, in 1877, the government took action against Joseph and the rest of the non-treaty Nez Percé. General O. O. Howard met with them to try to reach a peaceful agreement, but fighting broke out between young warriors and white settlers and both sides were forced into a state of war. In the first major battle, at White Bird Canyon, the U.S. Army was almost annihilated. The Nez Percé won 18 more battles, but Joseph knew he had only three ways to end the war: annihilation, surrender, or retreat. He chose to retreat. His original plan was to join the Crow people in Montana, but they refused to help him, so he decided to go to Canada to join Sitting Bull and the Sioux who had fled there in 1876.

The retreat of Joseph’s people turned out to be one of the most brilliant in United States military history. They were able to escape U.S. troops because a few sharpshooters were able to hold off large numbers of soldiers. Their speed amazed the Army and they even managed to maintain good relations with the Whites they met along the way. Joseph led about 750 of his people twice over the Rocky Mountains, through Yellowstone Park (which became a park in 1872), and across the Missouri River. The journey covered four states and over 1,500 miles. But while resting on the way to Canada, General Nelson Miles caught-up with him and attacked on September 30th. Joseph and his men fought bravely but were to few in number to win. On October 5, 1877 he surrendered. He and his people were sent to reservations far from their homeland. Joseph went to Washington D.C. twice to ask President McKinley for help but nothing was done. He died on September 21, 1904. Find out more at: www.pbs.org/weta/thewest/people_c/chiefjoseph.htm

Research info gathered at: www.wikipedia.org

Now, here's one of my poems wearing buckskins:

Items Needed For 'Data Mining'

The list is relatively short. You'll need
the wealth of a shipping tycoon like
China. A signature that retains its
maiden name. The general idea
that history repeats itself. A
reliable 401K which is by
most accounts considered
"cautiously optimistic". Art
for art's sake. An obituary written
well in ad-vance. A couple of seersucker
summer suits. An old-fashioned rotary phone
and a phone book from '56. The uncanny ability
to mind-read. A religion that doesn't cause
heart burn. Pictures of the floating
gardens of Babylon. One lime
colored hula hoop. A pair
of genuine Mickey
Mouse ears. A
guidebook to the
first stop in your itinerary.
A room with a view of utopia.
And at least twenty-four hours to make your decision.

Poem first published at: http://www.whyvandalism.com/
Poem Copyright 2008 by Maurice Oliver. All Rights Reserved.


Anonymous said...

Hi Maurice,
My name is Joe Balaz. I came upon your poetry online. I edit an online magazine called 13 Miles from Cleveland. www.13milesfromcleveland.com Are you writing a lot of poetry lately? If you are, and you like the look of 13 Miles, I wanted to extend an invitation to you to send some of your poems to it. I hope to hear from you. Sincerely JB

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