Chief Joseph Drifting Goose

Born: 1821 Died: May 18, 1909 Crow Creek Reservation.


Chief Joseph Surrenders
October 5, 1877

Chief Joseph loved his homeland, his people, and peace, but he was tired of running from the U.S. Army. "Hear me, my chiefs! I am tired. My heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever." On October 5, 1877, Chief Joseph spoke these words during his surrender in the Bear Paw Mountains of Montana. After a harrowing journey of more than 1,000 miles across Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Montana, pursued by the federal army, he and his followers surrendered to the troops. They were 40 miles from the Canadian border and freedom.

Believing in peace, Chief Joseph had been trying to secure his homeland for his tribe, the Nez PercÚ, without fighting. To Chief Joseph and his tribe, their homeland was sacred, like a cathedral. At first, the government allowed them to stay in their home regions, then some years later, forced them out. As they began their journey from their ancestral home in the Wallowa Valley of Oregon to a reservation in Idaho, the chief learned that three young Nez PercÚ men, enraged at their loss, had committed a brutal act.

The three young Indians had massacred a band of white settlers. Chief Joseph feared retaliation by the government and tried to take his people to safety. After their capture, the Nez Percé were moved to Kansas, but the fearless leader never gave up. He went to Washington D.C. to meet with the president. Finally, in 1885, Chief Joseph and his followers were allowed to return to the Pacific Northwest, close to their old home, thanks to the persistence and courage of Chief Joseph.

Chief Joseph and Colonel John Gibbon, erstwhile adversaries in the Battle of the Big Hole, sat for this portrait many years later