Chief Joseph is the person portrayed on the $200 I-Bond. Here is a little history about him:
Chief Joseph (1840 – September 21, 1904) was a leader of the Nez Perce tribe of Native Americans in the Pacific Northwest, noted as a humanitarian and peacemaker for principled resistance to the U.S. federal government’s attempts to force the Nez Perce onto an Indian reservation.
An 1863, treaty took away tribal lands and forced the Nez Perce and their leader into resistance. Though Chief Joseph consistently opposed war, when conflict became inevitable he and other leaders led the Nez Perce on a courageous retreat in 1877 for more than 1000 miles (1600 km) through Montana and Idaho. After a five-day siege only 30 miles (50 km) from the Canadian border, he surrendered, famously saying:
“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.”
In his final years, Chief Joseph spoke eloquently of the injustice of American policy toward his people and held out hope that one day freedom and equality might come for Native Americans.
Chief Joseph was born in the Wallowa Valley of what is now northeastern Oregon. He was given the name Hinmaton-Yalaktit (Hin-mah-too-yah-lat-kekt), which means “Thunder Rolling Down the Mountain.” However, he was known as Joseph or Joseph the Younger because his father had been baptized Joseph by a Catholic missionary in 1838.
In Glimpses of California and the Missions (1902), Helen Hunt Jackson recorded one early Oregon settler’s tale of his encounter with Chief Joseph:
Why I got lost once, an’ I came right on [Chief Joseph’s] camp before I knowed it . . . ‘t was night, ‘n’ I was kind o’ creepin’ along cautious, an’ the first thing I knew there was an Injun had me on each side, an’ they jest marched me up to Jo’s tent, to know what they should do with me …
Well, Jo, he took up a torch, a pine knot he had burnin’, and he held it close’t up to my face, and looked me up an’ down, an’ down an’ up; an’ I never flinched; I jest looked him up an’ down ‘s good ‘s he did me; ‘n’ then he set the knot down, ‘n’ told the men it was all right, –I was`tum tum;’ that meant I was good heart; ‘n’ they gave me all I could eat, ‘n’ a guide to show me my way, next day, ‘n’ I could n’t make Jo nor any of ’em take one cent. I had a kind o’ comforter o’ red yarn, I wore round my neck; an’ at last I got Jo to take that, jest as a kind o’ momento.
An 1889 photograph of Chief Joseph speaking to ethnologist Alice Cunningham Fletcher and her interpreter James Stuart.In 1871, Chief Joseph succeeded his father as chief of the Wallowa band of the Nez Perce. He inherited a volatile situation because some Nez Perce resisted the federal government’s efforts to force them into a small Idaho reservation one-tenth the size of their native lands. In 1877, after U.S. Army cavalry threatened to attack, Chief Joseph and other leaders began the journey to the reservation. On a night that Chief Joseph was away from camp, a young Nez Perce man and his friends, avenging the killing of his father, attacked and killed a white settler. Immediately, the cavalry began to pursue Chief Joseph and other Nez Perce, and although he opposed war, he sided with the war leaders.
In 1873, Chief Joseph negotiated with the federal government to ensure his people could stay on their land in the Wallowa Valley as stipulated in 1855 and 1863 land treaties with the U.S. government. But in 1877, the government reversed policy, and General Oliver O. Howard threatened to attack if the Nez Perce did not relocate to an Idaho reservation. Chief Joseph reluctantly agreed.
As they began their journey to Idaho, Chief Joseph learned that three young Nez Perce men, enraged at the loss of their homeland, had massacred a band of white settlers. Fearing retaliation, the chief began what is now known as one of the greatest American military retreats.
Retreat and surrender
With 2000 U.S. soldiers in pursuit, Chief Joseph led fewer than 300 Nez Perce towards freedom at the Canadian border. For over three months, the Nez Perce outmaneuvered and battled their pursuers traveling over 1000 miles (1600 km) across Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Montana.
General Howard, leading the opposing cavalry, was impressed with the skill with which the Nez Perce fought, using advance and rear guard, skirmish lines and field fortifications. Finally, after a devastating five-day battle during freezing weather conditions with no food or blankets, Chief Joseph formally surrendered to General Nelson Appleton Miles on October 5, 1877 in the Bear Paw mountains of Montana, only 40 miles (60 km) south of Canada in the place now close to Chinook in Blaine County). It was here he gave his famous speech, interperted by a scout and recorded by a Harper’s Weekly artist and including the famous words “from where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever.”
Tell General Howard I know his heart. What he told me before, I have it in my heart. I am tired of fighting. Our chiefs are killed; Looking Glass is dead, Ta-Hool-Hool-Shute is dead. The old men are all dead. It is the young men who say yes or no. He who led on the young men is dead. It is cold, and we have no blankets; the little children are freezing to death. My people, some of them, have run away to the hills, and have no blankets, no food. No one knows where they are perhaps freezing to death. I want to have time to look for my children, and see how many of them I can find. Maybe I shall find them among the dead. 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.
By the time Joseph surrendered, more than 200 of his followers had died. His plight, however, did not end. Although the had negotiated a safe return home for his people, they were instead were taken to eastern Kansas and then to a reservation in the Indian Territory (now Oklahoma). In 1879, Chief Joseph went to Washington, D.C. to meet with President Rutherford B. Hayes and plead the case of his people. Finally, in 1885, Chief Joseph and his followers were allowed to return to a reservation in the Pacific Northwest, still far from their homeland in the Wallowa Valley.
Chief Joseph died in 1904, still in exile, on the Colville Indian Reservation in Washington over his campfire. The doctor listed his cause of death as a broken heart