The Wallowa valley is a beautiful place and the birthplace of one of the greatest leaders any of our nations have ever produced -Hin-mah-too-lat-kekt ( Thunder Rolling Down a Mountain) – or Chief Joseph as he has become more commonly known.
I haven’t been there in a while but my thoughts stray in that direction and will make the effort if only for a few days.
The words Wallowa and Chief Joseph are synonymous for any familiar with the area, it was and is Joseph’s ancestral homeland and that of his people the Nez Perce.
For a time the Nez Perce lived in relative harmony with the white man, but as has so often been the case when a valuable resource is discovered in ndn land, gold in this instance, the government steps in and everything changes.
The government seized millions of acres of land that had previously been agreed upon as belonging to the Nez Perce and sought to relocate them from the Wallowa to a reservation, a concept that would have been entirely alien to them and ultimately led to epic struggle for Joseph to lead his people to the safety of Canada.
Much has been written of this, of Joseph’s band of seven hundred that could count no more than two hundred warriors among it’s numbers – two hundred against two thousand soldiers pursuing them.
A fourteen hundred mile journey that was in essence a running gun battle, and fell short by a mere forty miles from the sanctuary they sought.
Tired, starving, exposed to severe weather, and with dwindling numbers they surrendered.
“I am tired of fighting,” “Our chiefs are killed. Looking Glass is dead. Toohoolhoolzote is dead. The old men are all dead. It is the young men who say, ‘Yes’ or ‘No.’ He who led the young men [Olikut] 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.”
I have never understood the policies or treatment the government has engaged in related to our people.
It has been that of bully, a thug, but more, of wanting to dominate and crush under the auspices of “civilization” and god being on their side.
Forty miles, the military could have stood down and let them continue on, but that has never been the governments way when it came to our people. In not doing so what was accomplished, a few medals perhaps, a promotion and a job well done, a “point” made?
What possible threat could so few present to an empire?