"I Will Fight No More, Forever" -- The Wallowa Mountains and Hells Canyon areas were once the homeland of the Nez Perce people. Sometime in the early 1700s, the Nez Perce acquired horses that were descended from Spanish stock and that had been traded northward from the American Southwest. The Nez Perce land proved to be ideal for raising horses, and the tribe began selectively breeding animals. Their horses became far superior to those used by other tribes and came to be known as Appaloosas. Eventually, the hills in southeast Washington where these horses were first bred became known as the Palouse Hills.
The Nez Perce had befriended explorers Lewis and Clark in 1805 and remained friendly to white settlers when other Indian tribes were waging wars. This neutrality was "rewarded," however, with treaties that twice cut the size of their reservation in half. When one band refused to sign a new treaty and relinquish its land, it began one of the great tragedies of Northwest history.
En route to a reservation in Idaho, several Nez Perce men ignored orders from the tribal elders and attacked and killed four white settlers to exact revenge for the earlier murder by whites of the father of one of these Nez Perce men. This attack angered settlers, and the cavalry was called to hunt down the Nez Perce. Tribal elders decided to flee to Canada, and, led by Chief Joseph (also known as Young Joseph), 700 Nez Perce, including 400 women and children, began a 2,000-mile march across Idaho and Montana on a retreat that lasted 4 months.
Along the way, several skirmishes were fought, and the Nez Perce were defeated only 40 miles from Canada. At their surrender, Chief Joseph spoke his famous words: "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."
The town of Joseph is named after Chief Joseph, and on the town's outskirts, you'll find the grave of his father, Old Joseph. Young Joseph is buried on the Colville Indian Reservation in central Washington. In town you can view historic photos and read quotes from Chief Joseph at the Nez Perce Wallowa Homeland Exhibit, 302 N. Main St. (tel. 541/886-3101). Not far from Joseph, in Spalding, Idaho (near Lewiston), is the Nez Perce National Historical Park (tel. 208/843-7001; www.nps.gov/nepe).
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