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Exhibits > Chief Joseph > Part 5

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Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce Indians (Cont'd)

   In addition to his unblemished reputation among his own people, Joseph made many friends in Washington and among Indian reform groups. He met and befriended Buffalo Bill Cody and even became friends with General Gibbon, his foe during the Nez Perce War.

Photo 21: Chief Joseph with Buffalo Bill. Photographer unknown, 1897. Collection of the Buffalo Bill Historical Center, New York, NY. Courtesy of National Park Service, Nez Perce National Historical Site, Spalding, Idaho. Neg. # 2338.

Photo 22: “Chief Joseph with General Gibbon on the shore of Lake Chelan, 1889.” Photographer unidentified. Courtesy National Anthropological Archives, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Neg. # 43201.

   Ironically, among white Americans and Europeans, Joseph was regarded as a celebrated war chief, and was called the “Red Napoleon” and “the noblest Roman of them all.” In 1901, the Pendleton Woollen Mills featured Joseph on the cover of its catalogue.

Illustration 14: Pendleton Woollen Mills, 1901 catalogue.

    Indians had been wearing blankets of their own manufacture or animal hides and robes before the white man arrived in North America, but the wool cloth blanket with its warmth, color, and designs had largely replaced the older robes by the time of Chief Joseph’s last years. The tradition of the Indian Blanket continues to this day. Beginning in 1926, the “Chief Joseph Robe” was offered by Pendleton. To this day, it remains the most popular design among buyers of Indian-style blankets.

Illustration 15: Pendleton Woolen Mills Blanket Catalog, 2001 “Chief Joseph,” p. 20. Courtesy of Bob Christnacht and the Pendleton Woolen Mills, Portland, Oregon.

Today, Chief Joseph, America’s favorite “patriot chief” of the late nineteenth-century Indian wars, is remembered as a statesman-diplomat, an advocate of peace and justice, who resorted to violence only to protect the women, children, and the elderly throughout the fifteen-hundred-mile ordeal of the Nez Perce in 1877. Several events in Nez Perce country keep his name alive. “Chief Joseph Days” in Joseph, Oregon, is an annual parade and rodeo. The Tamkaliks Celebration (formerly Wallowa Band Descendants Friendship Feast and Pow Wow) is another annual event held in Oregon.


Photo 23: “Chief Joseph Days, 1960,” Cecil Carter Collection, courtesy National Park Service, Nez Perce National Historic Site, Spalding, Idaho. Neg. # 2103

The Nez Perce Tribe of Idaho honors Joseph with his image on their official tribal logo and annually hosts the Chief Joseph and Warriors Powwow in Lapwai during June. The Joseph Band of the Nez Perce honor their ancestor at Colville Reservation in Washington State and wherever band members live throughout the country.


Illustration 16: Chief Joseph on official logo, Nez Perce Tribe of Idaho.


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