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Chief Joseph & the Flight of the Nez Perce: The Untold Story of an American Tragedy
Synopses & Reviews
Hidden in the shadow cast by the great western expeditions of Lewis and Clark lies another journey every bit as poignant, every bit as dramatic, and every bit as essential to an understanding of who we are as a nation — the 1,800-mile journey made by Chief Joseph and eight hundred Nez Perce men, women, and children from their homelands in what is now eastern Oregon through the most difficult, mountainous country in western America to the high, wintry plains of Montana. There, only forty miles from the Canadian border and freedom, Chief Joseph, convinced that the wounded and elders could go no farther, walked across the snowy battlefield, handed his rifle to the U.S. military commander who had been pursuing them, and spoke his now-famous words, "From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever."
The story has been told many times, but never before in its entirety or with such narrative richness. Drawing on four years of research, interviews, and 20,000 miles of travel, Nerburn takes us beyond the surrender to the captives' unlikely welcome in Bismarck, North Dakota, their tragic eight-year exile in Indian Territory, and their ultimate return to the Northwest. Nerburn reveals the true, complex character of Joseph, showing how the man was transformed into a myth by a public hungry for an image of the noble Indian and how Joseph exploited the myth in order to achieve his single goal of returning his people to their homeland.
Chief Joseph & the Flight of the Nez Perce is far more than the story of a man and a people. It is a grand saga of a pivotal time in our nation's history. Its pages are alive with the presence of Lewis and Clark, General William Tecumseh Sherman, General George Armstrong Custer, and Sitting Bull. Its events brush against the California Gold Rush, the Civil War, the great western pioneer migration, and the building of the telegraph and the transcontinental railroad. Once you have read this groundbreaking work, you will never look at Chief Joseph, the American Indian, or our nation's westward journey in the same way again.
"Nerburn (Neither Wolf Nor Dog: On Forgotten Roads with an Indian Elder) brings balanced passion to this popular history of the man best known for his sad speech signaling his tribe's surrender at the end of an 1,800-mile retreat from their homeland in Oregon: 'I will fight no more forever.' Nerburn's novelistic chronicle moves from the kind welcome Lewis and Clark receive from the Nez Perc in 1805 to General O.O. Howard's May 1877 order for the tribespeople to move onto a reservation in Idaho within 30 days. The author follows chiefs Joseph, Ollokot, Looking Glass and White Bird through their armed resistance to Howard's order, their torturous six-month flight toward Canada and their final surrender to U.S. forces just 50 miles away from the Canadian border. Subsequently relocated to several reservations, the tribe was decimated in numbers, culture and spirit, and Joseph's efforts in the 1880s to regain legal ownership of his rightful land, Wallowa Valley, Ore., came to naught. While Joseph's symbolic importance as 'America's premier Indian' bloomed, the actual Nez Perc dwindled toward extinction. Nerburn sets out to bust the myth of the 'Red Napoleon' in this engaging volume, but his characterization of Joseph's 'compassionate leadership' can lean toward stereotyping of a different sort: the noble and tragic Native American in defeat." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Book News Annotation:
Based on extensive research, interviews, and travel along the route to their exile, a Minnesota religious studies scholar presents a comprehensive study of the legendary chief who led the Nez Perce on their retreat from the US military in 1877 from eastern Oregon to Montana. Nerburn narrates his account in light of the Lewis and Clark expedition and other historical events and figures. A map upgrade would be useful. Not indexed. Native activist Leonard Peltier endorses the book. Annotation ©2006 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
The myth of Chief Joseph is exposed, shedding new light on why his life and the surrender of the Nez Perce forever altered America. Chief Joseph is best known for his speech surrendering his tribe to the U.S. government in 1877 after one of the most remarkable military retreats in American history.
About the Author
Kent Nerburn received his Ph.D. in religion and art from Graduate Theological Union in conjunction with the University of California at Berkeley. Formerly a sculptor of religious art, he now devotes himself to crafting books. He is the author of Simple Truths, Letters to My Son, and Small Graces, as well as several books on Native American wisdom.
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