Wednesday, November 13, 2019
Hero Status for Chief Joseph :: American History Essays
Hero Status for Chief Joseph A modest and humble monument was raised to this giant Indian. A seven and a half foot white marble shaft sets atop a barren hill where a lone, half dead elm tree stands, 14 miles north of the Grand Coulee Dam, in a small Indian Village on the Colville Indian Reservation. The acre or so of ground is delineated by wire fence. Weeds have overgrown mounds where graves are left unidentified and only apparent by small mounds of rock. The elm stands, gnarled, over his grave. White chipped rock fill a rectangle edged with one by four wood planking, smaller in length than this man stood in all of this grown years. To his honor had been placed a coin purse, cigarettes, a dog tag, dried flowers in mason jars, an arrowhead, keys, notes under rocks, a dream catcher hanging on the tree, where I placed a Nez Perce bead necklace. My heart was sad by the desolation of this mans grave. My heart was sadder, knowing that his last days were spent begging James McLaughlin, Indian Inspector, to let him to return to his beloved home in the Wallowa Valley. ÃâÃ ±For Joseph it was a kind of pilgrimage to his ancestral home. When he gazed once more upon the grave of his father...the tears brimmed over in the old chiefÃâÃ s eyes.ÃâÃ ° McLaughlin issued an adverse report to the government, never allowing the chief and his people to return to Oregon. ÃâÃ ±Joseph, silent and brooding for weeks sat stoically for entire days at a time without moving or speaking. Sitting before his fire on September 21, 1904, he fell forward on his face.ÃâÃ ° He died of a broken heart. This Indian colossus, this gentle Napoleon-Gandhi that led his people in a feat that will likely be handed down as a legend, accomplished miracles and mysteries that make him misunderstood by the white people and the Nez Perce. Tom and I arrived in Nespelem at about 4:15 in the afternoon after a near four hour drive. 185 miles from Moscow and 100 miles northeast of Spokane. No signs. No historic landmarks. You just have to know that if you are looking for the grave of ÃâÃ ±The Red NapoleonÃâÃ ° you must stop and ask at the gas station. Professor Swagerty, history professor at the University of Idaho, had given these directions when he responded to my email about location of the grave site.