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  • Writer's pictureNotes From The Frontier

The Day the Earth Wept

Updated: May 11, 2023

This week, 144 years ago, on October 5, 1877, Chief Joseph surrendered to the U.S. Army. It was a defeat for all humankind.

This October 5 will mark the 144th anniversary of the surrender of the great Nez Perce Chief, Thunder Rolling from the Mountains, known to the white world as "Chief Joseph." Joseph faced the end of his tribe's civilization as a free people. He was one of the last chiefs to stand against white invasion. The ultimate irony since 74 years before, his tribe had saved Lewis and Clark from starvation and freezing to death, then showed them the Northwest Passage to the Pacific. For decades, Chief Joseph had resisted treaties to give up the land and move to a reservation. But on May 15, 1877, U.S. General Howard told Joseph they must give up their land or fight. They could no longer roam the millions of magnificent acres of the Pacific Northwest near Yellowstone, their land for 15,000 years.


Joseph knew the only way the Nez Perce would be free was to escape to the "Medicine Line," the Canadian border. He and several other chiefs gathered their people and their thousands of horses, including their prized Appaloosas. For the next five months and 1,500 miles, the Nez Perce fought off several pursuing U.S. armies through the roughest terrain on the face of the earth. The nation watched in awe as they won against much greater numbers with heavy artillery, fresh horses and multiple armies. Newspapers called Joseph "The Red Napoleon." (Their tactics were so brilliant they came to be taught at West Point.) The nation found itself rooting for the underdog. The Nez Perce almost made it. Only 40 miles from the Canadian border, with many dead and dying and the children freezing to death, Joseph surrendered at the Battle of the Bear Paw on October 5, 1877 and uttered the famous words: "From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever."


Joseph and his people were exiled far from their beautiful homeland and never allowed to return. Many years later, as a very old man, Chief Joseph was allowed to visit his father's grave. He found that the grave had been dug up and his father's skull exhibited in a dentist's office in Idaho.


SPECIAL NOTE: In three days, on October 5, 2021, the anniversary of his tragic surrender, see a longer post about Chief Joseph.

"The Day the Earth Wept" was first posted May 15, 2019 on Facebook and NotesfromtheFrontier.com / 151,183 reached / 2,922 likes / 393 shares


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21 Comments


Joshua Davis
Joshua Davis
May 20, 2023

The Day That Cactus made Earth Meat Dont Grab the needle whole lol

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Lenny V Nolan
Lenny V Nolan
Oct 06, 2021

And we’re still here

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Callie Carmen
Callie Carmen
Oct 05, 2021

Wow.

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Laurie Sanders
Laurie Sanders
Oct 05, 2021
Replying to

Thanks for sharing the link to this post, Callie. It's a great, though sad post. Native Americans were and still are treated badly. Indian Reservations like the Pine Ridge Reservation are among the poorest places in the US. People frequently die there because of poor living conditions (unheated dilapidated housing) coupled with a lack of blankets.

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h.green246
Oct 05, 2021

One of the worlds great men. I love him his people and the memory of them all

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patrick.plaza
Oct 04, 2021

That is a very sad story. Our native Americans were treated in a harsh and unfair manner in light of their ownership of the lands our forefathers stole. It still saddens me to think about it.

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Deborah Hufford

Author, Notes from the Frontier

Deborah Hufford is an award-winning author and magazine editor with a passion for history. Her popular NotesfromtheFrontier.com blog with 100,000+ readers has led to an upcoming novel! Growing up as an Iowa farmgirl, rodeo queen and voracious reader, her love of land, lore and literature fired her writing muse. With a Bachelor's in English and Master's in Journalism from the University of Iowa, she taught students of Iowa's Writer's Workshop, then at Northwestern University, Marquette and Mount Mary. Her extensive publishing career began at Better Homes & Gardens, includes credits in New York Times Magazine, New York Times, Connoisseur, many other titles, and serving as publisher of The Writer's Handbook

 

Deeply devoted to social justice, especially for veterans, women, and Native Americans, she has served on boards and donated her fundraising skills to Chief Joseph Foundation, Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW), Homeless Veterans Initiative, Humane Society, and other nonprofits.  

 

Deborah's soon-to-be released historical novel, BLOOD TO RUBIES weaves indigenous and pioneer history, strong women and clashing worlds into a sweeping saga praised by NYT bestselling authors as "crushing," "rhapsodic," "gritty," and "sensuous." Purchase BLOOD TO RUBIES online beginning June 9. Connect with Deborah on DeborahHufford.com, Facebook, and Instagram.

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