Famous Nez Perce


Famous Nez Perce chiefs, leaders, and mediicine men

Hal-hal-hoot-soot, a.k.a. Chief Lawyer to the whites - He was the son of Twisted Hair. He was designated as Head Chief of the Nez Perce for the signing of the 1855 and controversial 1863 Treaty.

He was called the Lawyer by fur trappers because of his oratory and ability to speak several languages. His father's positive experiences with the whites greatly influenced him, and he was the leader of the treaty faction of the Nez Percé, who signed the Walla Walla Treaty of 1855.

He defended the actions of the 1863 Treaty which cost the Nez Perce nearly 90% of their lands after gold was discovered because he knew it was futile to resist the US Government and its military power. He tried to negotiate the best outcome which still allowed the majority of Nez Perce to live in their usual village locations.

He died, frustrated that the US Government failed to follow through on the promises made in both Treaties even making a trip to Washington, DC to express his frustration.

Old Chief Joseph (Tuekakas), (also: tiwíiteq'is) a.k.a. Joseph the Elder, was leader of the Wallowa Band of Nez Perce. He was one of the first Nez Percé converts to Christianity and a vigorous advocate of the tribe's early peace with the whites. He was the father of Chief Joseph (also known as Young Joseph).

Chief Joseph (March 3, 1840 – September 21, 1904) (Hinmatóoyalahtq'it or Hinmuuttu-yalatlat or Hinmaton-Yalaktit  - "Thunder traveling to higher areas" or In-mut-too-yah-lat-lat - "Thunder coming up over the land from the water" or Hin-mah-too-yah-lat-kekht - "Thunder Rolling Down the Mountain" - Hin-mah-too-yah-lat-kekht is what is engraved on his grave.), also known as Young Joseph or Joseph the Younger, nicknamed the Red Napoleon by the American press after his surrender, in the mistaken belief that he planned the brilliant war strategies used in the Nez Perce War.  

Chief Joseph's role in this war was that of camp supervisor and guardian. He was entrusted with handling the logistics of camp and travel, and taking care of the women, children, and old people.

Chief Joseph was probably the best-known leader of the Nez Perce, who led his people in their struggle to retain their identity. With about 60 warriors left when he surrendered on behalf of the Non-Treaty Nez Perce, he commanded the greatest following of the non-treaty chiefs.

However, he was not the only chief whose people took flight on an epic attempt to escape white control that lasted three months and covered 1,170-miles (1,883 km) across four states and multiple mountain ranges. 

Eighteen battles, skirmishes, and engagements were fought along the way, and became known as the Nez Perce War. His brother Ollokot, Looking Glass, Peo Peo Tholekt, Toohoolhoolzote, Yellow Wolf, Yellow Bull, White Bird, Red Owl, and Rainbow were among the war chiefs. Chief Joseph was a hereditary peace chief who was responsible for political negotiations and decisions affecting daily life in his Wallowa Band.

Once the peace was broken, war chiefs took over during battles.In the beginning of the flight, the combined Nez Perce bands, along with a band of Palouse Indians, numbered about 2900. Of this number about 750 were warriors. They were pursued by 2,000 US Calvary soldiers. Initially they had hoped to take refuge with the Crow nation in the Montana Territory, but when the Crow refused to grant them aid, the Nez Perce went north in an attempt to reach asylum with Sioux Chief Sitting Bull and his followers, who had fled to Canada in 1876.

Chief Joseph finally surrendered with most of his remaining tribe on October 5, 1877, just 40 miles shy of the Canadian Border in a blizzard because they were outnumbered, starving, and freezing to death because they didn't have enough blankets, and General Howard promised to return them to the Wallowa Valley. Some Nez Perce did escape into Canada, and remain there today.

In the children's fiction book, Thunder Rolling in the Mountains, by Newbery medalist Scott O'Dell and Elizabeth Hall, the story of Chief Joseph is told by Joseph's daughter, Sound of Running Feet.

Kamiakin - Nez Perce leader who opposed the treaty of 1863.

Kipkip Pahlekin -

Ollokot, (’álok'at, also known as Ollikut) - He was the younger brother of Chief Joseph, and war chief of the Wallowa band. Many historians believe it was Ollokot who planned the brilliant strategy of the retreat and battles fought by the Nez Perce in their famous retreat to the Canadian border.

He was killed while fighting at the final battle on Snake Creek, near the Bear Paw Mountains on October 4, 1877.

Looking Glass, the Elder (Allalimya Takanin) leader of the non-treaty Alpowai band and war leader, was killed during the tribe's final battle with the US Army. His following was reduced to a third and did not exceed 40 fighting men.

Looking Glass, the Younger -

Eagle from the Light, (Tipiyelehne Ka Awpo) chief of the non-treaty Lam'tama band, that traveled east over the Bitterroot Mountains along with Looking Glass' band to hunt buffalo. He was present at the Walla Walla Council in 1855 and supported the non-treaty faction at the Lapwai Council, refused to sign the Treaty of 1855 and Treaty of 1866.

He left his territory on the Salmon River (two miles south of Corvallis) in 1875 with part of his band, and tried to settle down in Weiser County (Montana), and was joined with Shoshone Chief Eagle's Eye. The leadership of the other Lam'tama that rested on the Salmon River was taken by old chief White Bird. Eagle From the Light didn't participate in the War of 1877 because he was too far away.

Owhi - Nez Perce leader who opposed the treaty of 1863.

Peo Peo Tholekt (piyopyóot’alikt - "Bird Alighting”), a Nez Perce warrior who fought with distinction in every battle of the Nez Perce War, wounded in the Battle of Camas Creek.

Chief Red Heart - Nez Perce chief, who along with 33 members of his family and band, who were captured on July 1, 1877 and taken by steamship to Fort Vancouver where they were imprisioned from August 1877 to April 22, 1878 before being relocated to the Nez Perce Reservation.

Red Thunder - Nephew of Chief Joseph

Smohalla, Shaman who founded the Dreamer cult.

Toohoolhoolzote, was leader and tooat (meaning "medicine man or shaman or prophet") of the non-treaty Pikunan band. He fought in the Nez Perce War after first advocating peace, and died at the Battle of Bear Paw.

Yellow Wolf or He–Mene Mox Mox or Hemeneme Moxmox or  He-men Moxmox (a nickname given him by the whites. It refers to a Yellow Wolf he saw in a vision on his vision quest- his weyekin.) (born c. 1855, died August 1935) , a.k.a. Heinmot Hihhih or In-mat-hia-hia - "White Lightning” (his preferred name), c. 1855, died August 1935) was a Nez Perce warrior of the non-treaty Wallowa band who fought in the Nez Perce War of 1877.

He received a gunshot wound in his left arm near the wrist; and under his left eye in the Battle of the Clearwater, but survived his wounds.

Yellow Bull (Chuslum Moxmox, Cúuɫim maqsmáqs), war leader of a non-treaty Nez Perce band.

White Bird  (Peo-peo-hix-hiix, piyóopiyo x̣ayx̣áyx̣ or more correctly

Peopeo Kiskiok Hihih - "White Goose”), also referred to as White Pelican was war leader and tooat (Medicine man or Shaman or Prophet) of the non-treaty Lamátta or Lamtáama band, belonging to Lahmatta ("area with little snow”), by which White Bird Canyon was known to the Nez Perce. His following was second in size to Joseph's, and did not exceed 50 men.  On the night Chief Joseph surrendered, he slipped away and led his people into Canada.

Walammottinin (Hair Bunched and Tied, but more commonly known as Twisted Hair )- In 1805, Lewis and Clark entrusted him and two others to keep their horses while they continued to the Pacific Ocean in boats. Father of Timothy, a prominent member of the pro treaty faction in 1877.

Wrapped in the Wind (’elelímyeté'qenin’/ háatyata'qanin') -

Rainbow (Wahchumyus), war leader of a non-treaty band, ), who became the father of Timothy, a prominent member of the "Treaty" faction in 1877. killed in the Battle of the Big Hole.

Five Wounds (Pahkatos Owyeen), He was wounded in right hand at the Battle of the Clearwater and killed in the Battle of the Big Hole.

Red Owl (Koolkool Snehee), He was a war leader of a non-treaty band.

Poker Joe, a.k.a. Lean Elk - He was half French Canadian and Nez Perce. He was a warrior and subchief. He was chosen trail boss and guide of the Nez Percé people following the Battle of the Big Hole. He was killed in the Battle of Bear Paw.

Timothy (Tamootsin, 1808–1891), leader of the treaty faction of the Alpowai (or Alpowa) band of the Nez Percé. He was the first Christian convert among the Nez Percé, was married to Tamer, a sister of Old Chief Joseph, who was baptized on the same day as Timothy.

Archie Phinney (1904–1949), He was a scholar and administrator who studied under Franz Boas at Columbia University and produced Nez Perce Texts , a published collection of Nez Perce myths and legends from the oral tradition.

Elaine Miles, Actress best known from her role in television's Northern Exposure.

Jack and Al Hoxie, Silent film actors. Their mother was Nez Perce, father unknown heritage.

Jackson Sundown (Waaya-Tonah-Toesits-Kahn, meaning "Blanket of the Sun" or "Earth Left by the Setting Sun." ) a.k.a.  , (1863-December 18, 1923) Nez Perce war veteran and rodeo champion. He was the first native American to win the World Saddle Bronc Championship at the 1916 Pendleton Round-Up. He was a nephew of Chief Joseph.

Claudia Kauffman, a former state senator in Washington state.

Fool Soldiers - A drum group that includes members of several nations, including Sans Ark Lakota, Nez Perce, Colville, Tshimsin, Turtle Mountain Chippewa, Crow, Assiniboine-Sioux, Yakama, and Umitilla.
Red Tail Singers - A drum group of Yakama & Nez Perce from Lapwai, ID

Nez Perce Tribes:

Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation (Chief Joseph's Band) (F) (Washington)
Coeur d' Alene Tribe (A small remnant of Nez Perce live on this reservation.)
Nez Perce Tribe of Idaho (F) (Idaho)

 

Article Index:

Jackson Sundown, Nez Perce World Champion Bronc Rider

Jackson SundownJackson Sundown, a nephew of Chief Joseph, was with him on the flight of the Nez Perce in 1877. He was the first native American to win a World Championship Bronc Rider title in 1916, at the age of 53, more than twice the age of the other competitors who made it to the final round. He is also the oldest person to ever win a rodeo world championship title. He was posthumously inducted into the Pendleton Round-Up Hall of Fame in 1972, into the National Cowboys of Color Museum and Hall of Fame in 1983, and the American Indian Athletes Hall of Fame in 1994.

Nez Perce Chief Lawyer “Hallahotsoot”

Chief Lawyer “Hal-hal-hoot-soot” was the son of a Salish speaking Flathead woman and Twisted Hair, the Nez Perce man who welcomed and befriended Lewis and Clark in the fall of 1805. He was designated as Head Chief of the Nez Perce for the signing of the 1855 and controversial 1863 Treaty.

Old Chief Joseph (Tuekakas), Nez Perce Chief

Old Chief Joseph (Tuekakas), was leader of the Wallowa Band and one of the first Nez Percé converts to Christianity and a vigorous advocate of the tribe’s early peace with whites, and father of Chief Joseph (also known as In-mut-too-yah-lat-lat or Young Joseph). He was chief of the Nez Perce from 1785—1871.