"The Surrender of Joseph - 1877"

36" x 48" Oil on Linen

In October of 1877 several bands of Nez Perce Indians, who had fled Idaho in a brilliant but ultimately ill fated attempt to escape the US Army,  stopped and were trapped in North Central Montana in an area of coulees and willows.  The Nez Perce were caught just 40 miles from the US/Canada border and most thought they were safely across.  They were fatally wrong.  They were besieged by the US Army under the command of Colonel Nelson A Miles.  The area became known as the Bear Paw Battlefield and is near present day Chinook, Montana.  It later became a sacred site for the Nez Perce.  The Army was comprised of the 2nd Cavalry, the 7th Cavalry, and the 5th Mounted Infantry.  During the siege, over 300 of the people did manage to escape during the night to the North, into Canada and lived, for a time, with the Sioux and Sitting Bull.  Most of the tribe, however, being forced to stay, suffered greatly. 

 

After Chief Looking Glass, the War Chief who led the fight, was killed, Chief Joseph made the decision to stop the suffering and quit the war.  He gave an extraordinary and famous speech to the remaining tribal council.  That speech was transmitted verbatim to Col. Miles by Lean Elk (aka: Poker Joe.)   Sometime later, Joseph rode with five warriors out of the swale onto a small bench to meet Colonel Miles, General Howard, and their staffs to surrender his rifle to General Howard as Colonel Miles and their staffs watched close by.  The General demurred and motioned that Joseph should Surrender to Miles. which was done.

 

 By that time, it was very late afternoon and the sun was "at the level of the prairie."

 

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