Issue Date: November 4, 1968
Printed By: Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Printing Method: Lithographed, engraved
Color: Black and multicolored
Issued to honor the American Indian, this stamp pictures Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce tribe. Chief Joseph was famous for his war strategy, as well as his courage, honor, and the consideration he showed his enemies.
Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce
Chief Joseph was born around 1840, the son of a chief. Joseph’s father was a Christian, and Joseph attended a mission school. In 1871, his father died, and he, in turn, became chief.
“It is cold, and we have no blankets. The little children are freezing to death. My heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands I will fight no more forever.” With those famous words, Chief Joseph, whose Indian name means “Thunder-traveling-to-loftier-heights,” ended the Nez Perce War.
Chief Joseph had led his people on a 15-week, more than 1,000-mile fighting retreat that ended only 40 miles from the safety of the Canadian border, where he had hoped to join Sioux Indians who had fled the United States.
Outnumbered 10-to-1, the Nez Perce repeatedly outmaneuvered the U.S. Army and actually gained the upper hand in several clashes. By the time Chief Joseph had surrendered on October 5, 1877, he was famous throughout America as “the Red Napoleon.” General William Sherman, who was very unsympathetic to the Nez Perce, praised their tactics, stating they “fought with almost scientific skill, using advance and rear guards, skirmish lines, and field fortifications.”
The fighting began in 1877, when the U.S. government ordered the Nez Perce to move to an undesirable reservation far from their traditional home in Oregon’s Wallowa Valley. After the surrender, the Nez Perce were promised they could again return to their tribal land. And although some eventually did, Chief Joseph never again saw the land of his birth.
Before his death in 1904, Chief Joseph personally spoke to President William McKinley on behalf of his people.