Oregon and Idaho are contending over who has the best claim to the legacy of Chief Joseph, the Nez Perce leader.
From the Associated Press:
SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Oregon lawmakers are considering a recommendation that Nez Perce leader Chief Joseph and suffragette Abigail Scott Duniway replace two other symbols of the state among the statues on display at the U.S. Capitol.
But Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter says not so fast.
In a letter to Oregon leaders, Otter says Chief Joseph might have more of a historical connection to his state.
“Chief Joseph’s story and legacy in the Northwest is indeed historically notable,” Otter wrote. “But a close examination of history may indicate a more significant historical tie to Idaho than any other state in our region. I therefore would urge a careful analysis of the chief’s history, and I will be grateful for your kind consideration of Idaho in this regard.”
In 1877, Joseph led his people of of their Wallowa Mountain homeland in Oregon across Idaho and Montana in a vain attempt to escape into Canada. The great retreat of the Nez Perce came after young men, enraged over the imminent loss of their beautiful homeland, killed several white settlers. The 1,400-mile journey was something of a military masterpiece, though the credit for the fighting retreat belongs more to Looking Glass than to Joseph, who was not a military figure but more of a civic leader. Looking Glass made a fatal error in allowing his people to stop at Big Hole, short of the Canadian border. U.S. troops surprised the Nez Perce there, killed many in their lodges and rounded up most of the fugitive Indians. Looking Glass was killed trying to make it into Canada and Joseph was exiled to Oklahoma.
His eloquence and concern for his people made him a tragic symbol of the crushing of the native peoples in the late 19th Century.