Many people have heard of Young Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce (Nimiipuu) Indian people who said, "I will Fight No More Forever."
He said this after leading his people on an 1,800 mile trek through Idaho, Oregon, Montana and Wyoming after they were ordered to leave their home in the Wallowa Valley of Oregon and become permanent residents on a small reservation in Idaho. Eventually Chief Joseph had to surrender because the Nimiipuu warriors were dead, the elderly were freezing, the children were starving, and the women were alone.
Old Chief Joseph was the father and namesake of Young Chief Joseph. He converted to Christianity in 1839, and tried to live in peace with white settlers who kept coming and coming from the East. He signed the treaty in 1855, that gave much land to the white people but protected Wallowa Valley as a sacred homeland for his people. After gold was found nearby, white miners and settlers pushed the US government to break the 1855 treaty and force a new one on the Nimiipuu that took away 90 percent of their traditional lands. Chief Joseph renounced Christianity and refused to recognize the treaty. He died in 1871, and was buried by the forks of the Wallowa and Lostine Rivers north and west of Wallowa Lake. In 1886, white settlers desecrated his grave and took his skull as a souvenir.
By 1926, the hearts and minds of the children and grandchildren of the original settlers had changed. Or perhaps the farmer who plowed the land where Chief Joseph was buried was tired of plowing around the grave. Local whites dug up Old Chief Joseph's skeleton, identifying it by the lack of a skull, and reburied it at the north end of Wallowa Lake. Some say 2,000 people attended the reburial. Some say that 6,000 attended the ceremony. The grave has become a holy site for the Nimiipuu. It is also a site visited and contemplated by many non-Indians. Many people leave mementos -- feathers, plastic toy horses, bead jewelry and much more.
This grave site sits at the terminus of the glacial moraine that dams Wallowa Lake. Sitting by the memorial, you can see the lake and the Wallowa Mountains beyond.