Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Wallowa Valley, Craters of the Moon and Chief Joseph

While flying to Colorado I had some great aerial photographs of the Washington landscape as I passed high overhead. But I had some great geology views beyond Washington State and afterwards recognized that these places were part of the story behind one of the greatest leaders that ever lived in Washington.

Lake Wallowa and the Wallowa Mountains, northeast Oregon
A clasic glacial morain lake protruding out from the mountains into the Wallowa Valley

The Snake River and Hells Canyon on the border of Oregon and Idaho is the deepest canyon in the United States

The dark area in the central portion of the photograph are the lava beds of Craters of the Moon National  Monument

Besides the cool geology of these areas, these sites are part of a great tragic tale. The Wallowa Valley was the principal homeland of Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce. Joseph and his people lived in the valley with their herds of horses in the summer and utilized the low elevations along the deep Snake River Canyon during the winter. But the Wallowa Valley attracted early American settlers and the United States was unwilling to stop the encroachment on Nez Perce land. Eventually the U.S. Army ordered the Nez Perce to leave the valley. Joseph held out hope that he could successfully plead his case and return to the valley, but while leaving for the designated reservation in Idaho a band of his men attacked a group of Americans. Joseph decided to keep his entire band together and began a long trek across the Idaho, Wyoming and Montana all the while being tracked by the U.S. Army. The Nez Perce despite traveling with elderly tribal members, women and children successfully eluded the army and at Craters of the Moon won a key victory over the army.

In the end the tribe failed to reach Canada or gain help from other tribes. Joseph and surrendered a few miles south of the Canadian border where he was reported to state "From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever." Joseph and his band were sent to Oklahoma. The band was allowed to return to the Northwest where members were given a choice - they could live on the Nez Perce Reservation if they cut their hair and gave up many of the customs and become Christians or live on the Colville Reservation. Joseph chose the Colville where he lived in Nespelum, Washington along with Chief Moses. He was never allowed to return to his beloved Wallowa Valley.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I live in this area and this was indeed a sad story. Chief Joseph and Chief Moses are to this day, held in high regard. If you ever get a chance to visit Chief Joseph Dam, you should. It is very beautiful up in that area.