Sunday, March 27, 2011

Chief Joseph

- Another installment in my series

Stories of the world during the time Winston Churchill lived in it: 1874 to 1965.

In 1877, when Winston Churchill was 3 years old, the Nez Perce Indians were told that they had to evacuate their lands and move on a reservation. Instead, they tried to immigrate to Canada, or anywhere where they could be left alone.

Their flight and the U.S. army’s pursuit of them was to take them across the Rocky Mountains, through present Yellowstone geysers area, and then north to Canada. They were stopped just 40 miles short of the Canadian border. It was an epic pursuit of 1,600 miles.

It was epic in another sense as well. It was the last, dramatic story in the theme of barbarian versus civilization. In ancient history, barbarian was on offense; in modern history, civilization moved took and held the offense.

This section of my book will tell the story of this campaign and of it’s larger context of a story that goes back to the beginnings of civilization.

This series consists of short summaries for passages from the book that I am writing. Graphic is that of another Churchill book that I really like.

Other Installments of this series (in progress).


  1. If the rule of law is symptomatic of "civilisation," then it was the Nez Perce who represented civilisation, and the United States that represented barbarism. The 1855 treaty with the Nez Perce secured much of the Nez Perce homeland for the "absolute and undisturbed use" of the tribe. The 1863 treaty with a fraction of the bands deprived the bands that did not sign of their lands. The Wallowa band, Joseph's group, was among those defrauded of their lands. Despite this injustice, they were attempting to comply in 1877 when war broke out.

  2. I do not think that "the rule of law" really quite does it. Rather civilization = metallurgy + literacy + agriculture. Without the above: 1) no metallurgy means cannot develop state-of-the-art weaponry; 2) Not being able to read/write is a huge bottleneck to advancement; and 3) agriculture is necessary for large populations and stability for cities and other advancements.