• Nez Perce National Historical Park. Front Page banner photograph is of Heart of the Monster, an ancient place where the Nez Perce creation story originates. The secondary page photograph is of Nez Perce beadwork.

    Nez Perce

    National Historical Park ID,MT,OR,WA

Old Chief Joseph Gravesite

Old Chief Josephs Gravesite at the base of Lake Wallowa, Joseph, Oregon

At the base of Lake Wallowa, in Joseph Oregon is the grave of Old Chief Joseph, the father of young Chief Joseph, one of the Nez Perce leaders in the events of 1877.

NPS Photograph

In 1926 2,500 people lined up to see the remains of tıwi·teq̉ıs or Old Chief Joseph interned at a new gravesite at the base of Lake Wallowa, overlooking the lands he once called home. Located in northeastern Oregon in the Nimiipuu or Nez Perce homeland, tıwi·teq̉ıs is the father of Chief Joseph, a leader during the conflict of 1877.

Ttıwi·teq̉ıs was born between 1785 and 1790 and grew to be a leader of the groups of Nimiipuu living in the Wallowa's. He signed the Treaty of 1855 but refused to put his mark to the Treaty of 1863. He died in 1871 but not before compelling his son to hold fast and defend his home land and people, "My son, never forget my dying words, This country holds your father's body. Never sell the bones of your father and mother." Unfortunately, under the threat of being evicted by the US Army, Young Joseph left the Wallowas in the spring of 1877 for the Nez Perce Reservation in Idaho. When tıwi·teq̉ıs died, he was buried further down the valley but his grave was desecrated.

After the Nimiipuu left the valley in 1877, the land was settled and several prominent community leaders lobbied for tıwi·teq̉ıs to be reburied. In 1926 that happened. While the Nez Perce have been gone for over a century, the grave is a tangible link to a place that is still special to the Nez Perce.

Did You Know?

The great Nez Perce rodeo rider Jackson Sundown on his horse, circa 1920. NPS photo NEPE-HI-1922

Horses came into Nez Perce country about the 1730s and the Nez Perce became well known for their large herds of fine horses. The Nez Perce practiced selective breeding to obtain the traits of intelligence, endurance, and speed.