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Descendant Of Chief Joseph Dies At 87 Joe Redthunder Convinced Congress To Add Chief’s Grave, Other Sites To The Nez Perce National Historical Park

Associated Press

Joe Redthunder, the oldest direct descendant of Chief Joseph, who fought the U.S. Army in the last major military engagement between the government and an Indian tribe, has died at age 87.

Redthunder had devoted part of his last years to lobbying Congress for public recognition of his great-grandfather’s burial place on the Colville Indian Reservation in northcentral Washington.

Redthunder died early Monday at his home in Nespelem, Wash., on the reservation.

After their defeat by the Army in the Nez Perce War of 1877, Chief Joseph and his people were banished to the Colville reservation.

They had fought the Army across nearly 1,200 miles of Idaho, Wyoming and Montana in a futile attempt to escape to Canada. They were finally cornered in northern Montana, only a few miles from the Canadian border.

There Chief Joseph, wanting to end the suffering of women and children exposed to early winter weather, surrendered to Col. Nelson A. Miles on Oct. 5, 1877.

Chief Joseph later pleaded in vain with Congress to let his people return to their ancestral homeland in Oregon’s Wallowa Valley.

Redthunder, whose Indian name was Him-At-Ill-Ilp-Ilp, had more success, convincing Congress in 1972 to add Chief Joseph’s grave and 13 other sites in Washington, Idaho, Oregon and Montana to the Nez Perce National Historical Park.

He also had lobbied Congress since the 1950s to terminate Indian reservations, and was an adviser to the National Park Service regarding the historical park and the Nez Perce National Historic Trail.

Like Chief Joseph, who died in 1904, Redthunder spurned Christian missionaries and remained faithful to the traditional Seven Drums religion.

A Seven Drums funeral is scheduled today in Nespelem with burial at the Chief Joseph Cemetery.

Redthunder is survived by five sons, three daughters, 13 grandchildren and eight grandchildren. His wife and four children died earlier.

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