Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce died in exile on the Colville Indian Reservation in Washington State in 1904, after being rebuffed on two trips to Wallowa County, Oregon, to convince the local citizenry to allow him to buy land. He asked to be allowed to live out his days in the “land of winding waters” that held the bones of his father and his people. Denied, he lived out his days on the Colville, befriended by University of Washington professor Edmond Meany, and famously photographed by Meany’s friend, Edward Sheriff Curtis. A few short years after that Wallowa visit, living in a tipi on the Colville Reservation, Chief Joseph—Hin-mah-too-yah-lat-kekt—“died of a broken heart.” The New York Sun announced that “the most famous Indian in America” was gone.
In 1965, Alvin M. Josephy Jr.’s Nez Perce Indians and the Opening of the Northwest brought Joseph and the Nez Perce back to national attention. While working on that book, Josephy and his family fell in love with the Wallowa Country and bought a small ranch. Throughout his long working career, boxes of books and research material would be packed and shipped from the Josephy home in Greenwich, Connecticut to Joseph, Oregon, and then back the other way. The Josephy Library is based on material from those home libraries in Greenwich and Joseph, with special attention to Josephy’s own writings and to the history and culture of Indians and the West.
The library is housed in the Josephy Center for Arts and Culture on Main Street in the town of Joseph (“Joseph” and “Josephy” are only accidentally and serendipitously related). We tell the Nez Perce story—and other stories of Indian and Western history—with books and journals, guest speakers, blog posts, private conversations and presentations to local students, residents, guests, and groups from across the world.
The Alvin M. and Betty Josephy Library of Western History and Culture.
© 2017 Rich Wandschneider
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