Old Chief Joseph Lesson for Kids: Biography & Facts

Instructor: Heather Jenkins

Heather has a bachelor's degree in elementary education and a master's degree in special education. She was a public school teacher and administrator for 11 years.

During the early years of American history, there were many important Native Americans. Old Chief Joseph was a famous tribal chief in the northwestern part of the United States. In this lesson, you will learn about Old Chief Joseph's life and accomplishments.

Who Was Old Chief Joseph?

Have you ever had a new family move in next door to your family? Sometimes having new neighbors is awesome, but sometimes it isn't. This was unfortunately the case for Old Chief Joseph.

Old Chief Joseph, also known as Tuekakas, was born between 1785 and 1790. He served as the chief of the Wallowa Nez Perce tribe in Oregon. Over the course of his life, Old Chief Joseph saw many changes happen as settlers moved out to the western parts of the United States.

Drawing of Old Chief Joseph

In 1834, the first settlers came into the Nez Perce lands. Old Chief Joseph welcomed the settlers with a feast. This would be like you inviting the new kid at school to play at your house. Old Chief Joseph was anxious to hear about the United States and the travels of the men.

Over the years, he would continue to welcome fur traders and missionaries. Missionaries were people who traveled around preaching about God and converting people to Christianity. Old Chief Joseph was one of the first Nez Perce to convert to Christianity. His wife also converted, they were married in a Christian church, and they raised their children to be Christians.

Unfortunately, the good times didn't last for long.

Old Chief Joseph and the US Government

Have you ever had a big bag of candy and your friend asks you for a piece? After you give them a piece, have they ever asked for another? And another? And another, until you're almost out of candy?! Well, this is very similar to what happened when the settlers continued to want more and more of Old Chief Joseph's land.

As more and more settlers moved out west, the United States government became more interested in taking the Nez Perce lands. In 1855, Old Chief Joseph signed a treaty with the government to give them some land, but that would still leave a lot of the Nez Perce land protected. A treaty is a written agreement between nations, like you promising to keep your room sparkling clean all week if your parents let you stay up late.

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