The Nez Perce tribe in Idaho/Oregon just purchased about 150 acres of the 7 million acres of tribal land stolen from them some 150 years ago.
I’ve always honored Chief Joseph for his resistance to that broken treaty and forced removal. His photo hangs in my office, with a dignified sadness etched into his face. Image of both strength and resignation.
What would he think of the irony?
Buying back your own land!
Why wasn’t the land given back?
During the 1855 treaty negotiations at Walla Walla, the Tribe insisted on retaining these inherent rights. Tribal leaders negotiated retention of approximately 7.5 million acres to be protected as the Tribe’s exclusive reservation.
Once gold was discovered, mass trespass and theft took place within the Tribe’s reservation. Instead of protecting the reservation from encroachment, the federal government forced the Tribe into a second treaty in 1863, which reduced the reservation to about 750,000 acres. A third treaty in 1868 primarily dealt with timber trespass issues.
In 1871, the federal government ceased the treaty-making process with Tribes. However, the federal government later imposed the Allotment Act upon the Tribe, sending a surveyor to determine and assign parcels to individual tribal members, then declaring the remaining reservation area open for non-Indian settlement.