Chief Joseph

Guardian of the People

American Heroes (Volume 1)

Candy Moulton

Forge Books

Chief Joseph (1840-1904) became a legend due to his heroic efforts to keep his people in their homeland in Oregon's Wallowa Valley despite a treaty that ordered them onto a reservation in Idaho. In 1877, when the US army forced the Nez Percé away from their lands, Joseph led his tribespeople on a 1,500-mile, four-month flight from western Idaho across Montana, through Yellowstone National Park and Wyoming, toward safety in Canada.

During this journey, the Army attacked the Indians several times; in one battle alone, at the Big Hole in western Montana, ninety Indian men, women, and children were killed. The Nez Percés' flight ended at the Bear's Paw mountains in northern Montana, just forty miles from the safety of the Canadian border. There the Army surrounded the Nez Percé, captured their horses, killed all but two of their primary chiefs, and forced their capitulation.
When Chief Joseph surrendered to military leaders he told them, "From where the sun now stands I will fight no more forever."

Promised by military commanders that they would be returned to Idaho, the Nez Percés were instead relocated to Indian Territory in Oklahoma where many died of fever and disease. Chief Joseph began a new fight-for better conditions for his people and the right to return to their home country. His diplomacy and eloquence won public support and ultimately resulted in the Nez Percé's return to Idaho and Washington.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

He Had Sharper Eyes

The old man's eyes were clouded with age, but his vision had not failed. "My son," he told the strong young man who held his feeble hand, "my body is returning to my Mother Earth. My spirit is going very soon to see the Great Spirit Chief. When I am gone, think of your country."

There had been more such advice and instruction about dispensation of his property in that final message from father to son, from an old headman to a young one, who both used the same white name: Joseph. "You are chief of these people. They look to you to guide them.


Praise for Chief Joseph

"The story of Chief Joseph is reflective of the forebearance and determination of the Nez Percé people. Candy Moulton has crafted a moving account of a major player in an epic chapter of American Indian history."--Jerome A. Greene, author of Nez Perce Summer, 1877 on Chief Joseph

"Our written history goes from the 700 page history by Alvin Josephy to other shorter works but none is more comprehensive than Chief Joseph: Guardian of the People for American Heroes. I appreciate Candy Moulton including details about our stay in and return from Oklahoma Territory."
--Charlie Moses, Jr. Chief Joseph Band, Nez Perce
Colville Reservation, Nespelem, Washington Treasurer, Nez Perce National Historical Trail Foundation

"Moulton writes with exquisite passion about one of America's greatest freedom fighters. Impeccably researched, Chief Joseph: Guardian of the People, will stand for generations as a testament to one man's heroic struggle to find a sanctuary for his people."
--W. Michael Gear and Kathleen O'Neal Gear, authors of People of the Raven

Reviews from Goodreads



  • Candy Moulton

  • Candy Moulton is the author of twelve Western history books including Everyday Life Among American Indians from 1800 to 1900, Writer's Guide to Everyday Life in the Wild West from 1840 to 1900, Roadside History of Wyoming, and Roadside History of Nebraska. Moulton makes her home near Encampment, Wyoming, where she edits the Western Writers of America Roundup Magazine, writes regularly for several magazines including True West, Wild West, Persimmon Hill, and American Cowboy. She is a member of the Nez Percé Trail Foundation, Lewis and Clark Heritage Trail Foundation, Oregon-California Trails Association, and Western Writers of America.


Available Formats and Book Details

Chief Joseph

Guardian of the People

American Heroes

Candy Moulton

Spur Awards - Winner


Forge Books