cover image The Saga of Chief Joseph

The Saga of Chief Joseph

Helen Addison Howard. Bison, $19.95 trade paper (420p) ISBN 978-1-4962-0058-7

This new edition of journalist Howard’s classic 1941 biography of Nez Perce leader Hin-mut-too-yah-lat-kekht (1840–1904), known to whites as Chief Joseph, serves as a jarring reminder that the book, dedicated “to the original Americans—the red Indians of North America,” is as much a part of American history as its subject. In 1941, Howard published a popular, vivid narrative biography called War Chief Joseph that she hoped was motion-picture worthy. As Nicole Tonkovich, professor of American literature at U.C.–San Diego, points out in her illuminating introduction, Hollywood never called, but Howard continued her research on Joseph, working new information and new analyses into subsequent reprints. By the 1960s, she developed a different interpretation of Joseph—“a ‘guardian of the people,’ a diplomat, a peace leader and an occasional warrior”—and retitled the book. Unfortunately, these revisions didn’t extend to the “freighted language” Howard used to describe Native Americans and their culture. Howard’s outmoded language might put off some readers, but she clearly sympathized with Joseph and the Nez Perce. From Joseph’s years as a spiritual leader to the 1877 battle of the Bearpaw Mountains and surrender of the Nez Perce, Howard renders Joseph’s life and times in fine detail. Her storytelling reflects a sharp journalistic eye and a knack for the grand sweep of history. Illus. (Dec.)