He led his band during the most tumultuous period in their contemporary history when they were forcibly removed from their ancestral lands in the Wallowa Valley by the United States federal government and forced to move northeast, onto the significantly reduced reservation in Lapwai, Idaho Territory.
For his principled resistance to the removal, he became renowned as a humanitarian and peacemaker.
He was known as Young Joseph during his youth because his father, Tuekakas, was baptized with the same Christian name, later becoming known as "Old Joseph" or "Joseph the Elder."
Joseph the Younger succeeded his father as leader of the Wallowa band in 1871.
In his last years Joseph spoke eloquently against the injustice of United States policy toward his people and held out the hope that America's promise of freedom and equality might one day be fulfilled for Native Americans as well.
The saga of Chief Joseph is depicted in the 1982 poem "Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce" by Robert Penn Warren.
In the children's fiction book, Thunder Rolling in the Mountains, by Newbery medalist Scott O'Dell and Elizabeth Hall, the story of Chief Joseph is told by Joseph's daughter, Sound of Running Feet.
Chief Joseph is portrayed sympathetically in Will Henry's 1959 novel of the Nez Perce War, From Where The Sun Now Stands.
From 1969 to 1970, the late actor George Mitchell played Chief Joseph on Broadway in the play Indians, the source of Robert Altman's film Buffalo Bill and the Indians, or Sitting Bull's History Lesson.
In July 2012, Chief Joseph's 1870s war shirt was sold to a private collection for the sum of $877,500.
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Short about Chief Joseph
succeeded his father Tuekakas (Chief Joseph the Elder) as the leader of the Wal-lam-wat-kain (Wallowa) band of Nez Perce, a Native American tribe indigenous to the Wallowa Valley in northeastern Oregon