Voice of Reason

Chief Joseph: The Voice for Peace
By Lorraine Jean Hopping
(Sterling, New York, 2010, $5.95 paperback)

As a boy, Nez Perce leader Joseph played with missionaries’ children. The white and Native American kids had fun together even though they could not each others’ languages. Because of this early experience, he believed the two cultures could coexist peacefully. However, later events tested Joseph’s faith in human goodness. He saw white settlers kill innocent Nez Perce – and he saw their crimes go unpunished. He heard government officials promise the Nez Perce their land was secure and then order them to leave the same area. He saw his people, including his beloved brother, die in battle and on forced marches to reservations. But through it all, Joseph urged other Nez Perce not to take up arms, advocating diplomacy instead of violence.

In Chief Joseph: The Voice for Peace, Lorraine Jean Hopping explores the legendary leader’s life. She intertwines Joseph’s story with contextual information about the Nez Perce way of life and settlers’ attitudes toward Native Americans. When appropriate, she employs Nez Perce words, including “so-ya-pu” for white people. Hopping considers the role of religion, both Christian and Native American, in the conflict and unflinchingly relates the atrocities pioneers and government soldiers perpetrated against vulnerable Nez Perce women, children, elderly, and injured. Although Chief Joseph is informative, Hopping’s writing is always engaging and often moving, avoiding the textbook feel of many children’s biographies.

“Whenever the white man treats the Indian as they treat each other, then we will have no more wars,” said Chief Joseph. He hoped, one day, “that all people may be one people.” In Chief Joseph, Lorraine Jean Hopping introduces young readers to past injustices. With any luck, she may inspire some to battle for justice today and tomorrow.

Dorothy A. Dahm

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