Headline: "Evil Spirit of Press Fills Chief with Awe," Spokane Press, November 20, 1903 (page number?)

Subject: Chief Joseph's visit to Spokane

Synopsis: Chief Joseph stopped by The Press to visit, see a typesetting machine, and give a brief interview. A translator accompanied him though some of the interview is in his native language.

Notable Quotation: "Away out in the Nespellm country, his present hunting ground, reached by stage coach by the mountains, now covered with four feet of snow, the big Chief Joseph sits day after day in his tent before the fire thinking of many things; and, somehow, he began wondering about the white man's printing devil. So he took a trip to The Press office to see the manitou."

Observation: This is an amazing and poignant article -- more is happening beneath the surface than in the report itself. Here is Chief Joseph, many years after his flight to the Canadian border, quietly observing a newspaper office. His translator, Red Cloud, was a younger man, more familiar with white civilization and dressed in a combination of "civilization and barbarism." He refers to Joseph as "the Indian" suggesting that he himself is somewhat different. Joseph reveals that he misses his homeland in the Wallowa Valley -- and refuses mysteriously to reveal his wife's name.

 

"Evil Spirit of Press Fills Chief with Awe"

"Red Thunder" and "Joseph" Come Many Leagues to See the Wonders and Marvels of Spokane.

 

Big Chief Joseph, the once ferocious Indian fighter, who baffled General Miles a decade and a half ago, unexpectedly dropped into The Press office on a queer quest. He is now 68, stiff and rheumatic, but stolid and erect.

The Press knew something of mighty portent was in the air. Chief Joseph was permitted undisputed possession of his corner for a long time, from which with leaden, unblinking glances from bead-like eyes, he continued to gaze at the miserable white slaves, writing, writing, always writing.

With imperturbable tranquility Chief Joseph held his own thoughts. He was dressed in a faded gray overcoat, wore one fox-skin glove and carried a slender stick, capped with a gold band. His cream-colored hat had evidently once belonged to a trapper.

A young warrior, who finally turned out to be Red Thunder, acted as interpreter. Now this Red Thunder is a fine, big, athletic fellow, six feet tall, strait as a pine and as strong as an elk. His dress was an imposing jumble of civilization and barbarism. His broad-brimmed, tan-colored hat was brilliantly set off with a bunch of peacock's feathers, about six inches long; his neckcloth, vivid crimson, suggested his name, Red Thunder. In his ears were rings of turquoise, half concealed by his thick black hair, which he wore parted in the middle like a woman, the two long braids adroitly falling over his ears and finally disappearing under the scarlet handkerchief.

Red Thunder, after a most impressive pause, explained that Big Joseph wished to see a typesetting machine at wark [work].

Yes, the big chief, the former friends and councilor of the ferocious Geronimo, wished to inspect the white man's great wonder, the machine that speaks on paper. Away out in the Nespelim country, his present hunting ground, reached by stage coach through the mountains, now covered with four feet of snow, the big Chief Joseph sits day after day in his tent before the fire thinking of many things; and, somehow, he began wondering about the white man's printing devil. So he took a trip to The Press office to see the manitou.

He was finally led beside the Mergenthalers. At first sight the old Indian chief assumed a blank look, from which he never roused himself, but kept motionless for half an hour, wondering, looking, but asking no explanation, interpreting the thing in his secret heart of hearts, but not for the white men, who patiently waited the world. The incessant rumbling of the flying wheels, so mysteriously writing in hot lead, the jarring, the clattering, the throbbing, like the sob of the hurricane, filled Chief Joseph with a species of inexpressible awe. He was certainly studying the evil spirit in all its wheels and arms, but no word of surprise escaped him, no change of glance, and like a graven image, with arched eyebrows, his frown continued to deepen, his angry looks to grow more black and ominous. Red Thunder, the young man, uneasily watched his chief, awaiting the slightest word­but the lord of the Wallowa valley gave no sign.

Once more seated in the editorial room, a strange interview was soon in small-like progress. Chief Joseph takes sinful leisure in answering even the simplest question. Asked about his medals, he replied after about two minutes:

"I have two; one, Great Father McKinley; other, Great Father Roosevelt. On each the word, 'tilicum,' or friendship."

"Any papoose, chief?"

Two minutes' silence.

"Nine papoose."

"Mamaloose?" (Are they dead?)

A minute's silence.

"Nowitka." (Yes, dead.)

"You dress in feathers any more, Joseph?"

"Sunday, feathers, paint, moccasins, red and blue blanket."

"Church?"

"No church."

"Get up in the mornings, early, winter?"

"Sun by mittlwo." (There, so high, pointing, 5 o'clock.)

"Go bed night?"

"Moosum." (Sleep, 9 o'clock.)

"What you think of, by fire?"

A very long pause.

"Nothing, think."

"Red Thunder big hunter?"

"Kill mowick." (Deer.)

"Red Thunder's name?"

"In mat ilp ilp."

"Joseph's name?"

"En mo tiao wis."

"What you ask White Father Roosevelt?"

"My land back, Wallowa valley; my people back . But no give, no give."

"What wife's name?"

After much mysterious talk between Red Thunder and Joseph, the young Indian shook his head. "Indian no give squaw's name," he said, with a slight smile. Even Joseph's imperturbable expression broke, and a vague curiosity crept into his leaden eyes.

The chief could not understand why a lord and master should deign [to] mention his wife.

 

Research Questions:

  • Who was Red Cloud?
  • When had Joseph met "White Father Roosevelt"? (Presumably this was President Theodore Roosevelt.)
  • Where does the term "lord and master" come from -- used in the last line?
  • What did it mean to Chief Joseph to see the printing press. Why did he care about it?
  • What is a "Mergenthalers"? (Presumably it was a kind of printing press.)