The Nez Perces tribe did not know other people besides the Indian existed until “one hundred winters ago” (Speech by Chief Joseph). This speech was made in 1879, so the first encounter between the Nez Perces and whites would have been approximately in 1779. These initial settlers were French and brought new items into the Native American culture, such as tobacco and guns with flint stones. Although they could not communicate with each other, they would use signs that everyone could understand. The Nez Perces were split in their opinions about the settlers due to them telling the natives some truths and some lies. Despite the varied opinions of the French settlers, the interactions between the two groups were pleasant. The interactions between whites and the Nez Perces continued to be pleasant with the arrival of Lewis and Clark. They would exchange gifts with each other and host feasts in order to show their friendly hearts. The Nez Perces and Lewis and Clark became friends and the natives stated “never to make war on white men” (Speech by Chief Joseph).
Although Chief Joseph’s father was assured by Rev. Mr. Spaulding that the whites did not want the natives land, they soon started to settle on native land. Initially, the natives believed there was room for everyone. They welcomed them and allowed them to settle upon their land. As the greedy, white men became more and more rich, they also became more land hungry and began taking land that was not theirs. Chief Joseph’s father warned against trading with them, as to not accept “gifts” as payment for their land. Afterwards, Governor Stevens invited all of the Nez Perces to a council to discuss a treaty in which they would mark out land for the whites, in order to be separated from the natives. Stevens stated there were already a lot of white people settled in the country and many more were coming. He stated in order to live in peace, the Nez Perces must stay in the marked land for them, essentially forcing them to move onto the reservation, thus changing the interactions between the natives and whites forever.
Chief Joseph’s father was never too fond of the white men. He was always cautious around them because he knew what they were capable of. He was “the first to see throu