Marianne Millar “Good Woman”
The Nez Perce lived in the Plateau region of what is now northwestern U.S. and southwestern Canada. They specifically ranged from eastern Washington and Oregon to northern Idaho and even ventured into Montana, hunting buffalo and trading with the Plains Indians especially the Crow.
Faced with the loss of their land, the loss of their freedom, and their very way of life, the Nez Perce, under the leadership of Chief Joseph and Ollakot or “Looking Glass”, decided to leave their homeland and seek sanctuary in Canada. Thus, in 1877, nearly eight hundred Nez Perce began a journey of some seventeen hundred miles, outmaneuvering some of the best military strategists of the day for almost four months. Unfortunately, with his people starving and freezing, and with many of them already dead, Joseph was forced to surrender within about 30 miles of the Canadian border.
On September 30, 1877 Kapkap-Ponmi or “Sound of Running Feet,” a young girl of only 12, was out checking on the horse herd with her Father, Chief Joseph, west of Snake Creek. Suddenly they were under attack from Colonel Miles’ troops. Joseph caught Kapkap-Ponmi a pony and told her to escape. Later, Joseph sent Yellow Wolf to find Kapkap-Ponmi and bring her back to him. Yellow Wolf did find her but did not bring her back to Joseph. Instead Yellow Wolf, along with Kapkap-Ponmi, joined White Bird’s band and escaped, finally making it to Canada.
After Joseph’s own famous yet unsuccessful attempt to lead the rest of his Nez Perce people to freedom in Canada, he and his tribe were held by the U.S. Government practically as prisoner’s of war.
In 1878 Kapkap-Ponmi traveled back into the U.S. Upon her capture, she was turned over to her aunt and placed in the Lapwai Agency School where she was simply known as Sarah. Married in 1879 to another Nez Perce, George Moses, Kapkap-Pomni died childless some years later of malaria at Lapwai.
As part of his punishment, Joseph was never allowed again to see his children. In his notes, the educator and historian Edmond S. Meany records a short story in which he describes a meeting with the prominent Nez Perce Chief and was shown many of Joseph’s keepsakes. Among these, Meany records, was “a little chest in which was a hundred or more photographs. (Joseph) knew them all and told of his experiences on the warpath with the soldiers. A little picture he held on one brown palm while he fondly stroked it with the other. He spoke from his scant supply of English words: ‘Good Woman.’ Other pictures were shown but three times he came back to the little one of the ‘Good Woman.’ Asking to see it, I found written on the back: ‘To Chief Joseph from his loving daughter Sarah.’ I knew that Joseph’s children had all died and there I saw an Indian’s heart greater in a father’s grief than in a warrior’s glory.
Acrylic mixed media 48″ x 72″
(Click images to enlarge)
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