February 11, 2008

Writer rewrote Chief Joseph

Oregon icon who fought conventional wisdom

C.E.S. Wood--A documentary reveals a multi-faceted man who supported unpopular causesThe nation still reviled native peoples in the aftermath of Custer's Last Mistake (1876), but Wood's translation of Joseph's surrender speech fomented an improbable sympathy in the conquering culture:

"From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever."

Did Joseph really end a short, eloquent speech with that line worthy of Shakespeare? Or was it translator/reporter Wood's sympathetic spin?

Wood's granddaughter and great-granddaughters flatly say their forebear would never have embellished the truth. Other historians tell the camera that Joseph's public statement was little more than one sentence. However, they say, Joseph did say pretty much what Wood related so thrillingly, but in conference with his chiefs just before surrender and with Wood just after. Wood seemingly rearranged a few facts to tell a larger truth.

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