Alvin M. Josephy, Jr.

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Alvin M. Josephy, Jr. (May 18, 1915 – October 16, 2005) was an American historian who specialized in Native American issues. New York Times reviewer Herbert Mitgang called him in 1982 the "leading non-Indian writer about Native Americans".[1]

Josephy was born in Woodmere, New York. His mother was a daughter of publisher Samuel Knopf and a sister of Alfred A. Knopf.[1]

He graduated in 1932 from the Horace Mann School in New York City and attended Harvard College, but family misfortune forced him to withdraw after two years. He worked as a Hollywood screenwriter, New York City newspaper correspondent, radio station news director, the Washington Office of War Information, and in the Pacific theater as United States Marine Corps combat correspondent.

After the war, Josephy returned to Hollywood where he wrote for the movies, for a local newspaper, and for veterans groups.[2] There he married his second wife, Elizabeth Peet. They moved to Greenwich, Connecticut, around 1952 when Alvin joined Time as the photo editor. One assignment sparked interest in the history of indigenous peoples of the Americas, especially the Nez Perce people who lived primarily in Oregon and Idaho. He developed that interest largely in his free time and from 1960 worked for the magazine American Heritage.[1][3]

Josephy's works include The Patriot Chiefs (1961); Chief Joseph's People and Their War (1964); The Nez Perce Indians and the Opening of the Northwest (1965); The Indian Heritage of America (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1968); Red Power: The American Indians' Fight for Freedom (1971); and Now That the Buffalo's Gone (1982);[1] also Black Hills, White Sky; The Civil War in the American West and History of the Congress of the United States.[2]

Josephy served as an advisor to both Stewart Udall and Richard Nixon on Federal Indian Policy. He had strongly disagreed with Eisenhower Administration policy, as President Nixon did in retrospect.[1] (More than 100 tribes had lost federal recognition and their land holdings under "termination" and forced assimilation. The Nixon administration adopted "self-determination" and encouraged cultural survival.)[3]

Alvin and Elizabeth Peet Josephy were married 56 years until her death in 2004. He died at home in Greenwich one year later, survived by one child from his first marriage, three from his second, and their descendants.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "American Indian Historian Alvin Josephy Jr. Dies", Adam Bernstein, The Washington Post, October 18, 2005.
  2. ^ a b "Alvin Josephy (1915-2005)", Rich Wandschneider, The Oregon Encyclopedia.
  3. ^ a b "Alvin Josephy: A gentle, graceful advocate for sovereignty", Rebecca A. Miles, High Country News, December 12, 2005.