Chief Joseph's Words to Washington D.C. (1879)

March 21, 2014
Chief Joseph, also known as In-mut-too-yah-lat-lat (which means "Thunder-Traveling-to-Loftier-Mountain-Heights"), surrendered on October 5, 1877 in Idaho. Realizing his Nez Perce tribe could not keep their lands against the US army, he said, "Hear me, my chiefs; my heart is sick and sad. From where the Sun now stands, I will fight no more forever." These heartbroken words are not in the formal speech he later delivered in Washington D.C. In the published version in the North American Review, Chief Joseph accuses the Government of cheating and mistreating the tribe, but he ends with a hope for peace, freedom, and equality.
E-text available here.
They told us to treat all men as they treated us; that we should never be the first to break a bargain; that it was a disgrace to tell a lie; that we should speak only the truth; that it was a shame for one man to take from another his wife, or his property without paying for it.
We were taught to believe that the Great Spirit sees and hears everything, and that he never forgets; that hereafter he will give every man a spirit-home according to his deserts: if he has been a good man, he will have a good home; if he has been a bad man, he will have a bad home.
An Indian respects a brave man, but he despises a coward.
My father was the first to see through the schemes of the white men, and he warned his tribe to be careful about trading with them.
Some of the chiefs of the other bands of the Nez Perces signed the treaty, and then Governor Stevens gave them presents of blankets. My father cautioned his people to take no presents, for "after a while," he said, "they will claim that you have accepted pay for your country."
Since that time four bands of the Nez Perces have received annuities from the United States.
He said to me: "When you go into council with the white man, always remember your country. Do not give it away. The white man will cheat you out of your home.
He had no right to sell the Wallowa (winding water) country. That had always belonged to my father's own people, and the other bands had never disputed our right to it.
The United States claimed they had bought all the Nez Perces country outside of Lapwai Reservation, from Lawyer and other chiefs, but we continued to live on this land in peace until eight years ago, when white men began to come inside the bounds my father had set.
Neither Lawyer nor any other chief had authority to sell this land.
I do not need your help; we have plenty, and we are contented and happy if the white man will let us alone.
The reservation is too small for so many people with all their stock.
We had no friend who would plead our cause before the law councils.
We could have avenged our wrongs many times, but we did not.
We have had a few good friends among white men, and they have always advised my people to bear these taunts without fighting.
Our young men were quick-tempered, and I have had great trouble in keeping them from doing rash things.
When I think of our condition my heart is heavy. I see men of my race treated as outlaws and driven from country to country, or shot down like animals.
I know that my race must change. We can not hold our own with the white men as we are. We only ask an even chance to live as other men live. We ask to be recognized as men. We ask that the same law shall work alike on all men.
Let me be a free man--free to travel, free to stop, free to work, free to trade where I choose, free to choose my own teachers, free to follow the religion of my fathers, free to think and talk and act for myself--and I will obey every law, or submit to the penalty.
I hope that no more groans of wounded men and women will ever go to the ear of the Great Spirit Chief above, and that all people may be one people.

Rate this wordlist:

Do you have a comment?

Share it with the Visual Thesaurus community.

Your comments:

Sign in to post a comment!

We're sorry, you must be a subscriber to comment.

Click here to subscribe today.

Already a subscriber? Click here to login.

Create a new Word List