Chief Joseph's Lament

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Chief Joseph's Lament

Very little of the spoken eloquence of Native Americans has survived, for painfully obvious reasons. But one great speech has become part of the American language. It was given in 1877 by the man known to whites as Chief Joseph (or, in the tongue of his people, Hinmaton-Yalaklit). He was a chief in the tribe that French explorers had named Nez Percé--"pierced nose"--because of their practice of wearing nose ornaments. When Joseph tried to lead a group of about 600 of his people out of Idaho to Canada to avoid reservation life. the United States army pursued them for over a thousand miles. On the long march, Joseph ran when he could and fought when he had to. Finally, only about thirty miles from Canada. with winter coming on and with about half of his men already wounded, Joseph surrendered.

“I Will Fight No More Forever”

Chief Joseph
"Tell General Howard I know his heart.. What he told me before I have in my heart. I am tired of fighting. The old men are all dead. It is the young men who say yes or no. Tohoohoolzote [Joseph's brother] who led the young men is dead. It is cold, and we have no blankets. The little children are freezing to death. My people, some of them, have run away to the hills, and have no blankets, no food; no one knows where they are--perhaps freezing to death. I want to have some time to look for my children, and see how many I can find. Maybe I shall find them among the dead. Hear me, my chiefs, I am tired; my heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever."

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