Quotes from Chief Joseph
The earth and myself are of one mind.
It does not require many words to speak the truth.
We were contented to let things remain as the Great Spirit made them.
I am tired of fighting from where the sun now stands, I will fight no more.
The Great Spirit Chief who rules above all will smile upon this land and this time the Indian race is waiting and praying.
Good words cannot give me back my children. Good words will not give my people good health and stop them from dying. Good words will not get my people a home where they can live in peace and take care of themselves.
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.
I am tired of talk that comes to nothing. It makes my heart sick when I remember all the good words and all the broken promises. There has been too much talking by men who had no right to talk.
Chief Joseph was born Hin-mah-too-yah-lat-kekt, in 1840, in the Wallowa Valley. His Native American name means Thunder Rolling Down a Mountain, but he was known as Joseph, like his father, Tuekakas. who had taken the name Joseph after being baptized in 1838, and was called Joseph the Elder.
Joseph the Elder had been one of the  Nez Percé leaders that had converted to Christianity, and it was because of him that the tribe lived in peace with their white neighbors. In 1855, there was a new treaty, that made a new reservation for the Nez Perce. But then gold was discovered in the Nez Percé territory, a large number of white prospectors began to arriving on their lands. The United States government changed their minds, and took back millions of acres, it had promised to the Nez Percé people. After this Joseph destroyed his Bible. He refused the boundaries of the new reservation, and would not leave his home in the Valley.
The Nez Perce reservation in 1855 (green) and the reduced reservation of 1863 (brown).
Chief Joseph, the Elder, died in 1871 before he died he spoke to his son Joseph:
My son, my body is returning to my mother earth, and my spirit is going very soon to see the Great Spirit Chief. When I am gone, think of your country. You are the chief of these people. They look to you to guide them. Always remember that your father never sold his country. You must stop your ears whenever you are asked to sign a treaty selling your home. A few years more and white men will be all around you. They have their eyes on this land. My son, never forget my dying words. This country holds your father's body. Never sell the bones of your father and your mother.
Young Joseph became the chief of the Nez Perce.Joseph said I clasped my father's hand and promised to do as he asked. A man who would not defend his father's grave is worse than a wild beast. Chief Joseph, along with 2 other Nez Percé leaders, chiefs Looking Glass and White Bird, said no to the treaty, and to the tribes being moved off their land.In 1877, the three chiefs realizing what a war could mean for their people, backed down and agreed to the new reservation. Just before they were moved, warriors from White Bird's band attacked and killed several white settlers. Chief Joseph knew there would  war, so for the next four months he led his people on a 1,400 mile march toward Canada. With Chief Joseph were 700 Nez Perce, that included just 200 warriors. Along the way the Nez Perce, had a number of victories against the 2,000 soldiers that were pursing them.
Map of the flight of the Nez Perce and key battle sites
By the fall of 1877 Chief Joseph and his people had come within 40 miles of the Canadian border,reaching the Bear Paw Mountains of Montana, but they were exhausted,they could go no further and were too tired,beaten and starving and could fight no longer. Chief Joseph surrendered to his enemy saying
I am tired of fighting, he said. Our chiefs are killed. Looking Glass is dead. Toohoolhoolzote is dead. The old men are all dead. It is the young men who say, Yes or No. He who led the young men Olikut 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 time to look for my children, and see how many of them 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.
Chief Joseph and his people were taken, to Kansas, and then to Oklahoma. Chief Joseph tried for the next several years,to be allowed to take his pepole back on their land. He even met with President Rutherford Hayes in 1879.In 1885, Joseph and others were allowed to return to thePacific Northwest ,and the Colville Indian Reservation. So many of his people had already died, either from war or disease, and their new home was far from their true homeland in the Wallowa Valley.
CChief Joseph never saw his land again. He died on September 21, 1904, his doctor said he died of a broken heart. Chief Joseph was  buried in the Colville Indian Cemetery on the Colville Reservation in Washington.
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