Chief Joseph


If the white man wants to live

In peace with the Indian……

He can live in peace.

Treat ALL men alike.


Give them all an even chance to

   Live and grow.

You might  as well expect the rivers

To run backwards as that any man,

 who was born a free man,

Should be contented when penned up…..

And denied the liberty to go

Where he pleases.


Let me be a free man,

 Free to travel, free to stop, free to work,

Free to choose my own teachers,

Free to follow the religion

Of my fathers, free to think

and talk, and act for myself.


        Chief Joseph (Nez Perce)    



Good words do not last long unless they amount to something.

 Words do not pay for my dead people.

 They do not pay for my country, now overrun by white men.

 They do not protect my father’s grave.

 They do not pay for all my horses and cattle.

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.

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



Nez Pierce (1840-1904)

Chief Joseph, known by his people 

as In-mut-too-yah-lat-lat (Thunder coming up over the land from the water), 

was best known for his resistance to the U.S.

 Government's attempts to force his tribe onto reservations.

 The Nez Perce were a peaceful nation spread from Idaho to Northern Washington. 

The tribe had maintained good relations with the whites after the Lewis and Clark expedition.

 Joseph spent much of his early childhood at a mission maintained by Christian missionaries.

In 1855 Chief Joseph's father, 

Old Joseph, signed a treaty with the U.S. ,

that allowed his people to retain much of their traditional lands. 

In 1863 another treaty was created that severely reduced the amount of land, 

but Old Joseph maintained that this second treaty was never agreed to by his people.

A showdown over the second "non-treaty" 

came after Chief Joseph assumed his role as Chief in 1877. 

After months of fighting and forced marches,

 many of the Nez Perce were sent to a reservation in what is now Oklahoma,

 where many died from malaria and starvation.

Chief Joseph tried every possible appeal to the federal authorities,

 to return the Nez Perce to the land of their ancestors.

 In 1885, he was sent along with many of his band to a reservation in Washington where,

 according to the reservation doctor,

 he later died of a broken heart.


Wise words from a very wise man

 who even these days is an example to many people



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