Chief Joseph: Chief Joseph Surrenders

Author: Chief Joseph
Year: 1877
Location: Montana territory, the US
Occasion: Surrender to General Miles after an attempt to escape to Canada

Critical Commentary:

This very short but heartbreaking speech was given to the General Nelson A. Miles and his soldiers, when Chief Joseph decided to stop fighting and surrender. Chief Joseph, known among his people as the “Thunder Traveling to the Loftier Mountain Heights”, was the leader of his people. When the US government decided to settle them in the Idaho reservation, the tribe of Nez Perce opposed. Chief Joseph wanted to avoid the fight and death and called both sides to be cooperative and calm. However, the tribesmen killed several white men. Fearing the revenge, Chief Joseph led his people to Canada. They had to fight with the US troops on their way to Canada and finally they were defeated. Chief Joseph had to surrender to the US General Nelson. Desperate, Chief Joseph proclaimed this speech which demonstrated that he did not want the war then, and he wants peace now.

Text of the Speech

Tell General Howard I know his heart. What he told me before, I have it in my heart. I am tired of fighting. Our Chiefs are killed; Looking Glass is dead, Ta Hool Hool Shute is dead. The old men are all dead. It is the young men who say yes or no. He who led on 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 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.

Marco Douglas