Chief Joseph

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I will tell you in my way how the Indian sees things. The white man has more words to tell you how they look to him, but it does not require many words to speak the truth.

Hinmaton-Yalaktit (Hin-mah-too-yah-lat-kekt) (1840 – September 21, 1904) was Leader of the Nez Perce; most commonly known as Chief Joseph, his Indian name means "Thunder Rolling Down the Mountain"

Sourced quotes

  • Perhaps you think the Creator sent you here to dispose of us as you see fit. If I thought you were sent by the Creator, I might be induced to think you had a right to dispose of me. Do not misunderstand me, but understand fully with reference to my affection for the land. I never said the land was mine to do with as I choose. The one who has a right to dispose of it is the one who has created it. I claim a right to live on my land and accord you the privilege to return to yours.
    • Speech rejecting the demands that he lead his people onto a reservation. (1876)
  • In the treaty councils the commissioners have claimed that our country had been sold to the Government. Suppose a white man should come to me and say, 'Joseph, I like your horses, and I want to buy them.' I say to him, 'No, my horses suit me, I will not sell them.' Then he goes to my neighbor, and says to him: 'Joseph has some good horses. I want to buy them, but he refuses to sell.' My neighbor answers, 'Pay me the money, and I will sell you Joseph's horses.' The white man returns to me and says, 'Joseph, I have bought your horses, and you must let me have them.' If we sold our lands to the Government, this is the way they were bought.
    • Arguing against the right of the US Government to force his people to leave their lands (1876)
Simple: The commissioners have claimed that our country has been sold to the government. Suppose someone came to me and said, I want to buy your horses, I say I do not want to sell. The man then goes and asks my neighbor if he can buy my horses off of him. The neighbor agrees and takes the money. If our land has been sold, it is in that way.

Lincoln Hall Speech (1879)

Washington DC (January 14, 1879)

  • I only ask of the Government to be treated as all other men are treated. If I cannot go to my own home, let me have a home in a country where my people will not die so fast.
Simple: I only ask of the government to be treated the same as other men. If you will not give me my home/land back, let me have a home in a country where we will not die.
  • When I think of our condition, my heart is heavy. I see men of my own race treated as outlaws and driven from country to country, or shot down like animals.
Simple: When I think on our condition, I am sad. I see fellow natives treated as outlaws and driven from country to country, or killed like animals.
  • I know that my race must change. We cannot 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. If an Indian breaks the law, punish him by the law. If a white man breaks the law, punish him also.
Simple: I know that we must change. We cannot stay equal with the white men as we are right now. We only ask for an equal opportunity to live as other men. To be recognized as men. That the same laws apply to all men. If a native breaks the law, punish him, and if a white man does, punish him as well.
  • 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 talk, think and act for myself — and I will obey every law or submit to the penalty."
  • Whenever the white man treats the Indian as they treat each other then we shall have no more wars. We shall be all alike — brothers of one father and mother, with one sky above us and one country around us and one government for all. Then the Great Spirit Chief who rules above will smile upon this land and send rain to wash out the bloody spots made by brothers' hands upon the face of the earth. For this time the Indian race is waiting and praying. I hope 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.
Simple: When the white man treats the Indian as they treat each other, we shall be at peace. We will all be alike - all family, with one sky above us, and part of one country, and a government for all. Then the Great Spirit Chief will look kindly on this land and send rain to wash away the bloody sport (war) made by brothers' hands upon the earth. For this the Indian race is waiting and praying. I hope no more pain of wounded men and women will be heard by the Great Spirit Chief, and that all may be one people.

Attributed

  • The Earth and myself are of one mind.
Simple: Nature and myself have the same goals
  • We do not want churches because they will teach us to quarrel about God, as the Catholics and Protestants do. We do not want to learn that. We may quarrel with men about things on earth, but we never quarrel about the Great Spirit.
  • I knew I had never sold my country, and that I had no land in Lapwai; but I did not want bloodshed. I did not want my people killed. I did not want anybody killed....I said in my heart that, rather than have war, I would give up everything rather than have the blood of white men upon the hands of my people.
  • I believe much trouble and blood would be saved if we opened our hearts more. I will tell you in my way how the Indian sees things. The white man has more words to tell you how they look to him, but it does not require many words to speak the truth.
  • Look twice at a two-faced man.
  • Cursed be he that scalps the reputation of the dead.
  • The eye tells what the tongue would hide.
  • Big name often stands on small legs.
  • Finest fur may cover toughest meat.

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