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Chief Joseph

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Chief Joseph

Chief Joseph was a profound and gracious man. He belonged to the Nez Perce tribe, a quite peaceful nation that spread from Idaho to Northern Washington. Chief Joseph was best known not only for his resistance to the U.S. Government's attempts to force his tribe onto reservations, but for his articulate and expressive speeches and mannerisms. He lived quietly with his counterparts, neither wanting nor causing any harm.

This, however, made absolutely no difference to the white man. Chief Joseph realized from an early age that he and his people were no match for the white man's barbaric ways and weapons. He carried this heavy load throughout his entire life, but not until late in his life, when he presumably died of a "broken heart", did he let this fact darken his view of either the world or life itself. He was once quoted saying, "The earth and myself are of one mind." No white man could take that peace of mind, that intrepid balance from him.

The Nez Perce lived quietly for a short time until the whites unjustly began to wreak havoc on their lives. Years before, when Lewis and Clark had first come to America, they had made friends with the Nez Perce. They were allowed to pass through the country and were also granted a promise that the Indians would never make war with the whites. The Nez Perce had kept this promise, the whites were the ones to fall short, very short. It began first with the stealing of cattle, threats and other unnecessary belittlements. It seemed to Joseph the white men wanted war, the Indians with all of their hearts, did not.

Eventually, though, it became obvious that war was unavoidable. A treaty had been signed designating land to the Indians, years later the whites came up with a new treaty, greatly reducing the amount of land given to the Indians. This was completely unacceptable to Chief Joseph and his tribe, they would not settle for that. And so the war began. After months of fighting and forced marches, the numbers of the Nez Perce were severely reduced and they were sent to a reservation in what is now Oklahoma. Unfortunately, many did not even make it there, or they did not last long there if they did. An outrageous number died from freezing to death, starvation and malaria.

At this, Chief Joseph made his surrender speech, where he stated, "Hear me, my chiefs, I am tired. My heart is

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