AN INDIAN'S VIEWS OF INDIAN AFFAIRS
Young Joseph .
I WISH that I had words atcommand in which to express adequately the interest with which I have read theextraordinary narrative which followsand which I have the privilege ofintroducing to the readers of this "Review." I feelhoweverthatthis apologia is so boldly marked by the charming naďveté andtender pathos which characterize the red-manthat it needs no introductionmuch less any authentication; while in its smothered firein its deep sense ofeternal righteousness and of present eviland in its hopeful longings for thecoming of a better timethis Indian chief's appeal reminds us of one of the oldHebrew prophets of the days of the captivity.
I have no special knowledge of the history ofthe Nez Percésthe Indians whose tale of sorrow Chief Joseph so patheticallytells -- my Indian missions lying in a part at the West quite distant from theirold home -- and am not competent to judge their case upon its merits. Thechief's narrative isof courseex parteand many of his statementswould no doubt be ardently disputed. General Howardfor instancecan hardlyreceive justice at his handsso well known is he for his friendship to theIndian and for his distinguished success in pacifying some of the most desperate.
It should be rememberedtooin justice tothe armythat it is rarely called upon to interfere in Indian affairs until therelations between the Indians and the whites have reached a desperate conditionand when the situation of affairs has become so involved and feeling on bothsides runs so high that perhaps only more than human forbearance would attemptto solve the difficulty by disentangling the knot and not by cutting it.
Neverthelessthe chief's narrative is markedby so much candor
and so careful is he to qualify his statementswhen qualification seemsnecessarythat every reader will give him credit for speaking his honestevenshould they be thought by some to be mistakenconvictions. The chiefin histreatment of his defensereminds one of those lawyers of whom we have heardthat their splendid success was gainednot by disputationbut simply by theirlucid and straightforward statement of their case. That he is something of astrategist as well as an advocate appears from this description of an eventwhich occurred shortly after the breaking out of hostilities: "We crossedover Salmon Riverhoping General Howard would follow. We were not disappointed.He did follow usand we got between him and his suppliesand cut him off forthree days." Occasionally the reader comes upon touches of those sentimentsand feelings which at once establish a sense of kinship between all who possessthem. Witness his description of his desperate attempt to rejoin his wife andchildren when a sudden dash of General Miles's soldiers had cut the Indian campin two: "About seventy menmyself among themwere cut off. . . . Ithought of my wife and childrenwho were now surrounded by soldiersand Iresolved to go to them. With a prayer in my mouth to the Great Spirit Chief whorules aboveI dashed unarmed through the line of soldiers. . . . My clotheswere cut to piecesmy horse was woundedbut I was not hurt." And againwhen he speaks of his father's death: "I saw he was dying. I took his handin mine. He said: 'My sonmy body is returning to my mother Earthand myspirit is going very soon to see the Great Spirit Chief. . . . A few more yearsand the white men will be all around you. They have their eyes on this land. Mysonnever forget my dying words. This country holds your father's body -- neversell the bones of your father and your mother.' I pressed my father's handandtold him I would protect his grave with my life. My father smiledand passedaway to the spirit-land. I buried him in that beautiful valley of Winding Waters.I love that land more than all the rest of the world. A man who would not lovehis father's grave is worse than a wild animal."
His appeals to the natural rights of man aresurprisingly fineandhowever some may despise them as the utterances of anIndianthey are just those whichin our Declaration of Independencehave beenmost admired. "We are all sprung from a woman" he says"althoughwe are unlike in many things. You are as you were madeandas you were madeyou can remain.
We are just as we were made by the Great Spiritand you can not change us: thenwhy should children of one mother quarrel? Why should one try to cheat another?I do not believe that the Great Spirit Chief gave one kind of men the right totell another kind of men what they must do."
But I will not detain the readers of the"Review" from the pleasure of perusing for themselves Chief Joseph'sstatement longer than is necessary to express the hope that those who have timefor no more will at least read its closing paragraphand to remark that thenarrative brings clearly out these facts which ought to be regarded aswell-recognized principles in dealing with the red-man:
1. The folly of any mode of treatment of theIndian which is not based upon a cordial and operative acknowledgment of hisrights as our fellow man.
2. The danger of riding rough-shod over apeople who are capable of high enthusiasmwho know and value their nationalrightsand are brave enough to defend them.
3. The liability to want of harmony betweendifferent departments and different officials of our complex Governmentfromwhich it results thatwhile many promises are made to the Indiansfew of themare kept. It is a home-thrust when Chief Joseph says: "The white peoplehave too many chiefs. They do not understand each other. . . . I can notunderstand how the Government sends a man out to fight usas it did GeneralMilesand then break his word. Such a Government has something wrong about it."
4. The unwisdomin most cases in dealing withIndiansof what may be termed military short-cutsinstead of patientdiscussionexplanationspersuasionand reasonable concessions.
5. The absence in an Indian tribe of any trulyrepresentative body competent to make a treaty which shall be binding upon allthe bands. The failure to recognize this fact has been the source of endlessdifficulties. Chief Josephin this casedid not consider a treaty bindingwhich his band had not agreed tono matter how many other bands had signed it;and so it has been in many other cases.
6. Indian chiefshowever able and influentialare really without powerand for this reasonas well as othersthe Indianswhen by the march of events they are brought into intimate relations with thewhitesshould at the earliest practicable moment be given the support andprotection of our Government and of our law; not
MY friendsI have been asked to show you my heart. I am glad to have achance to do so. I want the white people to understand my people. Some of youthink an Indian is like a wild animal. This is a great mistake. I will tell youall about our peopleand then you can judge whether an Indian is a man or not.I believe much trouble and blood would be saved if we opened our hearts more. Iwill tell you in my way how the Indian sees things. The white man has more wordsto tell you how they look to himbut it does not require many words to speakthe truth. What I have to say will come from my heartand I will speak with astraight tongue. Ah-cum-kin-i-ma-me-hut (the Great Spirit) is looking at meandwill hear me.
My name is In-mut-too-yah-lat-lat (Thunder traveling over the Mountains). Iam chief of the Wal-lam-wat-kin band of Chute-pa-luor Nez Percés (nose-piercedIndians). I was born in eastern Oregonthirty-eight winters ago. My father waschief before me. When a young manhe was called Joseph by Mr. Spauldingamissionary. He died a few years ago. There was no stain on his hands of theblood of a white man. He left a good name on the earth. He advised me well formy people.
Our fathers gave us many lawswhich they had learned from their fathers.These laws were good. They told us to treat all men as they treated us; that weshould never be the first to break a bargain; that it was a disgrace to tell alie; that we should speak only the truth; that it was a shame for one man totake from another his wifeor his property without paying for it. We weretaught to believe that the Great Spirit sees and hears everythingand that henever forgets; that hereafter he will give every man a spirit-home according tohis deserts: if he has been a good manhe will have a good home; if he has beena bad manhe will have a bad home. This I believeand all my people believethe same.
We did not know there were other people besides the Indian until about onehundred winters agowhen some men with white faces came to our country. Theybrought many things with them to trade for furs and skins. They brought tobaccowhich was new to us. They brought guns with flint stones on themwhich fright-
tened our women and children. Our people could not talk with these white-facedmenbut they used signs which all people understand. These men were Frenchmenand they called our people "Nez Percés" because they wore rings intheir noses for ornaments. Although very few of our people wear them nowwe arestill called by the same name. These French trappers said a great many things toour fatherswhich have been planted in our hearts. Some were good for usbutsome were bad. Our people were divided in opinion about these men. Some thoughtthey taught more bad than good. An Indian respects a brave manbut he despisesa coward. He loves a straight tonguebut he hates a forked tongue. The Frenchtrappers told us some truths and some lies.
The first white men of your people who came to our country were named Lewisand Clarke. They also brought many things that our people had never seen. Theytalked straightand our people gave them a great feastas a proof that theirhearts were friendly. These men were very kind. They made presents to our chiefsand our people made presents to them. We had a great many horsesof which wegave them what they neededand they gave us guns and tobacco in return. All theNez Percés made friends with Lewis and Clarkeand agreed to let them passthrough their countryand never to make war on white men. This promise the NezPercés have never broken. No white man can accuse them of bad faithand speakwith a straight tongue. It has always been the pride of the Nez Percés thatthey were the friends of the white men. When my father was a young man therecame to our country a white man (Rev. Mr. Spaulding) who talked spirit law. Hewon the affections of our people because he spoke good things to them. At firsthe did not say anything about white men wanting to settle on our lands. Nothingwas said about that until about twenty winters agowhen a number of whitepeople came into our country and built houses and made farms. At first ourpeople made no complaint. They thought there was room enough for all to live inpeaceand they were learning many things from the white men that seemed to begood. But we soon found that the white men were growing rich very fastand weregreedy to possess everything the Indian had. My father was the first to seethrough the schemes of the white menand he warned his tribe to be carefulabout trading with them. He had suspicion of men who seemed so anxious to makemoney. I was a boy thenbut I remember well my father's caution. He had sharpereyes than the rest of our people.
Next there came a white officer (Governor Stevens)who invited all the NezPercés to a treaty council. After the council was opened he made known hisheart. He said there were a great many white people in the countryand manymore would come; that he wanted the land marked out so that the Indians andwhite men could be separated. If they were to live in peace it was necessaryhesaidthat the Indians should have a country set apart for themand in thatcountry they must stay. My fatherwho represented his bandrefused to haveanything to do with the councilbecause he wished to be a free man. He claimedthat no man owned any part of the earthand a man could not sell what he didnot own.
Mr. Spaulding took hold of my father's arm and said"Come and sign thetreaty." My father pushed him awayand said: "Why do you ask me tosign away my country? It is your business to talk to us about spirit mattersand not to talk to us about parting with our land." Governor Stevens urgedmy father to sign his treatybut he refused. "I will not sign your paper"he said; "you go where you pleaseso do I; you are not a childI am nochild; I can think for myself. No man can think for me. I have no other homethan this. I will not give it up to any man. My people would have no home. Takeaway your paper. I will not touch it with my hand."
My father left the council. Some of the chiefs of the other bands of the NezPercés signed the treatyand then Governor Stevens gave them presents ofblankets. My father cautioned his people to take no presentsfor "after awhile" he said"they will claim that you have accepted pay for yourcountry." Since that time four bands of the Nez Percés have receivedannuities from the United States. My father was invited to many councilsandthey tried hard to make him sign the treatybut he was firm as the rockandwould not sign away his home. His refusal caused a difference among the NezPercés.
Eight years later (1863) was the next treaty council. A chief called Lawyerbecause he was a great talkertook the lead in this counciland sold nearlyall the Nez Percés country. My father was not there. He said to me: "Whenyou go into council with the white manalways remember your country. Do notgive it away. The white man will cheat you out of your home. I have taken no payfrom the United States. I have never sold our land." In this treaty Lawyeracted without authority from our band. He had no right to sell the Wallowa (windingwater) country. That
had always belonged to my father's own peopleand the other bands had neverdisputed our right to it. No other Indians ever claimed Wallowa.
In order to have all people understand how much land we ownedmy fatherplanted poles around it and said:
"Inside is the home of my people -- the white man may take the landoutside. Inside this boundary all our people were born. It circles around thegraves of our fathersand we will never give up these graves to any man."
The United States claimed they had bought all the Nez Percés country outsideof Lapwai Reservationfrom Lawyer and other chiefsbut we continued to live onthis land in peace until eight years agowhen white men began to come insidethe bounds my father had set. We warned them against this great wrongbut theywould not leave our landand some bad blood was raised. The white menrepresented that we were going upon the war-path. They reported many things thatwere false.
The United States Government again asked for a treaty council. My father hadbecome blind and feeble. He could no longer speak for his people. It was thenthat I took my father's place as chief. In this council I made my first speechto white men. I said to the agent who held the council:
"I did not want to come to this councilbut I came hoping that we couldsave blood. The white man has no right to come here and take our country. Wehave never accepted any presents from the Government. Neither Lawyer nor anyother chief had authority to sell this land. It has always belonged to mypeople. It came unclouded to them from our fathersand we will defend this landas long as a drop of Indian blood warms the hearts of our men."
The agent said he had ordersfrom the Great White Chief at Washingtonforus to go upon the Lapwai Reservationand that if we obeyed he would help us inmany ways. "You must move to the agency" he said. I answeredhim: "I will not. I do not need your help; we have plentyand we arecontented and happy if the white man will let us alone. The reservation is toosmall for so many people with all their stock. You can keep your presents; wecan go to your towns and pay for all we need; we have plenty of horses andcattle to selland we won't have any help from you; we are free now; we can gowhere we please. Our fathers were born here. Here they livedhere they diedhere are their graves. We
will never leave them." The agent went awayand we had peace for a littlewhile.
Soon after this my father sent for me. I saw he was dying. I took his hand inmine. He said: "My sonmy body is returning to my mother earthand myspirit is going very soon to see the Great Spirit Chief. When I am gonethinkof your country. You are the chief of these people. They look to you to guidethem. Always remember that your father never sold his country. You must stopyour ears whenever you are asked to sign a treaty selling your home. A few yearsmoreand white men will be all around you. They have their eyes on this land.My sonnever forget my dying words. This country holds your father's body.Never sell the bones of your father and your mother." I pressed my father'shand and told him I would protect his grave with my life. My father smiled andpassed away to the spirit-land.
I buried him in that beautiful valley of winding waters. I love that landmore than all the rest of the world. A man who would not love his father's graveis worse than a wild animal.
For a short time we lived quietly. But this could not last. White men hadfound gold in the mountains around the land of winding water. They stole a greatmany horses from usand we could not get them back because we were Indians. Thewhite men told lies for each other. They drove off a great many of our cattle.Some white men branded our young cattle so they could claim them. We had nofriend who would plead our cause before the law councils. It seemed to me thatsome of the white men in Wallowa were doing these things on purpose to get up awar. They knew that we were not strong enough to fight them. I labored hard toavoid trouble and bloodshed. We gave up some of our country to the white menthinking that then we could have peace. We were mistaken. The white man wouldnot let us alone. We could have avenged our wrongs many timesbut we did not.Whenever the Government has asked us to help them against other Indianswe havenever refused. When the white men were few and we were strong we could havekilled them all offbut the Nez Percés wished to live at peace.
If we have not done sowe have not been to blame. I believe that the oldtreaty has never been correctly reported. If we ever owned the land we own itstillfor we never sold it. In the treaty councils the commissioners haveclaimed that our country had been sold to the Government. Suppose a white manshould come to me
and say"JosephI like your horsesand I want to buy them." I sayto him"Nomy horses suit meI will not sell them." Then he goes tomy neighborand says to him: "Joseph has some good horses. I want to buythembut he refuses to sell." My neighbor answers"Pay me the moneyand I will sell you Joseph's horses." The white man returns to meand says"JosephI have bought your horsesand you must let me have them." Ifwe sold our lands to the Governmentthis is the way they were bought.
On account of the treaty made by the other bands of the Nez Percésthewhite men claimed my lands. We were troubled greatly by white men crowding overthe line. Some of these were good menand we lived on peaceful terms with thembut they were not all good.
Nearly every year the agent came over from Lapwai and ordered us on to thereservation. We always replied that we were satisfied to live in Wallowa. Wewere careful to refuse the presents or annuities which he offered.
Through all the years since the white men came to Wallowa we have beenthreatened and taunted by them and the treaty Nez Percés. They have given us norest. We have had a few good friends among white menand they have alwaysadvised my people to bear these taunts without fighting. Our young men werequick-temperedand I have had great trouble in keeping them from doing rashthings. I have carried a heavy load on my back ever since I was a boy. I learnedthen that we were but fewwhile the white men were manyand that we could nothold our own with them. We were like deer. They were like grizzly bears. We hada small country. Their country was large. We were contented to let things remainas the Great Spirit Chief made them. They were not; and would change the riversand mountains if they did not suit them.
Year after year we have been threatenedbut no war was made upon my peopleuntil General Howard came to our country two years ago and told us that he wasthe white war-chief of all that country. He said: "I have a great manysoldiers at my back. I am going to bring them up hereand then I will talk toyou again. I will not let white men laugh at me the next time I come. Thecountry belongs to the Governmentand I intend to make you go upon thereservation."
I remonstrated with him against bringing more soldiers to the Nez Percéscountry. He had one house full of troops all the time at Fort Lapwai.
The next spring the agent at Umatilla agency sent an Indian runner to tell meto meet General Howard at Walla Walla. I could not go myselfbut I sent mybrother and five other head men to meet himand they had a long talk.
General Howard said: "You have talked straightand it is all right. Youcan stay in Wallowa." He insisted that my brother and his company should gowith him to Fort Lapwai. When the party arrived there General Howard sent outrunners and called all the Indians in to a grand council. I was in that council.I said to General Howard"We are ready to listen." He answered thathe would not talk thenbut would hold a council next daywhen he would talkplainly. I said to General Howard: "I am ready to talk to-day. I have beenin a great many councilsbut I am no wiser. We are all sprung from a womanalthough we are unlike in many things. We can not be made over again. You are asyou were madeand as you were madeyou can remain. We are just as we were madeby the Great Spiritand you can not change us; then why should children of onemother and one father quarrel -- why should one try to cheat the other? I do notbelieve that the Great Spirit Chief gave one kind of men the right to tellanother kind of men what they must do."
General Howard replied: "You deny my authoritydo you? You want todictate to medo you?"
Then one of my chiefs -- Too-hool-hool-suit -- rose in the council and saidto General Howard: "The Great Spirit Chief made the world as it isand ashe wanted itand he made a part of it for us to live upon. I do not see whereyou get authority to say that we shall not live where he placed us."
General Howard lost his temper and said: "Shut up! I don't want to hearany more of such talk. The law says you shall go upon the reservation to liveand I want you to do sobut you persist in disobeying the law" (meaningthe treaty). "If you do not moveI will take the matter into my own handand make you suffer for your disobedience."
Too-hool-hool-suit answered: "Who are youthat you ask us to talkandthen tell me I sha'n't talk? Are you the Great Spirit? Did you make the world?Did you make the sun? Did you make the rivers to run for us to drink? Did youmake the grass to grow? Did you make all these thingsthat you talk to us asthough we were boys? If you didthen you have the right to talk as youdo."
General Howard replied"You are an impudent fellowand I will put youin the guard-house" and then ordered a soldier to arrest him.
Too-hool-hool-suit made no resistance. He asked General Howard: "Is thatyour order? I don't care. I have expressed my heart to you. I have nothing totake back. I have spoken for my country. You can arrest mebut you can notchange me or make me take back what I have said."
The soldiers came forward and seized my friend and took him to theguard-house. My men whispered among themselves whether they should let thisthing be done. I counseled them to submit. I knew if we resisted that all thewhite men presentincluding General Howard would be killed in a momentand wewould be blamed. If I had said nothingGeneral Howard would never have givenanother unjust order against my men. I saw the dangerandwhile they draggedToo-hool-hool-suit to prisonI arose and said: "I am going to talk now.I don't care whether you arrest me or not." I turned to my people and said:"The arrest of Too-hool-hool-suit was wrongbut we will not resent theinsult. We were invited to this council to express our heartsand we have doneso." Too-hool-hool-suit was prisoner for five days before he was released.
The council broke up for that day. On the next morning General Howard came tomy lodgeand invited me to go with him and White-Bird and Looking-Glasstolook for land for my people. As we rode along we came to some good land that wasalready occupied by Indians and white people. General Howardpointing to thislandsaid: "If you will come on to the reservationI will give you theselands and move these people off."
I replied: "No. It would be wrong to disturb these people. I have noright to take their homes. I have never taken what did not belong to me. I willnot now."
We rode all day upon the reservationand found no good land unoccupied. Ihave been informed by men who do not lie that General Howard sent a letter thatnighttelling the soldiers at Walla Walla to go to Wallowa Valleyand drive usout upon our return home.
In the councilnext dayGeneral Howard informed mein a haughty spiritthat he would give my people thirty days to go back homecollect alltheir stockand move on to the reservationsaying"If you are not herein that timeI shall consider that you want to fightand will send my soldiersto drive you on."
I said: "War can be avoidedand it ought to be avoided. I want no war.My people have always been the friends of the white man. Why are you in such ahurry? I can not get ready to move in thirty days. Our stock is scatteredandSnake River is very high. Let us wait until fallthen the river will be low. Wewant time to hunt up our stock and gather supplies for winter."
General Howard replied"If you let the time run over one daythesoldiers will be there to drive you on to the reservationand all your cattleand horses outside of the reservation at that time will fall into the hands ofthe white men."
I knew I had never sold my countryand that I had no land in Lapwai; but Idid not want bloodshed. I did not want my people killed. I did not want anybodykilled. Some of my people had been murdered by white menand the whitemurderers were never punished for it. I told General Howard about thisandagain said I wanted no war. I wanted the people who lived upon the lands I wasto occupy at Lapwai to have time to gather their harvest.
I said in my heart thatrather than have warI would give up my country. Iwould give up my father's grave. I would give up everything rather than have theblood of white men upon the hands of my people.
General Howard refused to allow me more than thirty days to move my peopleand their stock. I am sure that he began to prepare for war at once.
When I returned to Wallowa I found my people very much excited upondiscovering that the soldiers were already in the Wallowa Valley. We held acounciland decided to move immediatelyto avoid bloodshed.
Too-hool-hool-suitwho felt outraged by his imprisonmenttalked for warand made many of my young men willing to fight rather than be driven like dogsfrom the land where they were born. He declared that blood alone would wash outthe disgrace General Howard had put upon him. It required a strong heart tostand up against such talkbut I urged my people to be quietand not to begina war.
We gathered all the stock we could findand made an attempt to move. We leftmany of our horses and cattle in Wallowaand we lost several hundred incrossing the river. All of my people succeeded in getting across in safety. Manyof the Nez Percés came together in Rocky Cańon to hold a grand council. I wentwith all my people. This council lasted ten days. There was a
great deal of war-talkand a great deal of excitement. There was one youngbrave present whose father had been killed by a white man five years before.This man's blood was bad against white menand he left the council calling forrevenge.
Again I counseled peaceand I thought the danger was past. We had notcomplied with General Howard's order because we could notbut we intended to doso as soon as possible. I was leaving the council to kill beef for my familywhen news came that the young man whose father had been killed had gone out withseveral other hot-blooded young braves and killed four white men. He rode up tothe council and shouted: "Why do you sit here like women? The war has begunalready." I was deeply grieved. All the lodges were moved except mybrother's and my own. I saw clearly that the war was upon us when I learned thatmy young men had been secretly buying ammunition. I heard then thatToo-hool-hool-suitwho had been imprisoned by General Howardhad succeeded inorganizing a war-party. I knew that their acts would involve all my people. Isaw that the war could not then be prevented. The time had passed. I counseledpeace from the beginning. I knew that we were too weak to fight the UnitedStates. We had many grievancesbut I knew that war would bring more. We hadgood white friendswho advised us against taking the war-path. My friend andbrotherMr. Chapmanwho has been with us since the surrendertold us just howthe war would end. Mr. Chapman took sides against usand helped General Howard.I do not blame him for doing so. He tried hard to prevent bloodshed. We hopedthe white settlers would not join the soldiers. Before the war commenced we haddiscussed this matter all overand many of my people were in favor of warningthem that if they took no part against us they should not be molested in theevent of war being begun by General Howard. This plan was voted down in thewar-council.
There were bad men among my people who had quarreled with white menand theytalked of their wrongs until they roused all the bad hearts in the council.Still I could not believe that they would begin the war. I know that my youngmen did a great wrongbut I askWho was first to blame? They had been insulteda thousand times; their fathers and brothers had been killed; their mothers andwives had been disgraced; they had been driven to madness by whisky sold to themby white men; they had been told by General Howard that all their horses andcattle which
they had been unable to drive out of Wallowa were to fall into the hands ofwhite men; andadded to all thisthey were homeless and desperate.
I would have given my own life if I could have undone the killing of whitemen by my people. I blame my young men and I blame the white men. I blameGeneral Howard for not giving my people time to get their stock away fromWallowa. I do not acknowledge that he had the right to order me to leave Wallowaat any time. I deny that either my father or myself ever sold that land. It isstill our land. It may never again be our homebut my father sleeps thereandI love it as I love my mother. I left therehoping to avoid bloodshed.
If General Howard had given me plenty of time to gather up my stockandtreated Too-hool-hool-suit as a man should be treatedthere would have beenno war.
My friends among white men have blamed me for the war. I am not to blame.When my young men began the killingmy heart was hurt. Although I did notjustify themI remembered all the insults I had enduredand my blood was onfire. Still I would have taken my people to the buffalo country without fightingif possible.
I could see no other way to avoid a war. We moved over to White Bird Creeksixteen miles awayand there encampedintending to collect our stock beforeleaving; but the soldiers attacked usand the first battle was fought. Wenumbered in that battle sixty menand the soldiers a hundred. The fight lastedbut a few minuteswhen the soldiers retreated before us for twelve miles. Theylost thirty-three killedand had seven wounded. When an Indian fightshe onlyshoots to kill; but soldiers shoot at random. None of the soldiers were scalped.We do not believe in scalpingnor in killing wounded men. Soldiers do not killmany Indians unless they are wounded and left upon the battle-field. Then theykill Indians.
Seven days after the first battleGeneral Howard arrived in the Nez Percéscountrybringing seven hundred more soldiers. It was now war in earnest. Wecrossed over Salmon Riverhoping General Howard would follow. We were notdisappointed. He did follow usand we got back between him and his suppliesand cut him off for three days. He sent out two companies to open the way. Weattacked themkilling one officertwo guidesand ten men.
We withdrewhoping the soldiers would followbut they had got fightingenough for that day. They intrenched themselvesand next day we attacked themagain. The battle lasted all dayand was renewed next morning. We killed fourand wounded seven or eight.
About this time General Howard found out that we were in his rear. Five dayslater he attacked us with three hundred and fifty soldiers and settlers. We hadtwo hundred and fifty warriors. The fight lasted twenty-seven hours. We lostfour killed and several wounded. General Howard's loss was twenty-nine menkilled and sixty wounded.
The following day the soldiers charged upon usand we retreated with ourfamilies and stock a few milesleaving eighty lodges to fall into GeneralHoward's hands.
Finding that we were outnumberedwe retreated to Bitter Root Valley. Hereanother body of soldiers came upon us and demanded our surrender. We refused.They said"You can not get by us." We answered"We are going byyou without fighting if you will let usbut we are going by you anyhow."We then made a treaty with these soldiers. We agreed not to molest any oneandthey agreed that we might pass through the Bitter Root country in peace. Webought provisions and traded stock with white men there.
We understood that there was to be no more war. We intended to go peaceablyto the buffalo countryand leave the question of returning to our country to besettled afterward.
With this understanding we traveled on for four daysandthinking that thetrouble was all overwe stopped and prepared tent-poles to take with us. Westarted againand at the end of two days we saw three white men passing ourcamp. Thinking that peace had been madewe did not molest them. We could havekilled or taken them prisonersbut we did not suspect them of being spieswhich they were.
That night the soldiers surrounded our camp. About daybreak one of my menwent out to look after his horses. The soldiers saw him and shot him down like acoyote. I have since learned that these soldiers were not those we had leftbehind. They had come upon us from another direction. The new white war-chief'sname was Gibbon. He charged upon us while some of my people were still asleep.We had a hard fight. Some of my men crept around and attacked the soldiers fromthe rear. In this battle we lost nearly all our lodgesbut we finally droveGeneral Gibbon back.
Finding that he was not able to capture ushe sent to his camp a few milesaway for his big guns (cannons)but my men had captured them and all theammunition. We damaged the big guns all we couldand carried away the powderand lead. In the fight with General Gibbon we lost fifty women and children andthirty fighting men. We remained long enough to bury our dead. The Nez Percésnever make war on women and children; we could have killed a great many womenand children while the war lastedbut we would feel ashamed to do so cowardlyan act.
We never scalp our enemiesbut when General Howard came up and joinedGeneral Gibbontheir Indian scouts dug up our dead and scalped them. I havebeen told that General Howard did not order this great shame to be done.
We retreated as rapidly as we could toward the buffalo country. After sixdays General Howard came close to usand we went out and attacked himandcaptured nearly all his horses and mules (about two hundred and fifty head). Wethen marched on to the Yellowstone Basin.
On the way we captured one white man and two white women. We released them atthe end of three days. They were treated kindly. The women were not insulted.Can the white soldiers tell me of one time when Indian women were takenprisonersand held three days and then released without being insulted? Werethe Nez Percés women who fell into the hands of General Howard's soldierstreated with as much respect? I deny that a Nez Percé was ever guilty of such acrime.
A few days later we captured two more white men. One of them stole a horseand escaped. We gave the other a poor horse and told him he was free.
Nine days' march brought us to the mouth of Clarke's Fork of the Yellowstone.We did not know what had become of General Howardbut we supposed that he hadsent for more horses and mules. He did not come upbut another new war-chief(General Sturgis) attacked us. We held him in check while we moved all our womenand children and stock out of dangerleaving a few men to cover our retreat.
Several days passedand we heard nothing of General Howardor GibbonorSturgis. We had repulsed each in turnand began to feel securewhen anotherarmyunder General Milesstruck us. This was the fourth armyeach of whichoutnumbered our fighting forcethat we had encountered within sixty days.
We had no knowledge of General Miles's army until a short time before he madea charge upon uscutting our camp in twoand capturing nearly all of ourhorses. About seventy menmyself among themwere cut off. My little daughtertwelve years of agewas with me. I gave her a ropeand told her to catch ahorse and join the others who were cut off from the camp. I have not seen hersincebut I have learned that she is alive and well.
I thought of my wife and childrenwho were now surrounded by soldiersand Iresolved to go to them or die. With a prayer in my mouth to the Great SpiritChief who rules aboveI dashed unarmed through the line of soldiers. It seemedto me that there were guns on every sidebefore and behind me. My clothes werecut to pieces and my horse was woundedbut I was not hurt. As I reached thedoor of my lodgemy wife handed me my riflesaying: "Here's your gun.Fight!"
The soldiers kept up a continuous fire. Six of my men were killed in one spotnear me. Ten or twelve soldiers charged into our camp and got possession of twolodgeskilling three Nez Percés and losing three of their menwho fell insideour lines. I called my men to drive them back. We fought at close rangenotmore than twenty steps apartand drove the soldiers back upon their main lineleaving their dead in our hands. We secured their arms and ammunition. We lostthe first day and nighteighteen men and three women. General Miles losttwenty-six killed and forty wounded. The following day General Miles sent amessenger into my camp under protection of a white flag. I sent my friend YellowBull to meet him.
Yellow Bull understood the messenger to say that General Miles wished me toconsider the situation; that he did not want to kill my people unnecessarily.Yellow Bull understood this to be a demand for me to surrender and save blood.Upon reporting this message to meYellow Bull said he wondered whether GeneralMiles was in earnest. I sent him back with my answerthat I had not made up mymindbut would think about it and send word soon. A little later he sent someCheyenne scouts with another message. I went out to meet them. They said theybelieved that General Miles was sincere and really wanted peace. I walked on toGeneral Miles's tent. He met me and we shook hands. He said"Comelet ussit down by the fire and talk this matter over." I remained with him allnight; next morning Yellow Bull came over to see if I was aliveand why I didnot return.
General Miles would not let me leave the tent to see my friend alone.
Yellow Bull said to me: "They have got you in their powerand I amafraid they will never let you go again. I have an officer in our campand Iwill hold him until they let you go free."
I said: "I do not know what they mean to do with mebut if they kill meyou must not kill the officer. It will do no good to avenge my death by killinghim."
Yellow Bull returned to my camp. I did not make any agreement that day withGeneral Miles. The battle was renewed while I was with him. I was very anxiousabout my people. I knew that we were near Sitting Bull's camp in King George'slandand I thought maybe the Nez Percés who had escaped would return withassistance. No great damage was done to either party during the night.
On the following morning I returned to my camp by agreementmeeting theofficer who had been held a prisoner in my camp at the flag of truce. My peoplewere divided about surrendering. We could have escaped from Bear Paw Mountain ifwe had left our woundedold womenand children behind. We were unwilling to dothis. We had never heard of a wounded Indian recovering while in the hands ofwhite men.
On the evening of the fourth day General Howard came in with a small escorttogether with my friend Chapman. We could now talk understandingly. GeneralMiles said to me in plain words"If you will come out and give up yourarmsI will spare your lives and send you to your reservation." I do notknow what passed between General Miles and General Howard.
I could not bear to see my wounded men and women suffer any longer; we hadlost enough already. General Miles had promised that we might return to our owncountry with what stock we had left. I thought we could start again. I believedGeneral Milesor I never would have surrendered. I have heard that hehas been censured for making the promise to return us to Lapwai. He could nothave made any other terms with me at that time. I would have held him in checkuntil my friends came to my assistanceand then neither of the generals northeir soldiers would have ever left Bear Paw Mountain alive.
On the fifth day I went to General Miles and gave up my gunand said"From where the sun now stands I will fight no more." My people neededrest -- we wanted peace.
I was told we could go with General Miles to Tongue River and stay thereuntil springwhen we would be sent back to our country. Finally it was decidedthat we were to be taken to Tongue River. We had nothing to say about it. Afterour arrival at Tongue RiverGeneral Miles received orders to take us toBismarck. The reason given wasthat subsistence would be cheaper there.
General Miles was opposed to this order. He said: "You must not blameme. I have endeavored to keep my wordbut the chief who is over me has giventhe orderand I must obey it or resign. That would do you no good. Some otherofficer would carry out the order."
I believe General Miles would have kept his word if he could have done so. Ido not blame him for what we have suffered since the surrender. I do not knowwho is to blame. We gave up all our horses -- over eleven hundred -- and all oursaddles -- over one hundred -- and we have not heard from them since. Somebodyhas got our horses.
General Miles turned my people over to another soldierand we were taken toBismarck. Captain Johnsonwho now had charge of usreceived an order to takeus to Fort Leavenworth. At Leavenworth we were placed on a low river bottomwith no water except river-water to drink and cook with. We had always lived ina healthy countrywhere the mountains were high and the water was cold andclear. Many of my people sickened and diedand we buried them in this strangeland. I can not tell how much my heart suffered for my people while atLeavenworth. The Great Spirit Chief who rules above seemed to be looking someother wayand did not see what was being done to my people.
During the hot days (July1878) we received notice that we were to be movedfarther away from our own country. We were not asked if we were willing to go.We were ordered to get into the railroad-cars. Three of my people died on theway to Baxter Springs. It was worse to die there than to die fighting in themountains.
We were moved from Baxter Springs (Kansas) to the Indian Territoryand setdown without our lodges. We had but little medicineand we were nearly allsick. Seventy of my people have died since we moved there.
We have had a great many visitors who have talked many ways. Some of thechiefs (General Fish and Colonel Stickney) from
Washington came to see usand selected land for us to live upon. We have notmoved to that landfor it is not a good place to live.
The Commissioner Chief (E. A. Hayt) came to see us. I told himas I toldevery onethat I expected General Miles's word would be carried out. He said it"could not be done; that white men now lived in my country and all the landwas taken up; thatif I returned to WallowaI could not live in peace; thatlaw-papers were out against my young men who began the warand that theGovernment could not protect my people." This talk fell like a heavy stoneupon my heart. I saw that I could not gain anything by talking to him. Other lawchiefs (Congressional Committee) came to see me and said they would help me toget a healthy country. I did not know who to believe. The white people have toomany chiefs. They do not understand each other. They do not all talk alike.
The Commissioner Chief (Mr. Hayt) invited me to go with him and hunt for abetter home than we have now. I like the land we found (west of the Osagereservation) better than any place I have seen in that country; but it is not ahealthy land. There are no mountains and rivers. The water is warm. It is not agood country for stock. I do not believe my people can live there. I am afraidthey will all die. The Indians who occupy that country are dying off. I promisedChief Hayt to go thereand do the best I could until the Government got readyto make good General Miles's word. I was not satisfiedbut I could not helpmyself.
Then the Inspector Chief (General McNiel) came to my camp and we had a longtalk. He said I ought to have a home in the mountain country northand that hewould write a letter to the Great Chief at Washington. Again the hope of seeingthe mountains of Idaho and Oregon grew up in my heart.
At last I was granted permission to come to Washington and bring my friendYellow Bull and our interpreter with me. I am glad we came. I have shaken handswith a great many friendsbut there are some things I want to know which no oneseems able to explain. I can not understand how the Government sends a man outto fight usas it did General Milesand then breaks his word. Such aGovernment has something wrong about it. I can not understand why so many chiefsare allowed to talk so many different waysand promise so many differentthings. I have seen the Great Father Chief (the President)the next Great Chief(Secretary of the Interior)the Commissioner Chief (Hayt)the Law
Chief (General Butler)and many other law chiefs (Congressmen)and they allsay they are my friendsand that I shall have justicebut while their mouthsall talk right I do not understand why nothing is done for my people. I haveheard talk and talkbut nothing is done. Good words do not last long unlessthey amount to something. Words do not pay for my dead people. They do not payfor my countrynow overrun by white men. They do not protect my father's grave.They do not pay for all my horses and cattle. Good words will not give me backmy children. Good words will not make good the promise of your War Chief GeneralMiles. 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 takecare of themselves. I am tired of talk that comes to nothing. It makes my heartsick when I remember all the good words and all the broken promises. There hasbeen too much talking by men who had no right to talk. Too manymisrepresentations have been madetoo many misunderstandings have come upbetween the white men about the Indians. If the white man wants to live in peacewith the Indian he can live in peace. There need be no trouble. Treat all menalike. Give them all the same law. Give them all an even chance to live andgrow. All men were made by the same Great Spirit Chief. They are all brothers.The earth is the mother of all peopleand all people should have equal rightsupon it. You might as well expect the rivers to run backward as that any man whowas born a free man should be contented when penned up and denied liberty to gowhere he pleases. If you tie a horse to a stakedo you expect he will grow fat?If you pen an Indian up on a small spot of earthand compel him to stay therehe will not be contentednor will he grow and prosper. I have asked some of thegreat white chiefs where they get their authority to say to the Indian that heshall stay in one placewhile he sees white men going where they please. Theycan not tell me.
I only ask of the Government to be treated as all other men are treated. If Ican not go to my own homelet me have a home in some country where my peoplewill not die so fast. I would like to go to Bitter Root Valley. There my peoplewould be healthy; where they are now they are dying. Three have died since Ileft my camp to come to Washington.
When I think of our condition my heart is heavy. I see men of
my race treated as outlaws and driven from country to countryor shot down likeanimals.
I know that my race must change. We can not hold our own with the white menas we are. We only ask an even chance to live as other men live. We ask to berecognized as men. We ask that the same law shall work alike on all men. If theIndian breaks the lawpunish him by the law. If the white man breaks the lawpunish him also.
Let me be a free man -- free to travelfree to stopfree to workfree totrade where I choosefree to choose my own teachersfree to follow thereligion of my fathersfree to think and talk and act for myself -- and I willobey every lawor submit to the penalty.
Whenever the white man treats the Indian as they treat each otherthen wewill have no more wars. We shall all be alike -- brothers of one father and onemotherwith one sky above us and one country around usand one government forall. Then the Great Spirit Chief who rules above will smile upon this landandsend rain to wash out the bloody spots made by brothers' hands from the face ofthe earth. For this time the Indian race are waiting and praying. I hope that nomore groans of wounded men and women will ever go to the ear of the Great SpiritChief aboveand that all people may be one people.
In-mut-too-yah-lat-lat has spoken for his people.
WASHINGTON CITYD. C.