Wednesday, December 31, 2008

On A Visit to Washington, D.C. (1879)

On a visit to Washington, D.C., 1879

At last I was granted permission to come to Washington
and bring my friend Yellow Bull and our interpreter with me.
I am glad I came. I have shaken hands with a good many friends,
but there are some things I want to know which no one seems
able to explain. I cannot understand how the Government
sends a man out to fight us, as it did General Miles,
and then breaks his word. Such a government has something wrong
about it. I cannot understand why so many chiefs are allowed
to talk so many different ways, and promise so many different
things. I have seen the Great Father Chief [President Hayes];
the Next Great Chief [Secretary of the Interior];
the Commissioner Chief; the Law Chief; and many other law chiefs
[Congressmen] and they all say they are my friends, and that
I shall have justice, but while all their mouths talk right
I do not understand why nothing is done for my people.

I have heard talk and talk but nothing is done. 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 my horses and cattle. Good words do not give me back
my children. Good words will not make good the promise of
your war chief, General Miles. Good words will not give 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.
Too many misinterpretations have been made; too many
misunderstandings have come up between the white men
and the Indians. If the white man wants to live in peace
with the Indian he can live in peace. There need be no trouble.

Treat all men alike. Give them the same laws. Give them all
an even chance to live and grow. All men were made by the same
Great Spirit Chief. They are all brothers. The earth is the mother
of all people, and all people should have equal rights upon it.
You might as well expect all rivers to run backward as that
any man who was born a free man should be contented penned up
and denied liberty to go where he pleases. If you tie a horse
to a stake, do you expect he will grow fat? If you pen an Indian
up on a small spot of earth and compel him to stay there,
he will not be contented nor will he grow and prosper.

I have asked some of the Great White Chiefs where they get
their authority to say to the Indian that he shall stay
in one place, while he sees white men going where they please.
They cannot tell me.

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. I would like
to go to Bitter Root Valley. There my people would be happy;
where they are now they are dying. Three have died since I left
my camp to come to Washington.

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.

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.

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.

Hin-mah-too-yah-lat-kekht has spoken for his people.

Chief Joseph - Nez Perce


Jannie Funster said...

It was just a heartbreak what was done to these people as were the African slaves and the Jews.

Just a heartbreak.

And remains great advice for today.

Or any age.

Glenn Buttkus said...

You can say that again. Thanks for the interest, and stopping by.