Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Chief Joseph

Yesterday and today I worked on another Indian portrait. This one is Chief Joseph, a man who if he lived today would more than likely be an environmentalist. He cared for the land, he loved his people and he was a fierce yet gentle leader of the Nez Perce. Chief Joseph was chief of the Nez Perce, a Native American tribe of the Wallowa Valley in Northwest Oregon. In 1877 the Nez Perce were ordered to a reservation, or special land reserved for Native Americans. The Nez Perce refused to go. Instead, Chief Joseph tried to lead 800 of his people to Canada. Fighting the U.S. Army all along their 1100 mile journey, they crossed Idaho and Montana. They were trapped just forty miles from Canada. After a five-day fight, the remaining 431 remaining Nez Perce were beaten. It was then, on October 5, 1877 at Bears Paw, that Chief Joseph made his famous speech of surrender:
Surrender Speech by Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce
I am tired of fighting. Our chiefs are killed. Looking Glass is dead. Toohulhulsote is dead. The old men are all dead. It is the young men who say yes or no. He who led 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 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.

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