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Disgusting, absolutely disgusting. Thatís how Iíd describe the way the United States government has treated my tribe, the Nez Perce. First the white people of this America come in and take over the land, thinking that itís theirs to have, and well itís not theirs and its not ours and they should respect that. Then once they claim to own our land that our ancestors have lived upon for centuries they take and kill our people and animals. If all this wasnít enough then the government tells us that we must leave our sacred homeland of the Wallowa Valley and move to some cesspool of unsanitary living conditions in the middle of no where and expect us to be accepting of it. Well where not and if required weíre going to fight for it.
As a chief of a tribe of Native Americans eight hundred strong I have done many things to make sure that my people have always had the best and have always been safe, but now since the white man has come this has all come to a end and I must be forced to make unappealing choices. One of the warriors of our tribeís father was murdered while he and his son were hunting by a white civilian who had convicted us of stealing his horses (which we did not). In revenge to this horrible thing done by the whites the warrior sought revenge on the man who killed his father and stabbed the murderer, Chapin to death. Unfortunately this has caused some problems between our tribe and the white men. The general of the American force that is in command of our movement had always been honest and even a little caring about the matters concerning our tribe I felt that we would be able to stay on our land that belonged to our forefathers. However ever since he deceived all of my people and I and ordered us to move to the reservation in Okalahoma it has been nothing besides wretched for my tribe. We decided to elude the US Army and make a run for the border to Canada. On the way we met and fended off many detachments of the US Army and lost many of our own in the process. One of the worst decisions that I made was to stay and rest at Big Hole Montana, while the Army was preparing to and did manage to surprise us. Well we made it all the way within forty miles of the US - Canadian border but because of the worst decision I have probably ever made which was to stay and rest. Because I knew after this that we would probably never reach Canada I sent Chief White Bird, my wife and child, 233 in all to escape to Canada alone. Letting the Montana Army of the US, which was six hundred soldiers strong lead by Colonel Miles come, we fought for five longs days until I made the decision that our tribe was dying in the cold with no blankets and there was nothing we could do. Unless we gave up we would die, so thatís what I did. My rational for surrendering was that Colonel Miles told myself that if we cooperated we would be able to return to the Wallowa Valley our homeland by the spring. Well thatís not even close to what horrible things happened to us. They took the 418 of us that were left and put us on a riverboat heading south and then on a train heading to Okalahoma. Once there we were kept in very unsanitary and wretched conditions and many of our young died. Lastly we were moved to the Colville Indian Reservation in northeastern Washington.
Even though we moved over 1,700 miles in 11 weeks by foot and horse, killed 180 American soldiers and wounded another 150, we still didnít reach Canada or get to move back to our homeland in the Wallowa Valley. I have am disgusted with the way that the United States acted and treated us involving this matter and hope that it wouldnít happen again. Unfortunately I have a good feeling that it will and forever the white man and the Native
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Chief Joseph, Indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest, Nez Perce War, Nez Perce people
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