Chief Joseph: 'I Will Fight No More Forever'

In 1877 the United States opened up Nez Perce lands in the Oregon Territory to mining and other public use. Rather than relocate to a reservation, a group of the Nez Perce people led by Chief Joseph chose to retreat to Canada. With United States Army troops led by General Oliver O. Howard and others in pursuit, the group traveled all the way to the northern edge of the Bear Paw Mountains in Montana, where they were attacked and engaged in heavy fighting for several days. Chief Joseph surrendered on October 5, 1877. His statement is among the most well-known surrender speeches in history.


Tell General Howard I know his heart. What he told me before, I have it in my heart. I am tired of fighting. Our chiefs are killed; Looking-Glass is dead, Ta-Hool-Hool-Shute is dead. The old men are all dead. It is the young men who say yes or no. He who led on the young men [Chief Joseph’s brother] 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 of them 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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