My friends, I have been asked to show you my heart. I am glad to have a
chance to do so. I want the white people to understand my people. Some of you
think an Indian is like a wild animal. This is a great mistake. I will tell you
all about our people, and 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. I
will tell you in my way how the Indian sees things. The white man has more words
to tell you how they look to him, but it does not require many words to speak
the truth. What I have to say will come from my heart, and I will speak with a
straight tongue. Ah-cum-kin-i-ma-me-hut (the Great Spirit) is looking at me, and
will hear me.
My name is In-mut-too-yah-lat-lat (Thunder traveling over the Mountains). I
am chief of the Wal-lam-wat-kin band of Chute-pa-lu, or Nez Perces (nose-pierced
Indians). I was born in eastern Oregon, thirty-eight winters ago. My father was
chief before me. When a young man, he was called Joseph by Mr. Spaulding, a
missionary. He died a few years ago. There was no stain on his hands of the
blood of a white man. He left a good name on the earth. He advised me well for
Our fathers gave us many laws, which they had learned from their fathers.
These laws were good. They told us to treat all men as they treated us; that we
should never be the first to break a bargain; that it was a disgrace to tell a
lie; that we should speak only the truth; that it was a shame for one man to
take from another his wife, or his property without paying for it. We were
taught to believe that the Great Spirit sees and hears everything, and that he
never forgets; that hereafter he will give every man a spirit-home according to
his deserts: if he has been a good man, he will have a good home; if he has been
a bad man, he will have a bad home. This I believe, and all my people believe
We did not know there were other people besides the Indian until about one
hundred winters ago, when some men with white faces came to our country. They
brought many things with them to trade for furs and skins. They brought tobacco,
which was new to us. They brought guns with flint stones on them, which
frightened our women and children. Our people could not talk with these
white-faced men, but they used signs which all people understand. These men were
Frenchmen, and they called our people ``Nez Perces,'' because they wore rings in
their noses for ornaments. Although very few of our people wear them now, we are
still called by the same name. These French trappers said a great many things to
our fathers, which have been planted in our hearts. Some were good for us, but
some were bad. Our people were divided in opinion about these men. Some thought
they taught more bad than good. An Indian respects a brave man, but he despises
a coward. He loves a straight tongue, but he hates a forked tongue. The French
trappers told us some truths and some lies.
The first white men of your people who came to our country were named Lewis
and Clarke. They also brought many things that our people had never seen. They
talked straight, and our people gave them a great feast, as a proof that their
hearts were friendly. These men were very kind. They made presents to our chiefs
and our people made presents to them. We had a great many horses, of which we
gave them what they needed, and they gave us guns and tobacco in return. All the
Nez Perces made friends with Lewis and Clarke, and agreed to let them pass
through their country, and never to make war on white men. This promise the Nez
Perces have never broken. No white man can accuse them of bad faith, and speak
with a straight tongue. It has always been the pride of the Nez Perces that they
were the friends of the white men. When my father was a young man there came to
our country a white man (Rev. Mr. Spaulding) who talked spirit law. He won the
affections of our people because he spoke good things to them. At first he did
not say anything about white men wanting to settle on our lands. Nothing was
said about that until about twenty winters ago, when a number of white people
came into our country and built houses and made farms. At first our people made
no complaint. They thought there was room enough for all to live in peace, and
they were learning many things from the white men that seemed to be good. But we
soon found that the white men were growing rich very fast, and were greedy to
possess everything the Indian had. My father was the first to see through the
schemes of the white men, and he warned his tribe to be careful about trading
with them. He had suspicion of men who seemed so anxious to make money. I was a
boy then, but I remember well my father's caution. He had sharper eyes than the
rest of our people.
Next there came a white officer (Governor Stevens), who invited all the Nez
Perces to a treaty council. After the council was opened he made known his
heart. He said there were a great many white people in the country and many more
would come; that he wanted the land marked out so that the Indians and white men
could be separated. If they were to live in peace it was necessary, he said,
that the Indians should have a country set apart for them, and in that country
they must stay. My father, who represented his band, refused to have anything to
do with the council, because he wished to be a free man. He claimed that no man
owned any part of the earth, and a man could not sell what he did not own.
Mr. Spaulding took hold of my father's arm and said,``Come and sign the
treaty.'' My father pushed him away, and said: ``Why do you ask me to sign away
my country? It is your business to talk to us about spirit matters, not to talk
to us about parting with our land.'' Governor Stevens urged my father to sign
his treaty, but he refused. ``I will not sign your paper,'' he said; ``you go
where you please, so do I; you are not a child, I am no child; I can think for
myself. No man can think for me. I have no other home than this. I will not give
it up to any man. My people would have no home. Take away 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 Nez
Perces signed the treaty, and then Governor Stevens gave them presents of
blankets. My father cautioned his people to take no presents, for ``after a
while,'' he said, ``they will claim that you have accepted pay for your
country.'' Since that time four bands of the Nez Perces have received annuities
from the United States. My father was invited to many councils, and they tried
hard to make him sign the treaty, but he was firm as the rock, and would not
sign away his home. His refusal caused a difference among the Nez Perces.
Eight years later (1863) was the next treaty council. A chief called Lawyer,
bemuse he was a great talker, took the lead in this council, and sold nearly all
the Nez Perces country. My father was not there. He said to me: ``When you go
into council with the white man, always remember your country. Do not give it
away. The white man will cheat you out of your home. I have taken no pay from
the United States. I have never sold our land.'' In this treaty Lawyer acted
without authority from our band. He had no right to sell the Wallowa (winding
water) country. That had always belonged to my father's own people, and the
other bands had never disputed our right to it. No other Indians ever claimed
In order to have all people understand how much land we owned, my father
planted poles around it and said:
``Inside is the home of my people -- the white man may take the land outside.
Inside this boundary all our people were born. It circles around the graves of
our fathers, and we will never give up these graves to any man.''
The United States claimed that they had bought all the Nez Perces country
outside of Lapwai Reservation, from Lawyer and other chiefs, but we continued to
live on this land in peace until eight years ago, when white men began to come
inside the bounds my father had set. We warned them against this great wrong,
but they would not leave our land, and some bad blood was raised. The white men
represented that we were going on the war-path. They reported many things that
The United States Government asked for a treaty council. My father had become
blind and feeble. He could no longer speak for his people. It was then that I
took my father's place as chief. In this council I made my first speech to white
men. I said to the agent who held the council:
``I did not want to come to this council, but I came hoping that we could
save blood. The white man has no right to come here and take our country. We
have never accepted any presents from the Government. Neither Lawyer nor any
other chief had authority to sell this land. It has always belonged to my
people. It came unclouded to them from our fathers, and we will defend this land
as long as a drop of Indian blood warms the hearts of our men.''
The agent said he had orders, from the Great White Chief at Washington, for
us to go upon the Lapwai Reservation, and that if we obeyed he would help us in
many ways. ``You must move to the agency,'' he said. I answered him:
``I will not. I do not need your help; we have plenty, and we are contented and
happy if the white man will let us alone. The reservation is too small for so
many people with all their stock. You can keep your presents; we can go to your
towns and pay for all we need; we have plenty of horses and cattle to sell, and
we won't have any help from you; we are free now; we can go where we please. Our
fathers were born here. Here they lived, here they died, here are their graves.
We will never leave them.'' The agent went away, and we had peace for a little
Soon after this my father sent for me. I saw he was dying. I took his hand in
mine. He said: ``My son, my body is returning to my mother Earth, and my spirit
is going very soon to see the Great Spirit Chief. When I am gone, think of your
country. You are the chief of these people. They look to you to guide them.
Always remember that your father never sold his country. You must stop your ears
whenever you are asked to sign a treaty selling your home. A few years more, and
white men will be all around you. They have their eyes on this land. My son,
never 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's hand and told
him I would protect his grave with my life. My father smiled and passed away 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 love his
father's grave is worse than a wild animal.
For a short time we lived quietly. But this could not last. White men had
found gold in the mountains around the land of winding water. They stole a great
many horses from us, and we could not get them back because we were Indians. The
white 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 no
friend who would plead our cause before the law councils. It seemed to me that
some of the white men in Wallowa were doing these things on purpose to get up a
war. They knew that we were not strong enough to fight them. I labored hard to
avoid trouble and bloodshed. We gave up some of our country to the white men,
thinking that then we could have peace. We were mistaken. The white man would
not let us alone. We could have avenged our wrongs many times, but we did not.
Whenever the Government has asked us to help them against other Indians, we have
never refused. When the white men were few and we were strong we could have
killed them all off, but the Nez Perces wished to live at peace.
If we have not done so, we have not been to blame. I believe that the old
treaty has never been correctly reported. If we ever owned the land we own it
still, for we never sold it. In the treaty councils the commissioners have
claimed that our country had been sold to the Government. Suppose a white man
should come to me and say, ``Joseph, I like your horses, and I want to buy
them.'' I say to him, ``No, my horses suit me, I will not sell them.'' Then he
goes to my neighbor, and says to him: ``Joseph has some good horses. I want to
buy them, but he refuses to sell.'' My neighbor answers, ``Pay me the money, and
I will sell you Joseph's horses.'' The white man returns to me, and says,
``Joseph, I have bought your horses, and you must let me have them.'' If we sold
our lands to the Government, this is the way they were bought.
On account of the treaty made by the other bands of the Nez Perces, the white
men claimed my lands. We were troubled greatly by white men crowding over the
line. Some of these were good men, and we lived on peaceful terms with them, but
they were not all good.
Nearly every year the agent came over from Lapwai and ordered us on to the
reservation. We always replied that we were satisfied to live in Wallowa. We
were careful to refuse the presents or annuities which he offered.
Through all the years since the white men came to Wallowa we have been
threatened and taunted by them and the treaty Nez Perces. They have given us no
rest. We have had a few good friends among white men, and they have always
advised my people to bear these taunts without fighting. Our young men were
quick-tempered, and I have had great trouble in keeping them from doing rash
things. I have carried a heavy load on my back ever since I was a boy. I learned
then that we were but few, while the white men were many, and that we could not
hold our own with them. We were like deer. They were like grizzly bears. We had
a small country. Their country was large. We were contented to let things remain
as the Great Spirit Chief made them. They were not; and would change the rivers
and mountains if they did not suit them.
Year after year we have been threatened, but no war was made upon my people
until General Howard came to our country two years ago and told us that he was
the white war-chief of all that country. He said: ``I have a great many soldiers
at my back. I am going to bring them up here, and then I will talk to you again.
I will not let white men laugh at me the next time I come. The country belongs
to the Government, and I intend to make you go upon the reservation.''
I remonstrated with him against bringing more soldiers to the Nez Perces
country. 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 me
to meet General Howard at Walla Walla. I could not go myself, but I sent my
brother and five other head men to meet him, and they had a long talk.
General Howard said: ``You have talked straight, and it is all right. You can
stay in Wallowa.'' He insisted that my brother and his company should go with
him to Fort Lapwai. When the party arrived there General Howard sent out runners
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 that he would not
talk then, but would hold a council next day, when he would talk plainly. I said
to General Howard: ``I am ready to talk to-day. I have been in a great many
councils, but I am no wiser. We are all sprung from a woman, although we are
unlike in many things. We can not be made over again. You are as you were made,
and as you were made you can remain. We are just as we were made by the Great
Spirit, and you can not change us; then why should children of one mother and
one father quarrel? Why should one try to cheat the other? I do not believe that
the Great Spirit Chief gave one kind of men the right to tell another kind of
men what they must do.''
General Howard replied: ``You deny my authority, do you? You want to dictate
to me, do you?''
Then one of my chiefs -- Too-hool-hool-suit -- rose in the council and said
to General Howard: ``The Great Spirit Chief made the world as it is, and as he
wanted it, and he made a part of it for us to live upon. I do not see where you
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 hear any
more of such talk. The law says you shall go upon the reservation to live, and I
want you to do so, but you persist in disobeying the law'' (meaning the treaty).
``If you do not move, I will take the matter into my own hand, and make you
suffer for your disobedience.''
Too-hool-hool-suit answered: ``Who are you, that you ask us to talk, and then
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 you make
the grass to grow? Did you make all these things, that you talk to us as though
we were boys? If you did, then you have the right to talk as you do.''
General Howard replied: ``You are an impudent fellow, and I will put you in
the guard-house,'' and then ordered a soldier to arrest him.
Too-hool-hool-suit made no resistance. He asked General Howard: ``Is that
your order? I don't care. I have expressed my heart to you. I have nothing to
take back. I have spoken for my country. You can arrest me, but you can not
change me or make me take back what I have said.''
The soldiers came forward and seized my friend and took him to the
guard-house. My men whispered among themselves whether they should let this
thing be done. I counseled them to submit. I knew if we resisted that all the
white men present, including General Howard would be killed in a moment, and we
would be blamed. If I had said nothing, General Howard would never have given
another unjust order against my men. I saw the danger, and, while they dragged
Too-hool-hool-suit to prison, I 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 wrong, but we will not resent the insult.
We were invited to this council to express our hearts, and we have done so.''
Too-hool-hool-suit was a prisoner for five days before he was released.
The council broke up for that day. On the next morning General Howard came to
my lodge, and invited me to go with him and White-Bird and Looking-Glass, to
look for land for my people. As we rode along we came to some good land that was
already occupied by Indians and white people. General Howard, pointing to this
land, said: ``If you will come on to the reservation, I will give you these
lands and move these people off.''
I replied: ``No. It would be wrong to disturb these people. I have no right
to take their homes. I have never taken what did not belong to me. I will not
We rode all day upon the reservation, and found no good land unoccupied. I
have been informed by men who do not lie that General Howard sent a letter that
night, telling the soldiers at Walla Walla to go to Wallowa Valley, and drive us
out upon our return home.
In the council, next day, General Howard informed me, in a haughty spirit,
that he would give my people thirty days to go back home, collect all
their stock, and move on to the reservation, saying, ``If you are not here in
that time, I shall consider that you want to fight, and will send my soldiers to
drive you on.''
I said: ``War can be avoided, and 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 a
hurry? I can not get ready to move in thirty days. Our stock is scattered, and
Snake River is very high. Let us wait until fall, then the river will be low. We
want time to hunt up our stock and gather supplies for winter.''
General Howard replied, ``If you let the time run over one day, the soldiers
will be there to drive you on to the reservation, and all your cattle and horses
outside of the reservation at that time will fall into the hands of the white
I knew I had never sold my country, and that I had no land in Lapwai; but I
did not want bloodshed. I did not want my people killed. I did not want anybody
killed. Some of my people had been murdered by white men, and the white
murderers were never punished for it. I told General Howard about this, and
again said I wanted no war. I wanted the people who lived upon the lands I was
to occupy at Lapwai to have time to gather their harvest.
I said in my heart that, rather than have war, I would give up my country. I
would give up my father's grave. I would give up everything rather than have the
blood of white men upon the hands of my people.
General Howard refused to allow me more than thirty days to move my people
and 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 upon
discovering that the soldiers were already in the Wallowa Valley. We held a
council, and decided to move immediately, to avoid bloodshed.
Too-hool-hool-suit, who felt outraged by his imprisonment, talked for war,
and made many of my young men willing to fight rather than be driven like dogs
from the land where they were born. He declared that blood alone would wash out
the disgrace General Howard had put upon him. It required a strong heart to
stand up against such talk, but I urged my people to be quiet, and not to begin
We gathered all the stock we could find, and made an attempt to move. We left
many of our horses and cattle in Wallowa, and we lost several hundred in
crossing the river. All of my people succeeded in getting across in safety. Many
of the Nez Perces came together in Rocky Canon to hold a grand council. I went
with all my people. This council lasted ten days. There was a great deal of
war-talk, and a great deal of excitement. There was one young brave present
whose father had been killed by a white man five years before. This man's blood
was bad against white men, and he left the council calling for revenge.
Again I counseled peace, and I thought the danger was past. We had not
complied with General Howard's order because we could not, but we intended to do
so as soon as possible. I was leaving the council to kill beef for my family,
when news came that the young man whose father had been killed had gone out with
several other hot-blooded young braves and killed four white men. He rode up to
the council and shouted: ``Why do you sit here like women? The war has begun
already.'' I was deeply grieved. All the lodges were moved except my brother's
and my own. I saw clearly that the war was upon us when I learned that my young
men had been secretly buying ammunition. I heard then that Too-hool-hool-suit,
who had been imprisoned by General Howard, had succeeded in organizing a
war-party. I knew that their acts would involve all my people. I saw that the
war could not then be prevented. The time had passed. I counseled peace from the
beginning. I knew that we were too weak to fight the United States. We had many
grievances, but I knew that war would bring more. We had good white friends, who
advised us against taking the war-path. My friend and brother, Mr. Chapman,who
has been with us since the surrender, told us just how the war would end. Mr.
Chapman took sides against us, and helped General Howard. I do not blame him for
doing so. He tried hard to prevent bloodshed. We hoped the white settlers would
not join the soldiers. Before the war commenced we had discussed this matter all
over, and many of my people were in favor of warning them that if they took no
part against us they should not be molested in the event of war being begun by
General Howard. This plan was voted down in the war-council.
There were bad men among my people who had quarreled with white men. They
talked 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 young
men did a great wrong, but I ask, Who was first to blame? They had been insulted
a thousand times; their fathers and brothers had been killed; their mothers and
wives had been disgraced; they had been driven to madness by whisky sold to them
by white men; they had been told by General Howard that all their horses and
cattle which they <<424>> had been unable to drive out of Wallowa
were to fall into the hands of white men; and, added to all this, they were
homeless and desperate.
I would have given my own life if I could have undone the killing of white
men by my people. I blame my young men and I blame the white men. I blame
General Howard for not giving my people time to get their stock away from
Wallowa. I do not acknowledge that he had the right to order me to leave Wallowa
at any time. I deny that either my father or myself ever sold that land. It is
still our land. It may never again be our home, but my father sleeps there, and
I love it as I love my mother. I left there, hoping to avoid bloodshed.
If General Howard had given me plenty of time to gather up my stock, and
treated Too-hool-hool-suit as a man should be treated, there would have been
My friends among white men have blamed me for the war. I am not to blame.
When my young men began the killing, my heart was hurt. Although I did not
justify them, I remembered all the insults I had endured, and my blood was on
fire. Still I would have taken my people to the buffalo country without
fighting, if possible.
I could see no other way to avoid a war. We moved over to White Bird Creek,
sixteen miles away, and there encamped, intending to collect our stock before
leaving; but the soldiers attacked us, and the first
battle was fought. We
numbered in that battle sixty men, and the soldiers a hundred. The fight lasted
but a few minutes, when the soldiers retreated before us for twelve miles. They
lost thirty-three killed, and had seven wounded. When an Indian fights, he only
shoots to kill; but soldiers shoot at random. None of the soldiers were scalped.
We do not believe in scalping, nor in killing wounded men. Soldiers do not kill
many Indians unless they are wounded and left upon the battle-field. Then they
Seven days after the first battle, General Howard arrived in the Nez Perces
country, bringing seven hundred more soldiers. It was now war in earnest. We
crossed over Salmon River, hoping General Howard would follow. We were not
disappointed. He did follow us, and we got back between him and his supplies,
and cut him off for three days. He sent out two companies to open the way. We
attacked them, killing one officer, two guides, and ten men.
We withdrew, hoping the soldiers would follow, but they had got fighting
enough for that day. They intrenched themselves, and next day we attacked them
again. The battle lasted all day, and was renewed next morning. We killed four
and wounded seven or eight.
About this time General Howard found out that we were in his rear. Five days
later he attacked us with three hundred and fifty soldiers and settlers. We had
two hundred and fifty warriors. The fight lasted twenty-seven hours. We lost
four killed and several wounded. General Howard's loss was twenty-nine men
killed and sixty wounded.
The following day the soldiers charged upon us, and we retreated with our
families and stock a few miles, leaving eighty lodges to fall into General
Finding that we were outnumbered, we retreated to Bitter Root Valley. Here
another 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 by you without
fighting if you will let us, but we are going by you anyhow.'' We then made a
treaty with these soldiers. We agreed not to molest any one, and they agreed
that we might pass through the Bitter Root country in peace. We bought
provisions and traded stock with white men there.
We understood that there was to be no more war. We intended to go peaceably
to the buffalo country, and leave the question of returning to our country to be
With this understanding we traveled on for four days, and, thinking that the
trouble was all over, we stopped and prepared tent-poles to take with us. We
started again, and at the end of two days we saw three white men passing our
camp. Thinking that peace had been made, we did not molest them. We could have
killed or taken them prisoners, but we did not suspect them of being spies,
which they were.
That night the soldiers surrounded our camp. About day-break one of my men
went out to look after his horses. The soldiers saw him and shot him down like a
coyote. I have since learned that these soldiers were not those we had left
behind. They had come upon us from another direction. The new white war-chief's
name 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 from
the rear. In this battle we lost nearly all our lodges, but we finally drove
General Gibbon back.
Finding that he was unable to capture us, he sent to his camp a few miles
away for his big guns (cannons), but my men had captured them and all the
ammunition. We damaged the big guns all we could, and carried away the powder
and lead. In the fight with General Gibbon we lost fifty women and children and
thirty fighting men. We remained long enough to bury our dead. The Nez Perces
never make war on women and children; we could have killed a great many women
and children while the war lasted, but we would feel ashamed to do so cowardly
We never scalp our enemies, but when General Howard came up and joined
General Gibbon, their Indian scouts dug up our dead and scalped them. I have
been 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 six
days General Howard came close to us, and we went out and attacked him, and
captured nearly all his horses and mules (about two hundred and fifty head).
We then marched on to the Yellowstone Basin. On the way we captured one white
man and two white women. We released them at the 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 taken prisoners, and held three days and then
released without being insulted? Were the Nez Perces women who fell into the
hands of General Howard's soldiers treated with as much respect? I deny that a
Nez Perce was ever guilty of such a crime.
A few days later we captured two more white men. One of them stole a horse
and 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 Howard, but we supposed that he had
sent for more horses and mules. He did not come up, but another new war-chief
(General Sturgis) attacked us. We held him in check while we moved all our women
and children and stock out of danger, leaving a few men to cover our retreat.
Several days passed, and we heard nothing of General Howard, or Gibbon, or
Sturgis. We had repulsed each in turn, and began to feel secure, when another
army, under General Miles, struck us. This was the fourth army, each of which
outnumbered our fighting force, that we had encountered within sixty days.
We had no knowledge of General Miles's army until a short time before he made
a charge upon us, cutting our camp in two and capturing nearly all our horses.
About seventy men, myself among them, were cut off. My little daughter, twelve
years of age, was with me. I gave her a rope, and told her to catch a horse and
join the others who were cut off from the camp. I have not seen her since, but I
have learned that she is alive and well.
I thought of my wife and children, who were now surrounded by soldiers, and I
resolved to go to them or die. With a prayer in my mouth to the Great Spirit
Chief who rules above, I dashed unarmed through the line of soldiers. It seemed
to me that there were guns on every side, before and behind me. My clothes were
cut to pieces and my horse was wounded, but I was not hurt. As I reached the
door of my lodge, my wife handed me my rifle, saying: ``Here's your gun.
The soldiers kept up a continuous fire. Six of my men were killed in one spot
near me. Ten or twelve soldiers charged into our camp and got possession of two
lodges, killing three Nez Perces and losing three of their men, who fell inside
our lines. I called my men to drive them back. We fought at close range, not
more than twenty steps apart, and drove the soldiers back upon their main line,
leaving their dead in our hands. We secured their arms and ammunition. We lost,
the first day and night, eighteen men and three women. General Miles lost
twenty-six killed and forty wounded. The following day General Miles sent a
messenger into my camp under protection of a white flag. I sent my friend Yellow
Bull to meet him.
Yellow Bull understood the messenger to say that General Miles wished me to
consider 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 me, Yellow Bull said he wondered whether General
Miles was in earnest. I sent him back with my answer, that I had not made up my
mind, but would think about it and send word soon. A little later he sent some
Cheyenne scouts with another message. I went out to meet them. They said they
believed that General Miles was sincere and really wanted peace. I walked on to
General Miles's tent. He met me and we shook hands. He said, ``Come, let us sit
down by the fire and talk this matter over.'' I remained with him all night;
next morning Yellow Bull came over to see if I was alive, and why I did not
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 power, and I am afraid
they will never let you go again. I have an officer in our camp, and I will hold
him until they let you go free.''
I said: ``I do not know what they mean to do with me, but if they kill me you
must not kill the officer. It will do no good to avenge my death by killing
Yellow Bull returned to my camp. I did not make any agreement that day with
General Miles. The battle was renewed while I was with him. I was very anxious
about my people. I knew that we were near Sitting Bull's camp in King George's
land, and I thought maybe the Nez Perces who had escaped would return with
assistance. No great damage was done to either party during the night.
On the following morning I returned to my camp by agreement, meeting the
officer who had been held a prisoner in my camp at the flag of truce. My people
were divided about surrendering. We could have escaped from Bear Paw Mountain if
we had left our wounded, old women, and children behind. We were unwilling to do
this. We had never heard of a wounded Indian recovering while in the hands of
On the evening of the fourth day General Howard came in with a small escort,
together with my friend Chapman. We could now talk understandingly. General
Miles said to me in plain words, ``If you will come out and give up your arms, I
will spare your lives and send you to your reservation.'' I do not know what
passed between General Miles and General Howard.
I could not bear to see my wounded men and women suffer any longer; we had
lost enough already. General Miles had promised that we might return to our own
country with what stock we had left. I thought we could start again. I believed
General Miles or I never would have surrendered. I have heard that he
has been censured for making the promise to return us to Lapwai. He could not
have made any other terms with me at that time. I would have held him in check
until my friends came to my assistance and then neither of the generals nor
their soldiers would have ever left Bear Paw Mountain alive.
On the fifth day I went to General Miles and gave up my gun, and said, ``From
where the sun now stands I will fight no more.'' My people needed rest -- we
I was told we could go with General Miles to Tongue River and stay there
until spring, when we would be sent back to our country. Finally it was decided
that we were to be taken to Tongue River. We had nothing to say about it. After
our arrival at Tongue River, General Miles received orders to take us to
Bismarck. The reason given was, that subsistence would be cheaper there.
General Miles was opposed to this order. He said: ``You must not blame me. I
have endeavored to keep my word, but the chief who is over me has given the
order, and I must obey it or resign. That would do you no good. Some other
officer would carry out the order.''
I believe General Miles would have kept his word if he could have done so. I
do not blame him for what we have suffered since the surrender. I do not know
who is to blame. We gave up all our horses (over eleven hundred) and all our
saddles (over one hundred) and we have not heard from them since. Somebody has
got our horses.
General Miles turned my people over to another soldier, and we were taken to
Bismarck. Captain Johnson, who now had charge of us, received an order to take
us to Fort Leavenworth. At Leavenworth we were placed on a low river bottom,
with no water except river-water to drink and cook with. We had always lived in
a healthy country, where the mountains were high and the water was cold and
clear. Many of my people sickened and died, and we buried them in this strange
land. I can not tell how much my heart suffered for my people while at
Leavenworth. The Great Spirit Chief who rules above seemed to be looking some
other way, and did not see what was being done to my people.
During the hot days (July, 1878) we received notice that we were to be moved
farther 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 the
way to Baxter Springs. It was worse to die there than to die fighting in the
We were moved from Baxter Springs (Kansas) to the Indian Territory, and set
down without our lodges. We had but little medicine, and we were nearly all
sick. Seventy of my people have died since we moved there.
We have had a great many visitors who have talked many ways. Some of the
chiefs (General Fish and Colonel Stickney) from <<430>> Washington
came to see us, and selected land for us to live upon. We have not moved to that
land, for it is not a good place to live.
The Commissioner Chief (E. A. Hayt) came to see us. I told him, as I told
every one, that 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 land was
taken up; that, if I returned to Wallowa, I could not live in peace; that
law-papers were out against my young men who began the war, and that the
Government could not protect my people.'' This talk fell like a heavy stone upon
my heart. I saw that I could not gain anything by talking to him. Other law
chiefs (Congressional Committee) came to see me and said they would help me to
get a healthy country. I did not know who to believe. The white people have too
many 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 a
better home than we have now. I like the land we found (west of the Osage
reservation) better than any place I have seen in that country; but it is not a
healthy land. There are no mountains and rivers. The water is warm. It is not a
good country for stock. I do not believe my people can live there. I am afraid
they will all die. The Indians who occupy that country are dying off. I promised
Chief Hayt to go there, and do the best I could until the Government got ready
to make good General Miles's word. I was not satisfied, but I could not help
myself. Then the Inspector Chief (General McNiel) came to my camp and we had a
long talk. He said I ought to have a home in the mountain country north, and
that he would write a letter to the Great Chief at Washington. Again the hope of
seeing the mountains of Idaho and Oregon grew up in my heart.
At last I was granted permission to come to Washington and bring my friend
Yellow Bull and our interpreter with me. I am glad we came. I have shaken hands
with a great many friends, but there are some things I want to know which no one
seems able to explain. I can not 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 can not 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 (the President), the next Great Chief
(Secretary of the Interior), the Commissioner Chief (Hayt), the Law
<<431>> Chief (General Butler), and many other law chiefs
(Congressmen), and they all say they are my friends, and that I shall have
justice, but while their mouths all 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 all my horses and cattle.
Good words will 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 good
health and stop them from dying. Good words will not get 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 misrepresentations have been made, too many misunderstandings
have come up between the white men about 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 all the same law. 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 the rivers to run backward as
that any man who was born a free man should be contented when 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 can not tell me.
I only ask of the Government to be treated as all other men are treated. If I
can not go to my own home, let me have a home in some country where my people
will not die so fast. I would like to go to Bitter Root Valley. There my people
would be healthy; 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 race treated
as outlaws and driven from country to country, or shot down like animals.
I know that my race must change. We can not 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 the
Indian breaks the law, punish him by the law. If the 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 think and talk 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
will have no more wars. We shall all be alike --brothers of one father and one
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 from the face of
the earth. For this time the Indian race are waiting and praying. I hope that 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.
In-mut-too-yah-lat-lat has spoken for his people.
Washington City, D.C.