Chief Joseph`s Surrender Speech


    Chief Joseph led his people in an attempt to resist the takeover of their lands in the Oregon Territory by white settlers. In 1877, the Nez Perce were ordered to move to a reservation in Idaho. Chief Joseph agreed at first. But after members of his tribe killed a group of settlers, he tried to flee to Canada with his followers, traveling over 1500 miles through Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Montana. Along the way they fought several battles with the pursuing U.S. Army.

Chief Joseph spoke these words when they finally surrendered on October 5th, 1877.

    Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce For his principled resistance to the removal, he became renowned as a humanitarian and peacemaker.

He was also known as Joseph the Younger, as his predecessor was his father, Joseph the Elder.

His formal Native American name translates to Thunder Rolling Down a Mountain

Having seen his warriors reduced to just 87 fighting men, having weathered the loss of his own brother, Olikut, and having seen many of the women and children near starvation, Chief Joseph surrendered to his enemy, delivering one of the greatest speeches in American history.

  By the fall of 1877 Chief Joseph and his people were exhausted. They had come within 40 miles of the Canadian border, reaching the Bear Paw Mountains of Montana, but were too beaten and starving to continue to fight.

  General Howard and the U.S. Army The last of Young Joseph’s tribe

General Howard

  Joseph’s purpose in this speech was to stop the decimation of his people. He wanted no more violence, and no more fighting, he just wanted the remainder of his people to live.

  The subject was the death of his people, as well as the reason he no longer could fight.

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 is dead.”

  The tone of the speech is hopeless and sad.

I am tired; my heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands I will fight no more forever.”

    Chief Joseph uses a powerful command of ethos by using the words “my people” and showing ownership and command of the tribe.

His very name is automatic ethos, seeing as he is a Chief.

“My people, some of them, have run away to the hills, and have no blankets, no food.” “Hear me, My Chiefs!”

    Pathos is used in basically the entire speech.

The very speech is raw, and honest, a no-holds barred account of what has happened to his people, and his out take on that.

“ 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.” He uses rhetoric to emphasize the tribes plight, as well as everyday prose to relate not only to the general of the US Army but to the common people as well.

  Chief Joseph doesn’t try to hide how bad the situation is for he and his people. He clearly states what he knows to be happening and this makes for a very raw and sorrowful speech, but also honest as well. “I am tired of fighting.”

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  The use of everyday diction, simple sentences and wrenchingly-honest details give this speech its raw emotional force.

Although the speech is short it still holds great emotional impact.