I once brought my photography students to hear from a Pomo Indian elder (Santa Rosa, CA) and he spoke the same truths as Chief Joseph.
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.
Chief Joseph (Hinamation Yalatkit), 1830—1904
My friends, I have been asked to show 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-man-hut (the Great Spirit) is looking at me, and will hear me. ….
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 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 desserts: 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 the same. ….
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 penned up and denied liberty to go where he please. 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 the great white chiefs where there 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 cannot tell me.
From a speech by Chief Joseph, 1879
Courtesy of Native American Wisdom Jacobs and Gidley
Chief Joseph, the Nez Perce Indian chief, was an American Indian rights fighter against the U.S. Government attempts to force his tribe into reservations. The tribe was a peaceful nation consisting of the states of Idaho to Northern Washington. They maintained good relations with whites after the Lewis and Clark expedition. Many of the Indian treaties were reduced and finally forced the Nez Perce to re-locate to Oklahoma where many died from malaria and starvation. In 1885 he and his tribe was sent to a reservation in Washington where Chief Joseph died of a broken heart.