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In "An Indian's View of Indian Affairs," Chief Joseph uses a tone of heart-felt sincerity to convey his deep desire to come to an understanding with "the white man."
On the first page, Chief Joseph speaks about speaking from the heart to find a way to a way for all people to live harmoniously in America at that time. He says:
I believe much trouble and blood would be saved if we opened our hearts more.
Chief Joseph also sets the tone by sharing the values of the Nez Percés people. Things they believed to be important included honesty, integrity, the fair treatment of others, and a belief that a man received in the next life what he had earned in this life.
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.
Chief Joseph is a man of peace who has asked that he and his people be left in peace, to live on the land of their ancestors. He urges his people to follow a path of peace as well. This accord continues even after white men steal their horses and cattle, and even move onto their land—but no one stands up for the rights of the people. When the government sends the military, led by General Howard, there is no respect shown to Chief Joseph and his people. White men have killed some of the members of their tribe. Howard is unmoved and demands that the Nez Percés move or suffer the consequences. He will not even allow the people to remain to harvest their crops so they can survive the winter. Eventually, some of the younger members of the tribe, with anger in their hearts, attack and kill four white men.
Chief Joseph is greatly saddened by what his men have done, but once again he speaks from his heart to explain why they were driven to violence, even though that is not the path he has chosen for himself or his people.
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 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.
In speaking with honesty and integrity, Chief Joseph sets a tone in this piece of heart-felt sincerity that does not waver, even in the face of the disgraceful treatment he and his people experience at the hands of the white government, its military and its people. Chief Joseph does not rage, make demands or scream for justice: his message continues to show a desire for peace.
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