Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Good Words

“The earth is our mother. She should not be disturbed by hoe or plough. We want only to subsist on what she freely gives us. Our fathers gave us many laws, which they had learned from their fathers. These laws were good. 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.

Our fathers gave us many laws, which they had learned from their fathers. These laws were good. They told us to treat all people as they treated us; that we should never be the first to break a bargain; that is was a disgrace to tell a lie; that we should speak only the truth; that it was a shame for one man to take another his wife or his property without paying for it.

We were contented to let things remain as the Great Spirit made them.

I am not a child, I think for myself. No man can think for me.

The earth and myself are of one mind.

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 the same.

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 cannot give me back my children. 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.

It does not require many words to speak the truth.

We do not want churches because they will teach us to quarrel about God, as the Catholics and Protestants do. We do not want that. We may quarrel with men about things on earth, but we never quarrel about the Great Spirit.

The white man has more words to tell you how they look to him, but is does not require many words to seek the truth.

Too many misinterpretations have been made... too many misunderstandings...

If the white man wants to live in peace with the Indian...we 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. You might as well expect the rivers to run backward as that any man who is born a free man should be contented when penned up and denied liberty to go where he pleases. We only ask an even chance to live as other men live. We ask to be recognized as men. Let me be a free man...free to travel... free to stop...free to work...free to choose my own teachers...free to follow the religion of my Fathers...free to think and talk and act for myself."

- Chief Joseph , Nez Pierce


Anonymous said...

This is so powerful I can't add much by way of comment. The story of Chief Joseph's band and its treatment by the US Army is here:


There is a sad truth that we all know well behind this quote. Europeans managed to get advanced weapons and naval technology before the rest of the world. Lots of philosophy and centuries of Christianity did not prevent us (I being descended from them) from then becoming a scourge upon the New World.

A whole unexploited continent! It could have been developed by Europeans without all that legendary killing and double dealing, both in North and South America.

Probably no group of humans would have handled all that new-found power and territory any better. But the story of what Europeans did doesn't leave much scope for our generations-old and now very tiresome claim to be "superior" to the rest of mankind.


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