I will fight no more forever.
~ Native American Expression, Nez Perce [15448]


Chief Joseph (1840-1904)
Photo by Edward S. Curtis

In 1877, the U. S. government broke it's treaty with the Nez Perce tribe of Wallowa Valley. Rather than being forced onto a smaller, unfamiliar reservation, Chief Joseph attempted to lead his followers to freedom.

With 2,000 U. S. soldiers in pursuit, the 800 Nez Perce traveled over 1,100 miles in an attempt to flee the calvary. After three months, Chief Joseph and his followers met their final battle just 40 miles from the Canadian border. Enduring five days of harsh blizzard storms and sub-freezing temperatures, their attempt for freedom ended in defeat.

Chief Joseph's formal surrender was so eloquent, the words have become ingrained in the American culutre:

"I am tired of fighting. Our chiefs are killed; Looking Glass is dead, Too-hul-hul-sote 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. 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. I want to have time to look for my children, and see how many of them I can find. Maybe I shall find them among the dead. Hear me, my chiefs! I am tired; my heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever."

The words did more than mark one tribe's defeat, they symbolized the end of Native Americans' struggle to retain the rights to their own land. Today these words are often used in situations where injustice prevails and fighting is futile. The words also represent the fact that within us all, is the desire for peace.


Native Voices: Chief Joseph
Video by zacuan

The 1975 film, I Will Fight No More Forever, starring Ned Romero, James Whitmore, and Sam Shepard, chronicles the events leading up to Chief Joseph's famous words.

For more information see Wikipedia's entry.

More Native American Proverbs