Joseph was chief of the Nez Perce, a Native American tribe in Northwest Oregon. In 1877 the Nez Perce refused to go to a reservation, a land prescribed by the US government for Native Americans. Instead, Chief Joseph attempted to lead 800 of his people to Canada. They made a journey of 1100 miles, fighting the U.S. Army all the way. Eventually, they were trapped forty miles from their destination, where, after a fight lasting five days, the 431 surviving Nez Perce were beaten. Accepting this defeat, Chief Joseph made his speech of surrender.
“I am tired of fighting. Our chiefs are killed. Looking Glass is dead. Toohulhulsote is dead. The old men are all dead. It is the young men who say yes or no. He who led 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 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.”