In 1877, Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce attempted to lead 750 – 800 of his people to Canada rather than be confined to a reservation. The U.S. Army pursued him, and after a trek of over 1100 miles, and culminating in a five day long battle, he formally surrendered his remaining 431 people to the authorities. His formal surrender speech to General Nelson Appleton Miles on October 5, 1877 is powerful in its sincerity, simplicity, and brevity:
“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.”
One hundred thirty two words which potently tug at the heart. They are a masterpiece of the spoken art.