This Week's Story

What do you do when the government takes your home and your occupation becomes impossible? Ask Chief Joseph and many Nez Perce.

This Week’s Story relives American history and the Bible through brief inspiring stories presented on mp3 audio recordings and text for reading.

I will speak with a straight tongue part two

“Joseph, our culture will die, if we live on the Lapwai Reservation.”

“Ollokut, if we refuse to live on it, the United States military will consider our refusal an act of war.”

“Then go again to the government commissioners.  You are chief.  Speak for our band of Nez Perce.”

“I have done so many times, as did Father, when he was chief.  Since 1855 we have negotiated with the U.S. to keep our valley.  But now a new order has been given that rejects previous promises.”

“Joseph, I am a Nez Perce Native American.  Wallowa Valley is my home.  I’m a hunter, not a farmer.  For generations our people have roamed millions of acres.  We have the largest herds of horses on the continent and we trade them for what we need.  How will we live on a puny strip of land in the Idaho Territory?

“’Before Father died, he told you, ‘Always remember that your father never sold his country.  You must stop your ears whenever you are asked to sign a treaty selling your home.’”

“Ollokut, there are no ears for our answers.  Either we leave Wallowa Valley in 30 days or soldiers will move us.

“But, we cannot round up our horses and herds of cattle within thirty days.  Three thousand of our horses are scattered throughout the valley and surrounding mountain slopes.”

“Ollokut, we cannot defy the power of the United States military.  I know we won’t find all our horses. And, there’s the problem of crossing the Snake River.  It’s spring flood time.  The current is violent and tricky.  In places the water looks calm, but underneath the surface, there are whirlpools sucking in anything on the surface.”

Within thirty days Chief Joseph’s band began one of the most famous journeys in the history of the American West.

Rafts were made for crossing the Snake River.  At each corner was tied a horse with a rider.  The horses struggled to swim across with their loads.  No person was lost, but disaster arrived at night.  White thieves drove off four hundred head of horses and cattle.  The remaining animals were driven into the water. Many could not swim across.  The bodies of colts and calves were swept down the river.

After leaving the river Chief Joseph and his band joined two more Nez Perce chiefs and their bands.  There were meetings with loud demands for war.  Always Chief Joseph spoke calmly for peace, but one day some of the young men attacked homes of white settlers.  Several were slaughtered.  Another raid with more murders followed.  Joseph knew there was now no escape from war.  General Howard would hold him responsible and send soldiers.

The chiefs began planning for fighting General Howard’s cavalry.  Their strategies were excellent, though they were inexperienced in warfare. They selected a site ideal for defense and sent out scouts, who travelled for miles in many directions.  Messages were passed with smoke signals and in imitation of coyote calls.  The Nez Perce warriors were so well placed that when battle began the soldiers could not locate them precisely.  The soldiers were shocked at the effective Nez Perce fighting tactics, and their superb marksmanship, whether they used bows and arrows or modern Winchester rifles.  Not one Nez Perce was killed. More than a third of the soldiers died.

Soon great military forces and guns would be unleashed against the fleeing Nez Perce.  Where should the warriors go with their women, children, horses, and cattle?

This is Barbara Steiner with history of Americans who loved freedom, but were denied freedom. Please check out thisweeksstory.com.

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