The Sound of Lightning
Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce
SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: People in America, a program in Special English by the Voice of America. Every week at this time, we tell the story of a man or a woman who played an important part in the history of the United States. Today, Larry West and Warren Scheer complete the story of Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce Indians.
WARREN SCHEER: In eighteen seventy-seven, the American government decided to move the Nez Perce Indians from their land in the northwestern part of the country. The government had set up a reservation for them in Idaho. Chief Joseph did not want to leave the land. It was holy ground. It contained the bones of his father and mother.
But, like his father in earlier times, Chief Joseph knew it would be hopeless to stay and defend the land. There were too few Indians to win a war against the white men.
And so in June of eighteen seventy-seven, the Nez Perce left their home in the Wallowa Valley. They left quickly. They were able to take only a small part of what they owned, and just a few cattle and Appaloosa horses.
LARRY WEST: When the Indians reached the Snake River, the water was very deep and ran very fast with melted snow from the mountains. Chief Joseph and his people made boats from sticks and dried animal skins to cross the river. While the Indians were busy, a group of white men came and stole some of the cattle waiting at the edge of the river.
Chief White Bird
But Joseph said, "It is better to live at peace than to begin a war and lie dead."
WARREN SCHEER: Some of the young men in White Bird's group were very angry. That night, they rode into the countryside and killed eleven white persons.
During all his years as chief, Joseph had tried to keep the peace. Now he saw there was no hope. Although he and his young men had taken no part in the killings, he knew that the white men would blame all of the Indians. Chief Joseph said, "I would have given my own life if I could have undone the killing of the white men."
Many Nez Perce fled. Chief Joseph remained, because his wife was about to have a baby. After she gave birth, he and his brother and their families joined the others in White Bird Canyon to the south.
LARRY WEST: Joseph wanted to lead the people to safety in the flat lands of Montana. But the United States army quickly sent horse soldiers to follow them.
The troops rode all night. They were extremely tired when they reached White Bird Canyon. An Indian -- carrying a white flag -- walked forward to meet them. A soldier shot him.
With that shot, war between the Nez Perce and the United States began.
The two sides fought hard. The soldiers could not defeat the Indians.
Joseph, White Bird and Toohoolhoolzote led their people across the mountains to join another Nez Perce group led by Chief Looking Glass. Together, the Nez Perce forces then numbered more than two-hundred-fifty warriors.
The chiefs met. They knew they could not return home. They decided to lead their people to Canada. And so they headed north, always keeping their horses in front of them. The chiefs believed the soldiers would not follow them again.
LARRY WEST: The chiefs did not know, however, that army officials in Washington were discussing the situation. The officials did not understand why the United States army could not capture several hundred Indians.
So they decided to send General William Tecumseh Sherman -- a hero of the Civil War -- to find out.
The Indians continued to move toward Canada, battling groups of soldiers along the way.
When the Indians reached the great Yellowstone Park, General Sherman himself was waiting for them. His troops closed every road out of the park. But Joseph, with his people and their horses, escaped through the trees.
WARREN SCHEER: General Sherman sent word by telegraph to other army commanders along the Indians' way north. At one place in the mountains, the Indians found a group of soldiers building a wall across the only road.
Chief Looking Glass
The soldiers would not let the Indians pass. Fighting broke out. And, again, the Indian warriors defeated the white soldiers.
Joseph was not a military man. In fact, before the war against the American army, Joseph had never been in battle. But he understood human nature. He understood his enemy. And he was able to unite his warriors and his people.
LARRY WEST: Many weeks after the Nez Perce had left their home lands, they reached the Bear Paw Mountains. They were only eighty kilometers from Canada. The Nez Perce were close to their goal. But safety was not yet in sight.
Six-hundred army troops, under the command of General Nelson Miles, were waiting at Bear Paw.
The soldiers attacked two times on the first day. They were beaten back two times. Joseph's brother was killed in the fighting, as well as Toohoolhoolzote and some of the other chiefs.
After the long march and so many battles, only eighty-seven warriors remained. Many of the women and children were wounded or sick. Most of the horses were dead.
The weather turned cold in the mountains. The wind blew, and it began to snow.
General Miles sent a message to Chief Joseph. He said: "If you will come out and give up your arms, I will not harm you, and will send you to the reservation."
Bear Paw Mountains
"I am tired of fighting. Our chiefs are killed. It is cold, and we have no blankets. Some of my people have run away to the hills. No one knows where they are. I want to have time to look for my children. Hear me, my chiefs! My heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands. . . I will fight no more forever. "
LARRY WEST: Two days after Chief Joseph surrendered, the government ordered him and his people far away.
First, they went to an army base in Kansas. Then they went to a dry and empty piece of land in Oklahoma. Within a year, almost half the people died. Joseph buried all of his children.
Years later, Chief Joseph and his people were permitted to return to the northwest. But they were not permitted to return home.
Joseph spoke to American officials. Nothing changed. He could never go back to the holy ground that held the bones of his father and mother. He lived in the northwest -- in exile -- until September, nineteen-oh-four, when he died.
WARREN SCHEER: Chief Joseph's words expressed the ideas of justice and civil rights. . . Even though he lived in a time when he could not have those rights himself. He said:
"Treat all men alike. Give them all the same law. Give them all an even chance to live and grow. The earth is the mother of all people. And all people should have equal rights upon it. Then the great spirit chief who rules above will smile upon this land, and send rain to wash out the bloody spots made by brothers' hands upon the face of the earth."
SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: You have been listening to the VOA Special English program, People in America, and its story of Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce Indians. You narrators were Larry West and Warren Scheer. Our program was written by Barbara Dash. This is Shirley Griffith.
1. The Nez Perce left their home in the Wallowa Valley because ___________________ .
2. Chief Joseph didn't want to begin a war with white people because he believed that _______________________ .
3. The Nez Perce War started because ____________________________ .
4. While the Nez Perce were preparing to cross the Snake River, ____________________ .
5. ___________________ said, "I would have given my own life if I could have undone the killing of the white men."
6. At White Bird Canyon, when a Nez Perce carried the white flag of peace _____________________ .
7. The following is not an advantage the Nez Perce had over the whites: ___________________ .
8. At the mountains near Bear Paw, when the Nez Perce were only 80 kilometers from Canada, _____________________ .
9. Chief Joseph was a very effective leader of his Nez Perce warriors because ______________________ .
10. After the battle in the mountains around White Bird Canyon, ____________________ .
Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce, Part One
Thursday, October 18, 2012
This is Rich Kleinfeldt. And this is Sarah Long with THE MAKING OF A NATION, A VOA Special English program about the history of the United States.
Today, we tell about relations between the American colonies and Britain after the French and Indian War about two hundred fifty years ago.
The French and Indian War was one part of a world conflict between Britain and France. It was fought to decide which of the two powerful nations would rule North America.
The British defeated the French in North America in 1763. As a result, it took control of lands that had been claimed by France. Britain now was responsible for almost two million people in the thirteen American colonies and sixty thousand French-speaking people in Canada. In addition to political and economic responsibilities, Britain had to protect all these colonists from different groups of Indians.
This would cost a lot of money. Britain already had spent a lot of money sending troops and material to the colonies to fight the French and Indian War. It believed the American colonists should now help pay for that war.
The colonists in America in 1763 were very different from those who had settled there more than one hundred years before. They had different ideas. They had come to consider their colonial legislatures as smaller -- but similar -- to the Parliament in Britain. These little parliaments had helped them rule themselves for more than one hundred years. The colonists began to feel that their legislatures should also have the powers that the British Parliament had.
The situation had changed in England too. In 1707, the nation became officially known as Great Britain. Its king no longer controlled Parliament as he had in the early 1600s. Then, the king decided all major questions, especially those concerning the colonies.
But power had moved from the king to the Parliament. It was the legislature that decided major questions by the time of the French and Indian War, especially the power to tax. The parliaments in the colonies began to believe that they should have this power of taxation, too.
The first English settlers in America considered themselves citizens of England. They had crossed a dangerous ocean to create a little England in a new place, to trade with the mother country and to spread their religion. By 1763, however, the colonists thought of themselves as Americans.
Many of their families had been in North America for fifty to one hundred years. They had cleared the land, built homes, fought Indians and made lives for themselves far away from Britain. They had different everyday concerns than the people in Britain. Their way of life was different, too. They did not want anyone else to tell them how to govern themselves.
The British, however, still believed that the purpose of a colony was to serve the mother country. The government treated colonists differently from citizens at home. It demanded special taxes from them. It also ordered them to feed British troops and let them live in their houses. Britain claimed that the soldiers were in the colonies to protect the people. The people asked, "From whom?"
As long as the French were nearby in Canada, the colonists needed the protection of the British army and navy. After the French were gone -- following their defeat in the French and Indian War -- the colonists felt they no longer needed British military protection.
The British government demanded that the colonists pay higher and higher taxes. One reason was that the British government wanted to show the colonists that it was in control. Another reason was that Britain was having money problems. Foreign wars had left it with big debts. The British thought the colonists should help pay some of these debts, especially those resulting from the French and Indian War.
The American colonists might have agreed, but they wanted to have a say in the decision. They wanted the right to vote about their own taxes, like the people living in Britain. But no colonists were permitted to serve in the British Parliament. So they protested that they were being taxed without being represented.
In 1764, the British Parliament approved the Sugar Act. This legislation placed taxes on sugar, coffee, wines and other products imported to America in large amounts. It increased by two times the taxes on European products sent to the colonies through Britain. The British government also approved new measures aimed at enforcing all trade laws. And it decided to restrict the printing of paper money in the colonies.
The American colonists opposed all these new laws. Yet they could not agree about how to resist. Colonial assemblies approved protests against the laws, but the protest actions were all different and had no real effect. Business groups tried to organize boycotts of goods. But these were not very successful...until the British government approved another tax in 1765: a tax on stamps.
The Stamp Act probably angered more American colonists than any earlier tax. It said the colonists had to buy a British stamp for every piece of printed paper they used. That meant they would be taxed for every piece of a newspaper, every document, even every playing card.
The colonists refused to pay. Colonial assemblies approved resolutions suggesting that the British Parliament had no right to tax the colonies at all. Some colonists were so angry that they attacked British stamp agents.
History experts say the main reason the colonists were angry was because Britain had rejected the idea of "no taxation without representation." Almost no colonist wanted to be independent of Britain at that time. Yet all of them valued their local self-rule and their rights as British citizens. They considered the Stamp Act to be the worst in a series of violations of these rights.
The American colonists refused to obey the Stamp Act. They also refused to buy British goods. Almost one thousand store owners signed non-importation agreements. This cost British businessmen so much money that they demanded that the government end the Stamp Act. Parliament finally cancelled the law in 1766. The colonists immediately ended their ban against British goods.
The same day that Parliament cancelled the Stamp Act, however, it approved the Declaratory Act. This was a statement saying the colonies existed to serve Britain, and that Britain could approve any law it wanted. Most American colonists considered this statement to be illegal.
History experts say this shows how separated the colonies had become from Britain. Colonial assemblies were able to approve their own laws, but only with the permission of the British Parliament. The colonists, however, considered the work of their assemblies as their own form of self-rule.
Britain ended the Stamp Act but did not stop demanding taxes. In 1767, Parliament approved a series of new taxes called the Townshend Acts. These were named after the government official who proposed them. The Townshend Acts placed taxes on glass, tea, lead, paints and paper imported into the colonies.
The American colonists rejected the Townshend Acts and started a new boycott of British goods. They also made efforts to increase manufacturing in the colonies. By the end of 1769, they had reduced by half the amount of goods imported from Britain. The colonies also began to communicate with each other about their problems.
In 1768, the Massachusetts General Court sent a letter to the legislatures of the other colonies. It said the Townshend Acts violated the colonists' natural and constitutional rights. When news of the letter reached London, British officials ordered the colonial governor of Massachusetts to dismiss the legislature. Then they moved four thousand British troops into Boston, the biggest city in Massachusetts -- and the biggest city in the American colonies.
The people of Boston hated the British soldiers. The soldiers were controlling their streets and living in their houses. This tension led to violence. That will be our story next week.
Today's MAKING OF A NATION program was written by Nancy Steinbach. This is Sarah Long. And this is Rich Kleinfeldt. Join us again next week for another Special English program about the history of the United States.