"All men were made brothers. The earth is the mother of all people, and all people should have equal rights upon it. You might as well expect the rivers to run backward as that any man who was born free should be contented when penned up and denied liberty to go where he pleases...
"...Our fathers gave us many laws, which they had learned from their fathers. These laws were good. They told us to treat all people as they treated us; that we should never be the first to break a bargain; that is was a disgrace to tell a lie; that we should speak only the truth..."
- Chief Joseph
Day 150 - Sunday, November 19, 1995 - I recieved a brief report from Three Rivers. The walkers have been on the road making miles every day, heading west toward Albuquerque, New Mexico, and then the Western Gate beyond.
The walkers received a surprise visit in camp from a man named Mickey, who said he was the great great grandson of Chief Joseph. Three Rivers ran into Mickey first. He told here that he had come all the way from Washington state, and that he wanted to talk with the leaders of our walk.
The ancestor, Chief Joseph (1840-1904), of the Nez Perce (Nimiputimt), was called by his people In-mut-too-yah-lat-lat (Thunder coming up over the land from the water).
He is remembered for his eloquence, and for his courageous and strategically brilliant resistance against the U.S. Government's attempts to force his tribe off of their ancestral homelands, and onto reservations.
The Nez Perce were a peaceful nation spread from Idaho to Northern Washington. The tribe had maintained good relations with the whites after the Lewis and Clark expedition.
Chief Joseph's father, Old Joseph, had signed a treaty with the U.S. in 1855 that allowed his people to retain much of their traditional lands. But the land was beautiful and rich, and much desired for its timber and minerals. Thus, in 1863 another treaty was created by the government with dissident factions among the Nez Perce, but without with the full consent of the nation. That illegitimate treaty severely reduced the Nez Perce land, and separated the people from the sacred places they had for generations fed with their songs and prayers.
A showdown over the illegitimate treaty came after Joseph the younger assumed his role as chief in 1877. The Nez Perce refused to be uprooted from their ancestral homeland in the Wallowa Valley, and to be shut away on reservations
Instead, as the military superiority of the government forces became clear, Chief Joseph tried to lead 800 of his people to Canada, including the women, children, and elders. Fighting the U.S. Army all along their 1,100-mile journey, they crossed Idaho and Montana. Just forty miles from the Canadian border and their hoped for peace and freedom, they were trapped and attacked. After a brutal fight, the remaining Nez Perce were defeated in what is remembered as the battle of Bear's Paw. To spare the Nez Perce families any further devastation, Chief Joseph surrendered and shortly thereafter gave his famous speech: "...I am tired; my heart is sick and sad. From where the Sun now stands I will fight no more forever."
The surviving Nez Perce were packed off to a reservation in Oklahoma, where malaria and starvation soon took many more lives.
In 1885, Chief Joseph, along with many of his band, was sent to a reservation in Washington where, according to the reservation doctor, he later died of a broken heart.
All of this the Sunbow walkers remembered with prayers, including everyone, no exceptions, with forgiveness and respect for all, according to the mission and instructions of our long pilgrimage.
When Mickey sat down with Three Rivers, Ned, Charlotte, and Joe near the Sunbow camp, he told them that he had had a dream.
In the dream he was instructed "to go beyond the last volcano, and stay there and wait." The dream informed him that eventually there would come along a group of people who would be walking, and that he should speak with the leaders.
Mickey had then gotten into his aging white sedan, and driven all the way from Washington state to eastern New Mexico. He had been hanging around a truck stop asking if anyone knew anything about a group of walkers, when the waitress showed him the Tucumcari paper. It had a feature story about us.
After reading the paper Mickey immediately drove to the Sunbow camp. He soon sat alone with Ned and Joe to talk. They never shared what Mickey told them.
Before he left, Mickey found Three Rivers again. He looked her in the eye and said, “I was told to talk to the woman who had been taught by an Indian that wasn’t.” Her mouth fell open. "That was me me that he was talking about," Three Rivers said. "That's exactly what happened to me. Years ago I was taught by a man who called himself chief, but that was a facade. He was not Indian or a chief, but he knew some things."
Mickey then spoke with Three Rivers about some issues that he felt might trip us up on our way West. He told her to pay attention to the leadership of the walk, and said it was possible that power could cloud somone's thinking.
Copyright 2006 by Steven McFadden
Read Day 151 -- Odyssey of the 8th Fire
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