Chief Joseph, who gained fame during the Nez Perce War of 1877, is one of the best-known Indian orators in American history. Yet the two principal texts attributed to him were produced under questionable circumstances, and it is unclear to what extent they represent anything he ever said. This essay examines the publication history of these texts and then addresses two questions about the treatment of Indian oratory in the nineteenth century. First, given their uncertain provenance, how and why did these texts become so popular and come to represent Indian eloquence and an authentic Native American voice? Second, what was the political significance of Indian speech and texts of Indian oratory in the confrontation between Euro-Americans and Indians over land? I argue that the production and interpretation of Indian speech facilitated political subjugation by figuring Indians as particular kinds of subjects and positioning them in a broader narrative about the West. The discursive and political dimensions of the encounter were inseparable, as Indian “eloquence” laid the way for Indian defeat. I conclude by advocating a disruptive reading of Indian oratory that rejects the belief that a real Indian subject lies behind these texts in any straightforward sense. To make this argument, I draw on linguistic anthropology and critical theory, analyzing firsthand accounts, newspaper reports, and descriptions of Indian speech and Nez Perce history.

Aoki, Haruo
1989
Chief Joseph's Words.
Idaho Yesterdays
33
(
3
):
16
-21.
Armstrong, Virginia Irving, comp.
1971
I Have Spoken: American History through the Voices of the Indians
. Athens, OH: Swallow.
Balgooyen, Theodore J.
1968
The Plains Indian as a Public Speaker.
University of Wyoming Publications
34
(
2
):
12
-43.
Barbeau, Marius
1932
Indian Eloquence.
Queen's Quarterly
39
:
451
-64.
Barthes, Roland
1989
The Death of the Author. In
The Rustle of Language
. R. Howard, trans. Pp.
49
-55. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Bauman, Richard, and Charles L. Briggs
1990
Poetics and Performance as Critical Perspectives on Language and Social Life.
Annual Review of Anthropology
19
:
59
-88.
Beal, Merrill D.
1963
“I Will Fight No More Forever”: Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce War
. New York: Ballantine.
Bender, Margaret
2002
Signs of Cherokee Culture: Sequoyah's Syllabary in Eastern Cherokee Life
. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.
Berkhofer, Robert F., Jr.
1978
The White Man's Indian: Images of the American Indian from Columbus to the Present
. New York: Vintage.
The “Bible Chief”
1877
Chicago Times
,
26
October
.
Bierwert, Crisca
1998
Remembering Chief Seattle: Reversing Cultural Studies of a Vanishing Native American.
American Indian Quarterly
22
(
3
):
280
-304.
Boyd, James
1925
Interview by David Heilger, 28 May, transcript. Montana Historical Society, AC94-40, Collection SC 2083.
Broken Pledges: How Red Joseph Was Sold by His White Brethren
1879
Washington Post
,
18
January
.
Brown, Mark H.
1967
The Flight of the Nez Perce
. New York: Putnam.
1972
The Joseph Myth.
Montana: The Magazine of Western History
22
(
1
):
2
-17.
The Captive Chief
1877
San Francisco Chronicle
,
1
November
[datelined 10 October], 3.
Chalmers, Harvey, II
1962
The Last Stand of the Nez Perce: Destruction of a People
. New York: Twayne.
Chief Joseph's Own Story
1879
Army and Navy Journal
,
22
March
,
586
-87.
Clark, J. Stanley
1945
The Nez Percés in Exile.
Pacific Northwest Quarterly
36
(
3
):
213
-32.
Clements, William M.
1996
Native American Verbal Art: Texts and Contexts
. Tucson: University of Arizona Press.
2002
Oratory in Native North America
. Tucson: University of Arizona Press.
Clifford, James
1986
On Ethnographic Allegory. In
Writing Culture: The Poetics and Politics of Ethnography
. James Clifford and George E. Marcus, eds. Pp.
98
-121.Berkeley: University of California Press.
Cmiel, Kenneth
1990
Democratic Eloquence: The Fight over Popular Speech in Nineteenth-Century America
. New York: Morrow.
DeMallie, Raymond J., ed.
1984
The Sixth Grandfather: Black Elk's Teachings Given to John G. Neihardt
. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.
Derrida, Jacques
1976
Of Grammatology
. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, trans. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
Fee, Chester Anders
1936
Chief Joseph: The Biography of a Great Indian
. New York: Wilson-Erickson.
Fliegelman, Jay
1993
Declaring Independence: Jefferson, Natural Language, and the Culture of Performance
. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
Foucault, Michel
1977
What Is an Author? In
Language, Counter-memory, Practice: Selected Essays and Interviews
. Donald F. Bouchard, ed. Donald F. Bouchard and Sherry Simon, trans. Pp.
113
-38. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
Furtwangler, Albert
1997
Answering Chief Seattle
. Seattle: University of Washington Press.
Goody, Jack
1977
The Domestication of the Savage Mind
. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Greene, Jerome A.
2000
Nez Perce Summer, 1877: The U.S. Army and the Nee-Me-Poo Crisis
. With a foreword by Alvin M. Josephy Jr. Helena: Montana Historical Society Press.
Gustafson, Sandra M.
2000
Eloquence Is Power: Oratory and Performance in Early America
. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.
Hampton, Bruce
1994
Children of Grace: The Nez Perce War of 1877
. New York: Holt.
Harbsmeier, Michael
1989
Writing and the Other: Travellers' Literacy, or Towards an Archaeology of Orality. In
Literacy and Society
. Karen Schousboe and Mogens Trolle Larsen, eds. Pp.
197
-228. Copenhagen: Akademisk Forlag.
Holler, Clyde, ed.
2000
The Black Elk Reader
. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press.
Howard, Helen Addison
1941
War Chief Joseph
. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.
Howard, Oliver O.
1877a
Howard's Report.
Chicago Daily Tribune
,
25
October
.
1877b
Supplementary Report: Non-treaty Nez Percé Campaign. In
Annual Report of the Secretary of War
. Vol.
1
,
585
-660. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office.
1879
The True Story of the Wallowa Campaign.
North American Review
129
(
July
):
53
-64.
1972a
[1881]
Nez Perce Joseph: An Account of His Ancestors, His Lands, His Confederates, His Enemies, His Murders, His War, His Pursuit and Capture
. New York: Da Capo.
1972b
[1907]
My Life and Experiences among Our Hostile Indians
. New York: Da Capo.
Howard's Nez-Percé War
1881
Review of Nez Perce Joseph
, by Oliver O. Howard.
33
(
840
):
95
-96.
Hymes, Dell
1981
“In Vain I Tried to Tell You”: Essays in Native American Ethnopoetics
. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.
Indian Eloquence
1828
Ariel
2
(
18
):
142
.
1986
[1836] In
Native American Folklore in Nineteenth-Century Periodicals
. William M. Clements, ed. Pp.
1
-12. Athens, OH: Swallow; Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.
Joseph, Chief
1879
An Indian's View of Indian Affairs. With an introduction by William H. Hare.
North American Review
128
(
April
):
412
-33.
Joseph'[s] Speech in Full
1877
Bismarck [Dakota Territory] Tri-weekly Tribune
,
26
October
.
Josephy, Alvin M., Jr.
1997
[1965]
The Nez Perce Indians and the Opening of the Northwest
. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
Kaiser, Rudolf
1987
Chief Seattle's Speech(es): American Origins and European Reception. In
Recovering the Word: Essays on Native American Literature
. Brian Swann and Arnold Krupat, eds. Pp.
497
-536. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Krupat, Arnold
1982
An Approach to Native American Texts.
Critical Inquiry
9
(
2
):
323
-38.
1985
For Those Who Come After: A Study of Native American Autobiography
. Berkeley: University of California Press.
1987
Post-structuralism and Oral Literature. In
Recovering the Word: Essays on Native American Literature
. Brian Swann and Arnold Krupat, eds. Pp.
113
-28. Berkeley: University of California Press.
1989
The Voice in the Margin: Native American Literature and the Canon
. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Krupat, Arnold, ed.
1994
Native American Autobiography: An Anthology
. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.
Lavender, David
1992
Let Me Be Free: The Nez Perce Tragedy
. New York: HarperCollins.
Lossing, Benson J.
1870
Our Barbarian Brethren.
Harper's New Monthly Magazine
40
(
May
):
793
-811.
Low, Denise
1995
Contemporary Reinvention of Chief Seattle: Variant Texts of Chief Seattle's 1854 Speech.
American Indian Quarterly
19
(
3
):
407
-21.
MacRae, Donald
1981
[1925]
Foreword to Chief Joseph's Own Story
, by Chief Joseph. Fairfield, WA: Galleon.
McCoy, Robert R.
2004
Chief Joseph, Yellow Wolf, and the Creation of Nez Perce History in the Pacific Northwest
. New York: Routledge.
McWhorter, Lucullus Virgil
1980
[1952]
Hear Me, My Chiefs! Nez Perce History and Legend
. Caldwell, ID: Caxton.
1983
[1940]
Yellow Wolf: His Own Story
. Rev. and enl. ed. Caldwell, ID: Caxton.
Miles, Nelson A.
1877
Report from Camp near North End of Bear's Paw Mountains, M.T., to Assistant Adjutant General, Dept. of Dakota, Saint Paul, Minn., 6 October.
National Archives, Collection M666: Letters Received by the Office of the Adjutant General (Main Series)
. Roll 338, frames 528-38 (pages 1-11). Published in O. O. Howard 1877b:
654
-55.
1896
Personal Recollections and Observations of General Nelson A. Miles
. Chicago: Werner.
1911
Serving the Republic: Memoirs of the Civil and Military Life of Nelson A. Miles
. New York: Harper and Brothers.
Murray, David
1991
Forked Tongues: Speech, Writing, and Representation in North American Indian Texts
. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
Ong, Walter J.
1982
Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word
. London: Methuen.
The Pursuit and Battle
1877
Chicago Daily Tribune
,
25
October
.
Robie, Harry
1986
Red Jacket's Reply: Problems in the Verification of a Native American Speech Text.
New York Folklore
12
(
3-4
):
99
-117.
Rousseau, Jean-Jacques
1998
[1781] Essay on the Origin of Languages. In
The Collected Writings of Rousseau. Vol. 7, Essay on the Origin of Languages and Writings Related to Music
. John T. Scott, ed. and trans. Pp.
289
-332. Hanover, NH: University Press of New England.
Sanders, Thomas E., and Walter W. Peek, comp.
1973
Literature of the American Indian
. New York: Glencoe.
Sayre, Gordon M.
2005
The Indian Chief as Tragic Hero: Native Resistance and the Literatures of America, from Moctezuma to Tecumseh
. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.
A Shameful Story: Chief Joseph's Indictment of the Treacherous White Man
1879
Washington Post
,
16
January
.
Sheehan, Bernard W.
1969
Paradise and the Noble Savage in Jeffersonian Thought.
William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd ser.
,
26
:
327
-59.
Slickpoo, Allen P., Sr.
1973
Noon Nee-Me-Poo (We, the Nez Perces): Culture and History of the Nez Perces
. [Lapwai, ID: Nez Perce Tribe of Idaho].
Smith, Sherry L.
1996
Reimagining the Indian: Charles Erskine Scott Wood and Frank Linderman.
Pacific Northwest Quarterly
87
(
3
):
149
-58.
Sorber, Edna C.
1972
The Noble Eloquent Savage.
Ethnohistory
19
:
227
-36.
Strickland, William
1977
Cherokee Rhetoric: A Forceful Weapon.
Journal of Cherokee Studies
2
(
4
):
375
-84.
The Surrender of Joseph
1877
Harper's Weekly
21
(
17
November
):
905
-6.
Sutherland, Thomas A.
1980
[1878]
Howard's Campaign against the Nez Perce Indians, 1877
. Fairfield, WA: Galleon.
Tedlock, Dennis
1983
The Spoken Word and the Work of Interpretation
. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.
Tracy, William
1871
Indian Eloquence.
Appletons' Journal
6
(
11
November
):
543
-45.
Vanderwerth, W. C.
1971
Indian Oratory: Famous Speeches by Noted Indian Chieftains
. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.
Wells, Merle W.
1964
The Nez Perce and Their War.
Pacific Northwest Quarterly
55
(
1
):
35
-37.
Wood, C. E. S.
1877
Gen. Howard and Chief Joseph: Speech of the Indian Chief in Surrendering to Gen. Miles.
New York Times
,
16
November
[datelined 15 November].
1884
Chief Joseph, the Nez-Percé.
Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine
28
(
1
):
135
-42.
1893
Famous Indians: Portraits of Some Indian Chiefs.
Century Magazine
46
(
3
):
436
-45.
1936
The Pursuit and Capture of Chief Joseph.
Appendix I of Chief Joseph: The Biography of a Great Indian
, by Chester Anders Fee. Pp.
319
-36. New York: Wilson-Erickson.
Wroth, Lawrence C.
1975
[1928] The Indian Treaty as Literature. In
Literature of the American Indians: Views and Interpretations; A Gathering of Indian Memories, Symbolic Contexts, and Literary Criticism
. Abraham Chapman, ed. Pp.
324
-37. New York: New American Library.
Young Joseph
1879
Council Fire
2
(
2
):
22
-23.