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English Lit/Lang Anthology [Chief Joseph's Speech] Cheat Sheet by

A Level English Lit/Lang [OCR Exam Board] This anthology text has not yet come up in an exam.

Chief Joseph Portrait

About this surrender speech

Chief Joseph (Hin-m­ah-­too­-ya­h-l­at-­kekt), a Nez Perce Native America, led his people to resist the takeover of his lands by white settlers, finally surren­dering in 1877.

This speech was given in 1879 to President Rutherford B. Hayes to plead his people's case. Despite the respect accorded to him as leader, he was unsucc­essful.

He and his people were eventually resettled in Colville Indian Reserv­ation many miles from their home.


Genre: (Surre­nder) Speech - published publically as a reading speech, formally adressing government. Plea/s­tat­eme­nt/­per­suasion speech.
Register: formal
Audience: Govern­men­t/head army, who they were fighting against. Indirectly literate audiences.
Mode: Speech (can be written and was publis­hed).
Purpose: To address horrors that Chief Joseph's people experi­enced and to ask them to stop as they will no longer fight them.
Also to inform the government and others of their wrongd­oings to the tribe and the injustices they have suffered.


Discourse: (1)written or spoken commun­­icate or debate. (2) speak or write author­­it­a­t­ively about a topic.

Uses the word "­Ind­ian­s" to describe Native Americans - now outdated. Comes from the mistaken belief of European explorers that they had sailed round the world and found India.

Chief Joseph had to appeal to white settlers, regardless of whether it was disres­pectful, as they had more power/­control in this situation.

Shows inequality and the unfair political power of the white man.


Effective close of the last statement - simple sentence in past tense.
This puts emphasis on Chief Joseph's points. It is also very final, as if he's offering a last chance, or expressing disapp­oin­tment.

Lexis & Semantics

Chief Joseph's translator has left some conceptual lexical terms, such as "­Great Father Chief" for President.
This connotes that Chief Joseph is trying to show how alike they are and how they deserve equality.

He uses the word "­fri­end­" to describe those he is speaking to- this further suggests he wants to be seen as equals- it is possible it's meant to remind the listeners that they could've worked together, if the Native Americans had been treated properly.


Phonology: (1) the system of contra­­stive relati­­on­ships among the speech sounds that constitute the fundam­­ental components of a language. (2) the brand of lingui­­stics that deals with systems of sounds (including or excluding phonetics) within a language or between different langua­­ges.

Sounds in the Native American names ("Tu­-hu­l-h­il-­sot­e", "­Hin­-ma­h-t­oo-­yah­-la­t-k­ekt­") are different to Western name styles, this is tradit­ional for Western listen­ers­/re­aders to hear. Including them makes the speech more personal and emotive, and works to Chief Joseph's advantage,


Dichotomy between races and cultures - "­white man".

Spiritual quality to Chief Joseph's speech.

Nez Perce tribe.

Analysis - general points

Pre-mo­difying adjective: "­little childr­en" - to make them sound more vulner­able.

Antist­rophe: "­fre­ezing to death" - repetition end of sentence adds emphasis.

Sibilance: "sick and sad" - musical quality, terms stand out to the reader by doing this.

Modal verb: "Maybe I shall find them among the dead" - uncert­ainty, vulner­abi­lity.

Repeti­tion: "­hea­rt" - culturally specific. "­cannot unders­tan­d" - reinforces issue.

Proper noun: "­Yellow Bull" - he still uses his own language.

Anaphora: "Good words", "good words" - sympathy, emphasis.

Pragmatics & Connot­ations

Povert­y/s­tru­ggle: "no blanke­ts"

Margin­ali­sation: "at last I was granted permis­sio­n"

Broken promises: "­cannot unders­tan­d", "­broke his word", "­pro­mis­e"

Listing: "­Great Father Chief; the next Great Chief; the Commis­sioner Chief; the Law Chief; and many other law chiefs­" - many people but no fixes.

Emotive language: "­jus­tic­e"

Posses­sive: "my dead people­", "my countr­y" - still his people's country, even with white settlers.

Declar­ative sentence (short): "I am tired of talk that comes to nothin­g" - finality, disapp­oin­tment - evokes sympathy.

Juxtap­osi­tion: "good words and all the broken promis­es" - sympathy, emphas­ising highlights lies and mislea­ding's of the government - mistrust.

Rhetorical question: "If you tie a horse to a stake, do you expect he will grow fat?" before metaphor in order to add emphasis.

Allego­rical: "if you pen an Indian up on a small spot of earth and compel him to stay there, he will not be contented nor will he grow and prospe­r." - metaphor to represent his people.

Reques­ting, not demanding: "I only ask", "let me", "I would like" - power dynmaics.

Anecdotal: "­three have died since I left my camp to come to Washin­gto­n" - evokes sympathy, highlights reality of the situation.

Colloc­ation + allite­ration: "­heart is heavy" - "­hea­rt" is cultural.

Defeatist: "I know that my race must change­" - he now needs to work with the white people because he has no power.

Trying to bargain: "let me be a free man", "­submit to the penalt­y" - he will obey if they allow him freedom- still under control by the white people in reality.

Religion: "­white men treats the Indian as they treat each other" - reference to Christian Bible teachings, that you should treat your neighbour kindly. Treat each other how you want to be treated.


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