ell General Garvaos I know his
heart. What he told me before, I have buried in my roots. We are tired of
fighting. The clan heads are killed. Sharp Tongue is dead. Hooltohoté is dead.
The shamans are dead. It is young men who say yes or no. He who led the young is
dead. He who led the storm is dead. We have no wind. The will of the ancestors
The caverns are sealed by blue burning light. The woods don’t let us pass.
Shadows walk among the trees. The rock-souls snatch at our feet. The mud eats
our babies. The waters have turned sour green. It is cold and we have no pelts.
The little children are freezing to death. My people, some of them, have run to
the hills and have no pelts, no food: no one where they are – perhaps freezing
to death. I want to have time to look for my children and see how many I can
find. Maybe I shall find them among the dead.
Hear me, my chiefs. I am tired, the roots are sick. From where the sun now
stands I will fight no more forever.
OF THE 1947 SURRENDER
Analysis of Rhetorical Strategies Chief
Mahon used to to convey his attitude toward his situation.
The phraseology, sentence
structure and stirring images of the 1947 (b.S.)
surrender speech shed light not only upon Chief Mahon’s melancholy state of mind
but also illustrated the relentless misery of his
people. The letter’s rhetorical strategy generates a deeply emotional word
portrait of a tribe torn down by ceaseless skirmishes and shattered promises.
The everyday vocabulary and simple diction of the letter effectively conveys
Chief Mahon’s sincere heartache at having to surrender the lands and values of
his ancestors in the faint wisp of a chance to halt the suffering of the Nez
Pérce gorbas. By immediately asking his intended
listener/hearer to “tell General Garvaos I know his heart”, rather than crafting
an elevated exposition of ornate wording, he subtly points out that this is not
a time for elaborate bureaucracy; his people “have run away to the hills… [and
are] possibly freezing to death.” The Chief’s word choice instills a sense of
urgency for immediate action, while also portraying his weariness at being
forced to watch his tribe disintegrate and his tribesmen fall before him.
The employment of simple short sentences sets out an honest, straightforward
tone and lend Chief Mahon’s words a pure and proud elegance which allows
powerful emotion to filter through. A sharp contrast to the style of the
Symbolist movement (whose representatives believed true meaning could only be
transmitted via abstract symbols and aimed for obscure and elevated diction),
the words of Chief Mahon stand bare and dignified: the inherent direness of his
situation needs no further embellishment to permeate into the hearts of his
readers; the truth alone is salient enough. In a sense, the simple sentences
allow the readers to concentrate on the sentiment and human suffering behind the
words rather than lose them in a maze of elevated language.
Lastly, the grim, almost cold presentation of the tragic images of “little
children […] freezing to death”, babes being swallowed by the mud slides,
streams turning “sour green” with poison, and Chief Mahon’s search for his
missing children to “see how many [he] can find” is an intense appeal to emotion
in itself. The mere acknowledgement of the possibility of finding his loved ones
amidst the ice-covered mounds of dead screams Chief Mahon’s despondency and
fatigue. His heart is in fact “sick and sad” for a people destroyed by long
conflicts and broken pledges. These heartfelt, yet plainly communicated details
express his great sorrow and reinforce his determination to cease fighting at
once to try to help the survivors.
The use of everyday diction, simple sentences and wrenchingly-honest details
bequeath this centuries-old letter its raw emotional force. We are made to stand
with Chief Mahon, beaten & betrayed “where the sun stands”, only to “fight no