A Speech by Chief Seattle (Skokomish) in 1854
"The Great Chief in Washington sends word that he
wishes to buy our
The Great Chief also sends us words of friendship
and good will. This is kind of him, since we know he has little need
of our friendship in return. But we will consider your offer. For we know that
if we do not sell, the white man may come with guns and take the land.
How can you buy or sell the sky, the warmth of the land?
The idea is strange to us.
If we do not own the freshness of the air and the sparkle
of the water, how can you buy them?
Every part of this earth is sacred to my people.
Every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods,
every clearing and humming insect is holy in the memory and experience
of my people. The sap which courses through the trees carries the memories
of the red man.
The white man's dead forget the country of their birth
when they go to walk among the stars. Our dead never
forget this beautiful earth, for it is the mother of the red man. We are part
of the earth and it is part of us. The perfumed flowers are our sisters; the deer, the horse
and the great eagle are our brothers. The rocky crests, the juices in the meadows, the
body heat of the pony, and man- all belong to the same family.
So when the Great Chief in Washington sends word
that he wishes to buy the land, he asks much of us.
The red man has always retreated before the advancing white man, as the mist
of the mountain runs before the morning sun. We know that the white man
does not understand our ways. One portion of land is the same to him
as the next... the earth is not his brother, but his enemy, and when he has
conquered it, he moves on. He leaves his father's graves behind, and he does not
care. He kidnaps the earth from his children...His appetite will devour the
earth and leave behind only a desert.
The air is precious to the red man, for all things share the same
breath- the beast, the tree, the man, they all share the same breath.
The white man does not seem to notice the air he breathes. Like a man
dying for many days, he is numb to the stench...The air is precious to us,
the air shares its spirit with the life it supports. The wind that gave
our grandfather his first breath also receives his last sigh.
This we know: The earth does not belong to man;
man belongs to the earth. This we know.
Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth.
Man did not weave the web of life; he is merely a strand in it.
Whatever he does to the web he does to himself.
Even the white man cannot be exempt from the common
destiny. One thing we know, which the white man may one day discover-
our god is the same god. You may think that you own him as you wish to own the land
but you cannot. This earth is precious to the great spirit, and to harm the
earth is to heap contempt on its creator. The whites too shall pass; perhaps sooner than
all other tribes. Continue to contaminate your bed, and one night you will
suffocate in your own waste.
Your destiny is a mystery to us, for we do not
understand when the buffalo are all slaughtered, the wild horses tamed,
the secret corners of the forest heavy with the scent of many men, and the view
of the ripe hills blotted by talking wires. The end of living and the beginning of survival.
When the last red man is vanished from th is earth,
and his memory is only the shadow of a cloud moving across the prairie,
the shores and forests will still hold the spirits of my people.
For they love this earth as the newborn loves its mother's heartbeat.
So if we sell you our land, love it as we've loved it. Care for it as
we've cared for it. Hold in your mind the memory of the land as it is
when you take it. And with all your strength, with all your mind, with all
your heart, preserve it for your children, and love it... as the Great Spirit
loves us all."
(as presented by William Arrowsmith in the High Country News)
Here is the Source Material
for the Chief Seattle speech.
"O pardon me, thou bleeding piece of earth, That I am meek and gentle
with these butchers!" ..William Shakespeare
"If you've seen one tree, you've seen them all." Ronald Reagan
It is estimated that in 1860 there were between 30 and 90 Million buffalo on the plains. Their stampedes could be heard for hundreds of miles - called by the natives "Rolling Thunder." These animals had thrived here for thousands of years, and the people that lived here lived in turn off the buffalo with great economy - taking only sick, old, or weak animals, and using every part with little waste.
When the railroad began to cross the plains, in the mid 1860's, there was a massive influx of whites. Killing buffalo became an industry ($1.00 per hide), and the railroad made it easy to send the hides back east to be made into car tops, suitcases, and industrial drive belts. The government funded parts of the killing spree, knowing the devastating effect on Native morale and survival.
By 1870, the rolling thunder was silent. Millions of buffalo had been killed, skinned, and left to rot. The herds had dwindled to a few thousand, when the killing finally eased off, partly because of the outcry from a few whites with a conscience.
How would white America react now if some alien came and destroyed all of our cattle, sheep, chickens, and swine? With wails of torment, and a sense of being deeply wronged, and a convienient forgetting of our own atrocities, committed so recently.
If there is anything positive in all of this, it is that pre-European cultures thrived in the western hemisphere for 7 to 9 thousand years. Whites have been there only two or three hundred. The natives had 2 or 3 hundred generations of keeping the same uninterrupted rhythm. Few of the world's nations have been able to survive that long. In the larger context of history, or from some alien anthropologist's point of view, the Native Americans would be seen as being one of Earth's longest-lived cultures.