Chief Seattle

Chief Seathl, [Noah Seattle], chief of the Suquamish tribe, near the Puget Sound, convert to Catholicism, died on June 7, 1866. He was involved in negotiations with the US government on the lands of the Suguamish. Many environmentalists quote a supposed speech of his. It reflects his thinking but it is probably the work of a screenwriter in the 1970s.

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, the great eagle, these 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.

However, here is a more prophetic and biting text that is much more likely to be his treaty when his people ceded land to the settlers.

Your God is not our God!
Your God loves your people and hates mine!
He holds his strong protecting arms lovingly about the paleface
and leads him by the hand as a father leads an infant son.
But He has forsaken His Red children, if they really are His.
Our God, the Great Spirit, seems also to have forsaken us.
Your God makes your people wax stronger every day.
Soon they will fill all the land.
Our people are ebbing away
like a rapidly receding tide that will never return.
The white men’s God cannot love our people or He would protect them.
They seem to be orphans who can look nowhere for help.
How then can we be brothers?

How can your God become our god
and renew our prosperity
and awaken in us dreams of returning greatness?
If we have a common Heavenly Father He must be partial,
for He came to His paleface children….
A few more moons, a few more winters,
and not one of the descendants of the mighty hosts
that once moved over this broad land
or lived in happy homes, protected by the Great Spirit,
will remain to mourn over the graves of a people
once more powerful and hopeful than yours.

But why should I mourn at the untimely fate of my people?
Tribe follows tribe, and nation follows nation,
like the waves of the sea.
It is the order of nature, and regret is useless.
Your time of decay may be distant, but it will surely come,
for even the White Man whose God walked
and talked with him as friends to friend,
cannot be exempt from the common destiny.

We may be brothers after all.
We will see.


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