EXCERPT FROM CHIEF SEATTLE'S LETTER TO PRESIDENT PIERCE -1854-
also known as
"MANIFESTO FOR THE EARTH"
The White Chief says that Big Chief in Washington sends us greetings
of friendship and good will.
kind of him for we know he has little need of our friendship in return.
His people are many. They are like the grass that
covers the vast prairies.
My people are few. They resemble the scattering trees of a storm-swept plain.
- and I presume - good White Chief sends us word
that he wishes to buy our lands but is willing to allow us enough to
We shall consider your offer to buy our land.
What is it that the White Man wants to buy my people
It is difficult for us to understand.
How can one buy or sell the air, the warmth of the land?
is difficult for us to imagine.
If we don't own the sweet air and the bubbling water,
how can you buy it from us?
Each pine tree shining in the sun, each sandy beach,
the mist hanging in the dark woods, every space, each humming
is holy in the thoughts and memory of our people.
The sap rising in the tree bears the memory of the Red Man.
We are part of the earth and the earth is a part of us.
The fragrant flowers are out sisters, the reindeer, the horse,
the great eagle our brothers.
The foamy crests of waves in the river, the sap of meadow flowers,
the pony's sweat
and the man's sweat is all one and the same race, our race.
So when the Great Chief in Washington sends word that he wants
to buy our land,
he asks a great deal of us.
We know that the White Man does not understand our way of life.
To him, one piece of land is much like the other.
He is a stranger coming in the night taking from the land what he
The earth is not his brother but his enemy and when he has conquered it, he moves on.
He cares nothing for
the land, he forgets his father's grave and his children's heritage.
He treats his mother the Earth and his brother the
Sky like merchandise.
His hunger will eat the earth bare and leave only a desert.
I do not understand - our ways
are different from yours.
If we should sell our land then you must know that the air is valuable to us;
that the air
passes its breath over all life that it maintains. The wind that gave my grandfather his first breath also received his last
sigh. And the wind also breathes life into our children.
All things are bound together. All things connect.
to the Earth happens to the children of the Earth.
Man has not woven the web of life. He is but one thread.
he does to the web, he does to himself.
Soon your people will flood the land
like a river after a downpour cascades
down the cliff.
But my people and I we are the ebbing tide.
This destiny is a mystery to the Red Man.
be able to understand it if we know the White Man's dreams -
the hope and expectations about which he talks to his children
in the long winter evenings -
what visions he engraves in their hearts
so that they look forward eagerly to the coming
Yonder sky that has wept tears of compassion upon my people for centuries untold, and which to us appears changeless
and eternal, may change.
Today is fair. Tomorrow it may be overcast with clouds.
My words are like the stars
that never change.
Whatever Seattle says the great Chief at Washington can rely upon
with as much certainty as he
can upon the return of the sun or the seasons.
There was a time when our people covered the land
as the waves of a
wind-ruffled sea cover its shell-paved floor.
But that time long since passed away with the greatness to tribes
are now but a mournful memory.
All are holy in the memory and experience of my people.
We all belong to
the same family.
The rivers are our brothers...
they quench our thirst and carry our canoes and feed our children,
so you must give the rivers the kindness
that you would any brother.
When the buffalo are all slaughtered,
the wild horses all tamed,
when the secret corners of the forests heavy with the scent of many men,
and the view of
the ripe hills are blotted with talking wires,
where is the thicket?
Where is the Eagle?
what is it to say good-bye to the swiftness of the hunt?
It will be the end of the living and the beginning of survival.
When the last of the red man has vanished with his wilderness,
and the memory is only shadows of a cloud moving
across the prairie,
will there be any of the spirit of my people left?
I will not dwell on nor mourn over our
nor reproach my pale face brothers with hastening it,
as we too may have been somewhat to blame.
is little in common between us.
To us the ashes of our ancestors are sacred and their resting place is hallowed ground.
You wander far from the graves of your ancestors and seemingly without regret.
Your dead cease to love you and the
land of their nativity
as soon as they pass the portals of the tomb and wonder away beyond the stars.
Our dead never
forget the beautiful world that gave them being.
They still love its verdant valleys, its murmuring rivers, its magnificent
sequestered vales and verdant-lined lakes and bays,
and ever yearn in tender, fond affection over the lonely
and often return from the Happy Hunting Ground to visit, guide, console, and comfort them.
and night cannot dwell together.
The Red Man has ever fled the approach of the White Man
as the morning mist flees
before the rising sun.
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 certainly come for even the White Man,
God walked and talked with him as friend with friend,
cannot be exempt from the Common Destiny.
We may be brothers
after all. We will see.
We will ponder your proposition and when we decide we will let you know.
we accept it, I here and now make this condition
that we will not be denied the privilege,without molestation,
visiting at any time the tombs of our ancestors, friends, and children.
Every hillside, every valley, every plain and
has been hallowed by some sad or happy event in days long vanished.
Even the rocks which seem to be dumb and
as they swelter in the sun along the silent shore
thrill with memories of stirring events connected with the
lives of my people,
and the very dust upon which you now stand
responds more lovingly to their footsteps than to yours
because it is rich with the dust of our ancestors,
and our bare feet are conscious of the sympathetic touch.
departed braves, fond mothers, glad, happy-hearted maidens
and even the little children who lived here and rejoiced here
for a brief season,
still love these somber solitudes, and, at eventide,
the growing shadows of retiring spirits.
When the last Red Man shall have perished
and the memory of my tribe shall have become a myth among the
these shores will swarm with the invisible dead of my tribe,
and when your children's children think themselves
alone in the fields,
the store, the shop, upon the highway or in the silence of the pathless woods,
they will not
In all the earth there is no place dedicated to solitude.
At night when the streets of your villages and
cities are silent
and you think them deserted,
they will thong with the returning hosts that once filled them
still love this beautiful land.
The White Man will never be alone.
Continue to contaminate your bed
and you will
one night suffocate in your own waste.
As we are part of the land, you, too, are a part of the land.
This earth is
precious to us. It is also precious to you.
Be just and deal kindly with my people, for the dead are not powerless.
- I say?
There is no death.........
Only a change of worlds.
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