From Chief Seattle's Famous Speech to President Franklin Pierce
In 1854, the United States Government aggressively offered
to buy 2 million acres of land occupied by native people in the Northwest.
Below is a translation of excerpts from Chief Seattle's (Chief Sealth) reply to President
Franklin Pierce in December of that year. His speech has been described as one of
the most beautiful and prophetic statements on the environment ever made.
"The Great Chief in Washington sends
word that he wishes to buy our land. 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.
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 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 every 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.
So, when the Great Chief in Washington sends word that he wishes to buy our land,
he asks much of us..."
"This we know: All things are
connected. 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. But we will consider your offer to go to the reservation you
have for my people. We will live apart, and in peace...."
"If we agree, it will be to secure
the reservation you have promised. There, perhaps, we may live out our brief days as
we wish. When the last red man has vanished from the earth, and his memory is
only the shadow of a cloud moving across the prairie, these 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 our land, love it as we've loved it. Care for
it as we have cared for it. Hold in your mind the memory of the land as it is when
you take it. And preserve it for your children..."