Chief Seattle (more correctly known as
Seathl) was a Susquamish chief who lived on the islands of the Puget
Sound. As a young warrier, Chief Seattle was known
for his courage, daring and leadership. He gained control of six of the
local tribes and continued the friendly relations with the local whites
that had been established by his father. His now famous speech was
believed to have been given in December, 1854. There are
several versions of his letter; the following was provided by
Chief Seattle's Letter
"The President in Washington sends word that he wishes to buy our land. But how can you buy or
sell the sky? 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 the earth is sacred to my people. Every shining pine needle, every sandy shore,
every mist in the dark woods, every meadow, every humming insect. All are holy in the memory
and experience of my people.
We know the sap which courses through the trees as we know the blood that courses through our
veins. We are part of the earth and it is part of us. The perfumed flowers are our sisters.
The bear, the deer, the great eagle, these are our brothers. The rocky crests, the dew in the
meadow, the body heat of the pony, and man all belong to the same family.
The shining water that moves in the streams and rivers is not just water, but the blood of our
ancestors. If we sell you our land, you must remember that it is sacred. Each glossy reflection
in the clear waters of the lakes tells of events and memories in the life of my people. The
water's murmur is the voice of my father's father.
The rivers are our brothers. They quench our thirst. They carry our canoes and feed our children.
So you must give the rivers the kindness that you would give any brother.
If we sell you our land, remember that the air is precious to us, that the air shares its spirit
with all the life that it supports. The wind that gave our grandfather his first breath also
received his last sigh. The wind also gives our children the spirit of life. So if we sell our
land, you must keep it apart and sacred, as a place where man can go to taste the wind that is
sweetened by the meadow flowers.
Will you teach your children what we have taught our children? That the earth is our mother?
What befalls the earth befalls all the sons of the earth.
This we know: the earth does not belong to man, man belongs to the earth. All things are
connected like the blood that unites us all. 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.
One thing we know: our God is also your God. The earth is precious to him and to harm the earth
is to heap contempt on its creator.
Your destiny is a mystery to us. What will happen when the buffalo are all slaughtered? The wild
horses tamed? What will happen when the secret corners of the forest are heavy with the scent of
many men and the view of the ripe hills is blotted with talking wires? Where will the thicket
be? Gone! Where will the eagle be? Gone! And what is to say goodbye to the swift pony and then
hunt? The end of living and the beginning of survival.
When the last red man has vanished with this wilderness, and his memory is only the shadow of a
cloud moving across the prairie, will these shores and forests still be here? Will there be any
of the spirit of my people left?
We love this earth as a newborn loves its mother's heartbeat. So, if we sell you our land, love
it as we have 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 receive it. Preserve the land for all children, and love it, as God
As we are part of the land, you too are part of the land. This earth is precious to us. It is
also precious to you.
One thing we know - there is only one God. No man, be he Red man or White man,
can be apart. We ARE all brothers after all."
Note: Presumably, the generally accepted version
of the above speech was published in the The Irish
Times on June 4th, 1976. However, many people now believe that the
speech was actually written by a Hollywood screen writer in the 1970's for
the movie Home - Four Wagons West. It is thought that the script was
based on the original
statement by Chief Seattle in 1854. There is a lot of
controversy about the origin of the speech, however, and many people hold
strong opinions. Kimberly Kempf has contacted me and suggested that
of Seattle is in a book that probably was first
published in 1931. You may wish to
visit Chief Seattle
on Internet. Other information has been posted on the Web from the
State Librarian at the
Washington State Library.