Chief Seattle’s Thoughts (and a few of my photos)

Because I just learned that our congress is going to once again steal from the Native American, my soul weeps. Why? I will let Chief Seattle’s words speak for me.

Photo Dianne Gardner

Photo Dianne Gardner

Chief Seattle’s Thoughts
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?

IMG_1689Every 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.

So, when the Great Chief in Washington sends word that he wishes to buy our land, he asks much of us. The Great Chief sends word he will reserve us a place so that we can live comfortably to ourselves. He will be our father and we will be his children.

So, we will consider your offer to buy our land. But it will not be easy. For this land is sacred to us. This shining water that

Photo Dianne Gardner Roosevelt Elk

Photo Dianne Gardner
Roosevelt Elk

moves in the streams and rivers is not just water but the blood of our ancestors.

If we sell you the land, you must remember that it is sacred, and you must teach your children that it is sacred and that each ghostly reflection in the clear water 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. The rivers carry our canoes, and feed our children. If we sell you our land, you must remember, and teach your children, that the rivers are our brothers and yours, and you must henceforth give the rivers the kindness you would give any brother.

We know that the white man does not understand our ways. One portion of land is the same to him as the next, for he is a stranger who comes in the night and takes from the land whatever he needs. The earth is not his brother, but his enemy, and when he has conquered it, he moves on. He leaves his father’s grave behind, and he does not care. He kidnaps the earth from his children, and he does not care. His father’s grave, and his children’s birthright are forgotten. He treats his mother, the earth, and his brother, the sky, as things to be bought, plundered, sold like sheep or bright beads. His appetite will devour the earth and leave behind only a desert.

2014-03-10 13.30.32I do not know. Our ways are different than your ways. The sight of your cities pains the eyes of the red man. There is no quiet place in the white man’s cities. No place to hear the unfurling of leaves in spring or the rustle of the insect’s wings. The clatter only seems to insult the ears. And what is there to life if a man cannot hear the lonely cry of the whippoorwill or the arguments of the frogs around the pond at night? I am a red man and do not understand. The Indian prefers the soft sound of the wind darting over the face of a pond and the smell of the wind itself, cleaned by a midday rain, or scented with pinon pine.

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. But if we sell you our land, you must remember that the air is precious to us, that the air shares its spirit with all the life it supports.

The wind that gave our grandfather his first breath also receives his last sigh. And if we sell you our land, you must keep it apart and sacred as a place where even the white man can go to taste the wind that is sweetened by the meadow’s flowers.
So we will consider your offer to buy our land. If we decide to accept, I will make one condition – the white man must treat the beasts of this land as his brothers.

I am a savage and do not understand any other way. I have seen a thousand rotting buffaloes on the prairie, left by the white man who shot them from a passing train. I am a savage and do not understand how the smoking iron horse can be made more important than the buffalo that we kill only to stay alive.

What is man without the beasts? If all the beasts were gone, man would die from a great loneliness of the spirit. For 2014-06-06 13.28.37whatever happens to the beasts, soon happens to man. All things are connected.

You must teach your children that the ground beneath their feet is the ashes of our grandfathers. So that they will respect the land, tell your children that the earth is rich with the lives of our kin. Teach your children that we have taught our children that the earth is our mother. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of earth. If men spit upon the ground, they spit upon themselves.

This we know; the earth does not belong to man; man belongs to the earth. This we know. All things are connected like the blood which unites one family. All things are connected.

Even the white man, whose God walks and talks with him as friend to friend, cannot be exempt from the common destiny. We may be brothers after all. We shall see. One thing we know which the white man may one day discover; our God is the same God.

You may think now that you own Him as you wish to own our land; but you cannot. He is the God of man, and His compassion is equal for the red man and the white. The earth is precious to Him, and to harm the earth is to heap contempt on its creator. The whites too shall pass; perhaps sooner than all other tribes. Contaminate your bed and you will one night suffocate in your own waste.

But in your perishing you will shine brightly fired by the strength of the God who brought you to this land and for some special purpose gave you dominion over this land and over the red man.That destiny is a mystery to us, for we do not understand when the buffalo are all slaughtered, the wild horses are 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.

Where is the thicket? Gone. Where is the eagle? Gone.


Photo Ruth Marburger

The end of living and the beginning of survival.

About Dianne Gardner

With a passion for wholesome and entertaining stories, Dianne Lynn Gardner dives into fantasy novels both adult and young adult. She is both a best selling author and an award winning illustrator who lives in the Pacific Northwest, USA. Mother of seven and grandmother of 16, Dianne wants to make sure that books which ignite imaginations, strengthen friendships, spur courage and applaud honor are available to every reader in the world.
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6 Responses to Chief Seattle’s Thoughts (and a few of my photos)

  1. shatara46 says:

    “You can make anything by writing…” Indeed!

    [Quote:] …Even the white man, whose God walks and talks with him as friend to friend, cannot be exempt from the common destiny.” [unquote] … hmm, well, at least that’s what the “white man” (believer) claims, and if that is true then one can argue that the white man’s “God” has serious problems of discernment. Apart from the God references, not a bad piece, a bit maudlin. I’ve seen how native people treat their land and included waters up here in the Lower Mainland of B.C., Canada, and poor ol’ Chief Seattle was living in a dream world of his own making. His people simply had not been given the technology to do same, or worse, than the “white man” was doing – only difference. Just down the road from me is the Skway reservation. It boasts a giant industrial land fill that practically topples into the Hope river. The “white man” has laws now that prevent this sort of thing from happening, but those laws are not binding upon native lands. As for reservation eagles, if they want to nest they’ll have to do it on the roofs of Wal-Mart and Home Depot or the rest of the denizens of massive shopping malls thrown over what was swampy wilderness a few years ago and the massive profits from these developments do not translate into wealthier, healthier reservation communities, they go to the chiefs, families and friends. This I get from the people who live there. So let’s not get all teary over natives having this deep seated love for “mother nature” and get real: man is man, in any size, shape, or color. He is at heart a predator, an oppressor and despoiler, greedy and selfish. Neither race, nor creed makes any difference, only opportunity.

    • I’m afraid, then if it’s as you say, the white man got his wish and made the natives like himself. I do know that to this day the spirit of the Indian still lives. I have met traditionalists and I respect them highly. You have, I assume, never been to the Hopi reservation?

      I lived alongside the Navajo and whereas many native people assimilated to white man’s ways, many do not. I have walked over the red deserts herding sheep with them, sat at their campfires and made fried bread and mutton stew. I have learned to weave with the Navajo women, and built hogans. They taught me to use every bit of an animal that is butchered and showed me how to ride a wild horse. I’m afraid if the natives you know disrespect the earth it is because of what white man has taught them. Not because of their traditions.

      Many of the Pacific Northwest tribes are no more. Too many of them are extinct because of the white man and his machines. Sadly, our ‘progress’ is doing exactly the same thing to the native people of South America.

      • shatara46 says:

        You’re correct, of course. if “natives” disrespect the earth around here it is not because of their traditions. Whether traditions or beliefs, sooner or later they vanish or change. What remains, always, is man’s nature. I am speaking of nature. If it was nature that made natives respect the earth, the white man would have been completely unable to change that. But it was, as you say, tradition, or simply put, a convenient way of life when nothing else was conceivable. When the inconceivable arrived via the white man, traditions began to unravel to be replaced with white man vices. When one is not trained in resistance the slide is easier than the climb. The “old ways” never had a chance and have no chance, anywhere in the world. Man is man.

  2. gwpj says:

    Excellent! I grew up in Seattle, and Chief Sealth (Seattle) is one of my heroes. Thank you for posting it in your blog. I have reblogged it on my “Musings” blog.

  3. Pingback: Chief Seattle's Thoughts (and a few of my photos) | Gaia Gazette

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