In 1851 the first white settlers came to the Seattle area. By 1852 the United
States Government had asked the Indians of the area to sell them some land and
in reply a chief of the Suquamish Indians, Chief Seattle (after whom Seattle
is named) wrote this 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
Every part of this 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 juices 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 ghostly 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 to the rivers the kindness 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 it supports. The wind that gave our
grandfather his first breath also receives his last sigh. The wind also gives
our children the spirit of life. So if we sell you our land, you must keep it
apart and sacred, as a place where man can go 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 by talking wires? Where will the thicket be? Gone! Where will
the eagle be? Gone! And what is it to say goodbye to the swift pony and the
hunt? The end of living and the beginning of survival.
When the last Red Man has vanished with his 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 received it
Preserve the land foa all children and love it, as God loves us all.
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 brothers
"Taken from Greenpeace Board. 415-861-6503. June 24, 1988."
From: Larry Haftl
To: All Msg #28, 19-Jun-88 02:51am
Subject: Chief Seattle's Letter
My reaction on first reading it was so strong that it brought me to a total
standstill for several minutes (a VERY unusuall event for me). As I reread it
tears came to my eyes for his eloquence unheeded. I thought it may have a
similar effect on others and so I uploaded it.
I found it in a book called "the Power of Myth". I dug into the U of O library
and was able to verify that the copy in that book is completely accurate.
The letter is so powerful that I don't think there is anything left to say in
response, out of respect for his incredible vision and eloquence.
I'm glad some of you also found it .....touching. Please feel free to share
it in any way you choose with others.
"This message taken from Nature Net BBS,Portland,OR. 503-222-5240. 6/22/88"