Monday, August 26, 2013
The Resonance of Chief Sealth (Seattle)
Chief Sealth's intention has resonated through generations and across cultures. What's all the more remarkable is that his original oration in the mid nineteenth century is obscured. It was spoken in Lushootseed and translated into Chinook, and then various English versions have transpired. It illustrates how authenticity is an internal understanding. Here is the most recent version. This long dead man walks still...
"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
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 loves us.
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."