Statement on surrendering tribal lands to Isaac Stevens, governor of Washington Territory (1855)
(NB: see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chief_Seattle for historical details of this statement, which states "Chief Seattle gave a speech in January 1854 that was reported by Dr. Henry A. Smith in the Seattle Sunday Star in 1887. It is most usually called Seattle's Reply since it was a response to a speech by Territorial Governor Isaac I. Stevens. While there is no question that Chief Seattle gave a speech on this occasion, the accuracy of Smith's account is doubtful.").
My people are few. They resemble the scattering trees of a storm-swept plain...There was a time when our people covered the land as the waves of a wind-ruffled sea cover its shell-paved floor, but that time long since passed away with the greatness of tribes that are now but a mournful memory.
At night when the streets of your cities and villages are silent and you think them deserted, they will throng with the returning hosts that once filled them and still love this beautiful land. The white man will never be alone.
The following quotes, purportedly taken from a letter in which Seattle pleaded that his name should die with the ceding of the Washington State territories, was shown in 1992 to have been a fiction, devised by television scriptwriter Ted Perry for a historical epic in 1971. See "Chief Seattle", Snopes (Sept. 26, 2007).
Every part of all this soil is sacred to my people. Every hillside, every valley, every plain and grove has been hollowed by some sad or happy event in days long vanished. The very dust you now stand on responds more willingly to their footsteps than to yours, because it is rich with the blood of our ancestors and our bare feet are conscious of the sympathetic touch.
Let him be just and deal kindly with my people, for the dead are not powerless. Dead, did I say? There is no death, only change of worlds.
We know that the white man does not understand our ways. One portion of the 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 fathers' graves, and his children’s birthright is forgotten.
Tribe follows tribe, nations follow nations like the tides of the sea. It is the order of nature, and regret is useless.
Today is fair. Tomorrow may be overcast with clouds. My words are like the stars that never change.
How can you buy or sell the sky, the warmth of the land?
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 humming insect is holy in the memory and experience of my people.
The sap which courses through the trees carries the memory of the red man.
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. This shining water that moves in the streams and rivers is not just water but the blood of our ancestors.
If we sell you land, you must remember that it is sacred, and you must teach your children that it is sacred and that the ghostly reflection in the clear water of the lakes tells us 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 cannoes, feed our children. If we sell our land, you must learn, 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.
You must teach the children that the ground beneath their feet is the ashes of your 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 what we have taught our children, that the earth is our mother. Whatever befalls the earth, befalls the sons of the earth. If men spit upon the ground, they spit upon themselves.
Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.
The Earth does not belong to man; man belongs to 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.
What is man without the beasts? If all the beasts were gone, men would die from great loneliness of spirit, for whatever happens to the beasts also happens to the man.
In this moment of spiritual triumph we can see why the film (Follow Me Home) begins with a quotation of words by Chief Seattle, when he said that after the last red man was gone the land would still be filled with their spirits: "The white man will never be alone." Is this a promise (as heard by some people of color) or a threat (as heard by some whites) or simply a truth that we should all heed?
Just like Chief Seattle talked about being in the web of life, in India we talk about vasudhaiva kutumbkam, which means the earth family. Indian cosmology has never separated the human from the non-human—we are a continuum.