|ONE VERSION OF SEATTLE’S SPEECH:
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?
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 memories of the red
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 dear, 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
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. The 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
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
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 graves 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.
I do not know. Our ways are different from your ways. The sight of your
cities pains the eyes of the red man. But perhaps it is because the red
man is a savage and does not understand.
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 an insect’s wings. But
perhaps it in because I am a savage and do not understand.
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, of the arguments
of the frogs around a pond at night? I am a red man and do not
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 the 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
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 spirit. For whatever 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 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
Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the 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.
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
The whites too shall pass; perhaps sooner than all other tribes.
Contaminate your bed, and you will one hight 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 the 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 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. The end of living and the beginning of survival.