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The following beautiful and prophetic statement in behalf of the environment has been attributed to Chief Sealth and has caused him to become the folkloric hero of the environmental movement, speaking both the mind and the conscience of all concerned about the Earth. It was said to have been Chief Sealth’s reply to President Franklin Pierce in December of 1854 upon the United States Governments offer to buy two million acres of Dwarmish  landin the Pacific Northwest.

His Native Eloquence, Etc., Etc. by Henry A. Smith
Scraps from a Diary: Chief Seattle - A gentleman By Instinct

10th article in the series Early Reminiscences

Seattle Sunday Star, October 29, 1887

Old Chief Seattle was the largest Indian I ever saw, and by far the noblest-looking. He stood 6 feet full in his moccasins, was broad-shouldered, deep-chested, and finely proportioned. His eyes were large, intelligent, expressive and friendly when in repose, and faithfully mirrored the varying moods of the great soul that looked through them. He was usually solemn, silent, and dignified, but on great occasions moved among assembled multitudes like a Titan among Lilliputians, and his lightest word was law.

When rising to speak in council or to tender advice, all eyes were turned upon him, and deep-toned, sonorous, and eloquent sentences rolled from his lips like the ceaseless thunders of cataracts flowing from exhaustless fountains, and his magnificent bearing was as noble as that of the most cultivated military chieftain in command of the forces of a continent. Neither his eloquence, his dignity, or his grace were acquired. They were as native to his manhood as leaves and blossoms are to a flowering almond.

His influence was marvelous. He might have been an emperor but all his instincts were democratic, and he ruled his loyal subjects with kindness and paternal benignity. He was always flattered by marked attention from white men, and never so much as when seated at their tables, and on such occasions he manifested more than anywhere else the genuine instincts of a gentleman.

When Governor Stevens first arrived in Seattle and told the natives he had been appointed commissioner of Indian affairs for Washington Territory, they gave him a demonstrative reception in front of Dr. Maynard's office, near the waterfront on Main Street. The bay swarmed with canoes and the shore was lined with a living mass of swaying, writhing, dusky humanity, until old Chief Seattle's trumpet-toned voice rolled over the immense multitude, like the startling reveille of a bass drum, when silence became as instantaneous and perfect as that which follows a clap of thunder from a clear sky.

The governor was then introduced to the native multitude by Dr. Maynard, and at once commenced, in a conversational, plain, and straightforward style, an explanation of his mission among them, which is too well understood to require capitulation.

When he sat down, Chief Seattle arose with all the dignity of a senator, who carries the responsibilities of a great nation on his shoulders. Placing one hand on the governor's head and slowly pointing heavenward with the index finger of the other, he commenced his memorable address in solemn and impressive tones.


"... all things share the same breath - the beast, the tree, the man ... the air shares its spirit with all the life it supports."

"Yonder sky that has wept tears of compassion on our fathers for centuries untold, and which, to us, looks eternal, may change. Today it is fair, tomorrow it may be overcast with clouds. My words are like stars that never set. What Seattle says, the Great Chief in Washington can rely upon, with as much certainty as our paleface brothers can rely upon the return of the seasons.

"The Great Chief in Washington sends word that he wishes to buy our land. "The son of the white chief says his father sends us greetings of friendship and good will. This is kind, for we know he has little need of our friendship in return, because his people are many. They are like the grass that covers the vast prairies, while my people are few, and resemble the scattering trees of a storm-swept plain but we will consider your offer.

"The great and I presume also good, white chief sends us word that he wants to buy our lands but is willing to allow us to reserve enough to live on comfortably. This indeed appears generous, for the red man no longer has rights that he need respect, and the offer may be wise, also, for we are no longer in need of a great country.

"There was a time when our people covered the whole land, as the waves of a wind-ruffled sea cover its shell-paved floor. But that time has long since passed away with the greatness of tribes now almost forgotten. I will not mourn over our untimely decay, nor reproach my paleface brothers for hastening it, for we, too, may have been somewhat to blame.

"When our young men grow angry at some real or imaginary wrong, and disfigure their faces with black paint, their hearts also are disfigured and turn black, and then their cruelty is relentless and knows no bounds, and our old men are not able to restrain them.

"But let us hope that hostilities between the red man and his paleface brothers may never return. We would have everything to lose and nothing to gain.

"True it is that revenge, with our young braves, is considered gain, even at the cost of their own lives. But old men who stay at home in times of war, and old women, who have sons to lose, know better.

"Your religion was written on tables of stone by the iron finger of an angry

God, lest you might forget it. The red man could never remember nor comprehend it.

"Our religion is the traditions of our ancestors, the dream of our old men, given them by the Great Spirit, and the visions of our sachems, and is written in the hearts of our people.

"Your dead cease to love you and the homes of their nativity as soon as they pass the portals of the tomb. They wander far off beyond the stars, are soon forgotten, and never return.

" Our dead never forget the beautiful world that gave them being. They still love its winding rivers, its great mountains and its sequestered vales, and they ever yearn in tenderest affection over the lonely hearted living and often return to visit and comfort them

"Day and night cannot dwell together. The red man has ever fled the approach of the white man, as the changing mists on the mountainside flee before the blazing morning sun.

But how can you buy or sell the sky? or 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 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. So when the Great Chief in Washington sends word that he wishes to buy our land, he asks much 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 father's father.

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?

This we know: All things are connected. What befalls the earth befalls all the sons of the earth. 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 which the white man may one day discover~ our God is also your God. They are 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. This 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. Continue to 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. Your destiny is a mystery to us for we do not understand what will happen when the buffalo are all slaughtered! The wild horses are 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 the hunt? Where are our Young men! Gone! This is the end of living and the beginning of survival. So we will consider your offer to buy the land.

If we agree, it will be to secure the reservation you have promised. There perhaps we may live out our brief days as we wish. It matters but little where we pass the remainder of our days. They are not many.

"The Indian's night promises to be dark. No bright star hovers about the horizon. Sad-voiced winds moan in the distance. Some grim fate of our race is on the red man's trail, and wherever he goes he will still hear the sure approaching footsteps of the fell destroyer and prepare to meet his doom, as does the wounded doe that hears the approaching footsteps of the hunter. A few more moons, a few more winters, and not one of all the mighty hosts that once filled this broad land or that now roam in fragmentary bands through these vast hopeful as your own.

"But why should we repine? Why should I murmur at the fate of my people? Tribes are made up of individuals and are no better than they. Men come and go like the waves of the sea. A tear,  and they are gone from our longing eyes forever.

When the last red man has vanished from the Earth with this wilderness, and his memory is only the shadow of a cloud moving across the prairie, the shores and forests will still hold the spirits of my people.

For 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 all.

"Even the rocks that seem to lie dumb as they swelter in the sun along the silent seashore in solemn grandeur thrill with memories of past events connected with the fate of my people, and the very dust under your feet responds more lovingly to our footsteps than to yours, because it is the ashes of our ancestors, and our bare feet are conscious of the sympathetic touch, for the soil is rich with the life of our kindred.

"The able braves, and fond mothers, and glad-hearted maidens, and the little children who lived and rejoiced here, and whose very names are now forgotten, still love these solitudes, and the deep vastness at eventide, grow shadowy with the presence of dusky spirits. And when the last red man shall have perished from the earth and his memory among white men shall have become a myth, these shores shall swarm with the invisible dead of my tribe, and when your children's children shall think themselves alone in the field, the store, the shop, upon the highway or in the silence of the woods, they will not be alone.

In all the earth there is no place dedicated to solitude. At night, when the streets of your cities and villages shall be silent, and you think them deserted, they will throng with the returning hosts that once filled and still love this beautiful land. The white man will never be alone. Let him be just and deal kindly with my people, for the dead are not altogether powerless."

One thing we know – Our God is the same God. This earth is precious to Him. . Even the white man, whose God walked and talked with him, as friend to friend, is not exempt from the common destiny. We may be brothers after all.

We shall see………"




Chief Seattle (also Sealth or Seathl) of the Suquamish and Duwamish Native American tribes, was born around 1786 on Blake Island in Washington state, and died June 7, 1866 on the Suquamish Reservation at Port Madison (now Bainbridge Island, Washington). His father, Schweabe, was a noble of the Suquamish tribe, and his mother was Scholitza of the Duwamish. Seattle, Washington was named after him.

Seattle earned his reputation at a young age as a leader and a warrior, ambushing and defeating groups of enemy raiders coming up the Green River from the Cascade foothills, and attacking the S'Klallam, a powerful tribe living on the north shore of the Olympic Peninsula. He also married well, taking wives from the village of Tola'ltu just southeast of Duwamish Head on Elliott Bay (now part of West Seattle).


His first wife died after bearing a daughter. A second wife bore him sons and daughters. After the death of one of his sons, he sought and received baptism in the Roman Catholic Church, probably in 1848 near Olympia, Washington. His children were also baptized and raised in the faith, and his conversion marked his emergence as a leader seeking cooperation with incoming American settlers.

A speech given by Chief Seattle in January 1854 was reported by Dr. Henry A. Smith in the Seattle Sunday Star newspaper in 1887. It is most usually called Seattle's Reply since it was a response to a speech by Territorial Governor Isaac M. Stevens. While there is no question that Chief Seattle gave a speech on this occasion, the accuracy of Smith's account is highly subject to question , let alone the accuracy of later accounts that derive from Smith's.