From an 1855 letter


An acquaintance of mine is part Cherokee, and photocopied this letter. I asked if I could borrow it for my blog and he said, “sure.” It’s quite insightful.

Bronze statue of Chief Noah Sealth ("Chie...

Bronze statue of Chief Noah Sealth (“Chief Seattle”), Chief of the Suquamish, Five Points / Tilikum Place (where Denny Way meets Fifth Avenue, roughly the border between Belltown and South Lake Union), Seattle, Washington. Sculpted by local sculptor James Wehn, unveiled November 13, 1912. On the National Register of Historic Places, ID #84003502. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From An 1855 letter.

We are indebted to the National Wildlife Conservation News for publishing the following thought-provoking letter written to President Franklin Pierce in 1855. It was sent to him by Chief Sealth of the Duwanish Tribe in state of Washington:

“The Great Chief in Washington sends word that he wishes to buy our land. How can you buy or sell the sky—the warmth of the land? The idea is strange to us. We do not own the freshness of the air or the sparkle of the water. How can you buy them from us? Every part of this earth is sacred to my people. Every shiny 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.”

“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 his children’s birthright is forgotten.

“There is no quiet place in the white man’s cities. No place to hear the leaves of spring or the rustle of insect wings. But perhaps because I am savage and do not understand, the clatter seems to insult the ears. And what is there to life if a man cannot hear the lovely cry of the whippoorwill or the arguments of the frogs around the pond at night.

“The whites, too, shall pass—perhaps sooner than other tribes. Continue to contaminate your bed, and you will one night suffocate in your own waste. When the buffalo are all slaughtered, the wild horses all tamed,  the secret corners of the forest heavy with the scent of many men, and the views of the ripe hills blotted by talking wires. Where is the thicket? Gone. Where is the eagle? Gone. And what is to say goodbye to the swift and the hunt, the end of living, and the beginning of survival.

Do you think he was an insightful prophet?

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “From an 1855 letter

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s