Chief Seattle’s Letter
The following is Chief Seattle’s eloquent and ecological response to President Pierce’s 1854 offer to buy a large tract of Indian land.
We hope this ageless plea instills in you as much inspiration as it did us.
Sandy’s reads this selection at the opening and closing campfires of each camp session.
How Can You Buy or Sell the Sky?
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 every humming insect is holy in the memory and experience of my people. The sap that 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 of the meadows, 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 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 brother.
You must teach your children that the ground beneath their feet is the ash of our 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. This we know. All things are connected like the blood that unites one family. All things are connected.
If we sell you our land, love it as we have loved it. Care for it as we have cared for it. Hold it in your mind, the memory of the land, as it is when you take it. And with all your strength, with all your mind, with all your heart, preserve it for your children and love it – as God loves us all.