Thursday, August 9, 2012

A Message from Chief Seattle

Someone recently shared an excerpt with me from a book called The Young Rockhound's Handbook. It is an unlikely name for a book containing the excerpt I am about to share, but it is a message that still needs to be heard and reflected on.

"The following is a letter written by Chief Seattle of the Duwamish Indian Tribe. The Duwamish lived in the Puget Sound area in Washington State. In 1854 President Franklin Pierce offered to buy much of the Duwamish land from the tribe, promising them a safe reservation somewhere else. Here is part of what Chief Seattle said in reply."

- Rockhound's Handbook

"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, ever sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every clearing and humming insect is holy in the memory and experience of my people. So, when the Great Chief in Washington sends word that he wishes to buy our land, he asks much of us. We will consider your offer to buy our land. But it will not be easy.

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. His appetite will devour the earth and leave behind only a desert.

Our ways are different from your ways. The sight of your cities pains the eyes of the red man. 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 is because I am a savage and do not understand.

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 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 I do not understand how the smoking iron horse can be more important than the buffalo 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.

This we know: the earth does not belong to man; man belongs to the earth. 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."

- Chief Seattle

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