10.12.10

Environmental Speech

It was said that Chief Seattle delivered this meaningful speech during a land treaty negotiation in 1855. The article was reproduced by Henry Smith in1887. I read this as a child and the message strike a chord in me till today. I think there are some useful advice in this message that we can practice today. In fact, I believe most of us are already doing so.


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 coursed through the trees carries the memories of the red man.



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 a part of us. The perfumed flowers are our sisters; the deer, 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 same family.

So when the great white 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.


This shining water that moves in the streams and the 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.

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 fathers’ graves, and his children’s birthright is 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 is 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 or the arguments of the frogs around a pond at night? I am a red man and do not understand. The Indian prefers the soft sound of the wind darting over the face of a pond, and the smell of the wind itself, cleansed by rain or scented with the pine cone.

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 men, 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 received 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 I 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 I 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 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. 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. This earth is precious to Him, and to harm the earth is to heap contempt upon its Creator.

The Whites, too, shall pass; perhaps sooner than all other tribes. 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. 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 the scent of many men, and the view of the ripe hills blotted out by talking wires. Where is the thicket? Gone. Where is the eagle? Gone." Where is the eagle Gone. And what is it to say goodbye to the swift pony and the hunt? The end of living and the beginning of survival.

So we will consider your offer to buy our land. If we agree, it wiIl be to secure the reservation you have promised. There, perhaps, we may live out our brief days as we wish. When the last red man has vanished from this earth, and his memory is only the shadow of a cloud moving across the prairie, these shores and forests will still hold the spirits of my people. For they love this earth as the newborn loves its mother's heartbeat. So if we sell you our land, love it as we've loved it. Care for it as we’ve cared for it. Hold 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.

One thing we know. Our God is the same God. This earth is precious to him. Even the white man cannot be exempt from the common destiny. We may be brothers after all. We shall see.

21 comments:

  1. Words to live by...we have a lot of growing up to do. But I think slowly we are making a full circle to that understanding and way of life.

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  2. Hi, beautiful pictures.. and very nice words..

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  3. Memorable words and lovely photos. P.S. you have 'tangan sejuk', how fast the sunflower seeds pop up for you. A good sign, can't wait to see them growing in your garden. I have one that is already over 2 metre and blooming. But it is not easy to take a photo of the bloom as it is facing towards the sky.

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  4. Nice photos and a touching story. People should really appreciate the environment more.

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  5. I was very touched by this wise man's words. It as if he was speaking through that which is divine. Your images are very lovely and go so well with the words and sentiments.

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  6. "The water’s murmur is the voice of my father’s father."

    That is what I heard in the woods. The trees talked to me. But I was frightened and ran away.

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  7. sooooo touching..T.T..looks like i've learned something new today=)

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  8. Wow, this is a very good read! How very touching and true the words are! Great post!

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  9. I have never read this before and was very moved by it. Chief Seattle is talking to us today and his predictions are coming true. Unfortunately, I don't agree with you that most of us are following his message, even if you were only referring to gardeners. Carolyn

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  10. GREAT words from a GREAT man! Its like a prophecy into the future and he had the visions of what they will be for his people and land...

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  11. Thank you SO much! Great words, and your pictures are gorgeous!

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  12. What a wise man. His words are so true. I had never read the entire speech. Thank you for sharing it. It is beautiful in its truth. The world would be a better place today if he had been heeded.
    I especially loved the phrase - Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it.

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  13. As I sit reading his words, I hear our frogs arguing in Apple Creek. When will the pond be relined so we can move back??
    Those who live by these words are few and far between, and the desert is rolling in.

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  14. Beautiful, One. But we do know how the story ends.

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  15. My native American heritage honors you with this beautiful post.

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  16. BTW Checked, my photos are OK. I have had that problem on other blogs too. It is a passing internet connection problem (sometimes with blogspot). Just refresh/reload and try again.

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  17. A beautiful reminder of what is so important... at least should be, to each of us.

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  18. Excellent words from a wise man!

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  19. I have read this beautiful speech before. God is one God, and we are accountable for how we take care of His creation, including the land that is loaned to us. Too few believe that, and even some who believe it have forgotten.

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  20. Beautiful! I wish it wasn't so ill-fated. You did a lovely job merging it with your photographs.

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  21. Such words of wisdom, yet ignored through the course of history. We can only hope that more and more people will grasp the meaning of his words.

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