Tuesday, October 20, 2009


The City of Seattle is named after Chief Seathl (also spelled Si'ahl) of the Suquamish and Duwamish people. In agreeing to deed land to the United States in the 1850's Chief Seathl gave a speech in his native language that has been rendered in English variously. Here are excerpts from a version I like.
If we sell you our land, you must remember, and teach your children, that the rivers are our brothers, and also your brothers. Therefore you must henceforth give the rivers the kindness you would give any brother....

There is no quiet place in the white man's cities. No place to hear the unfurling of leaves in the spring or to hear the rustle of insect's wings. But perhaps it is because I am a savage and do not understand. The clatter seems only 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 the pond at night? But I am a red man and do not understand....

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. The earth is precious to him, and to harm the earth is to reap contempt on its creator. ~ Chief Seathl to representatives of President Polk
Other versions of the speech. Of course, there are white historians who, to this day, claim that Chief Seathl was an ignorant savage who could never have said anything remotely intelligent.

No comments:

Post a Comment