The Speech of Chief Seattle

quotescover-JPG-93The President in Washington sends word that he wishes to buy our land. But how can you buy or sell the sky? 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 the earth is sacred to my people. Every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every meadow, every humming insect. All are holy in the memory and experience of my people.

We know the sap which courses through the trees as we know the blood that courses through our veins. We are part of the earth and it is part of us. The perfumed flowers are our sisters. The bear, the deer, the great eagle, these are our brothers. The rocky crests, the dew in the meadow, 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 our land, you must remember that it is sacred. Each glossy reflection in the clear waters 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. They carry our canoes and feed our children. So you must give the rivers the kindness that you would give any brother.

If we sell you our land, remember that the air is precious to us, that the air shares its spirit with all the life that it supports. The wind that gave our grandfather his first breath also received his last sigh. The wind also gives our children the spirit of life. So if we sell our land, you must keep it apart and sacred, as a place where man can go to taste the wind that is sweetened by the meadow flowers.

Will you teach your children what we have taught our children? That the earth is our mother? What befalls the earth befalls all the sons of the earth.

This we know: the earth does not belong to man, man belongs to the earth. All things are connected like the blood that unites us all. 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.
One thing we know: our God is also your God. The earth is precious to him and to harm the earth is to heap contempt on its creator.

Your destiny is a mystery to us. What will happen when the buffalo are all slaughtered? The wild horses tamed? What will happen when the secret corners of the forest are heavy with the scent of many men and the view of the ripe hills is blotted with talking wires? Where will the thicket be? Gone! Where will the eagle be? Gone! And what is to say goodbye to the swift pony and then hunt? The end of living and the beginning of survival.

When the last red man has vanished with this wilderness, and his memory is only the shadow of a cloud moving across the prairie, will these shores and forests still be here? Will there be any of the spirit of my people left?

We love this earth as a newborn loves its mother’s heartbeat. So, if we sell you our land, love it as we have loved it. Care for it, as we have cared for it. Hold in your mind the memory of the land as it is when you receive it. Preserve the land for all children, and love it, as God loves us.

As we are part of the land, you too are part of the land. This earth is precious to us. It is also precious to you.
One thing we know – there is only one God. No man, be he Red man or White man, can be apart. We are all brothers after all.

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The speech of Chief Seattle above follows on from last week’s post where I reviewed Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown.

The speech is controversial in many ways. It clearly was not recorded but jotted down at the time so, as many people have said, the speech can hardly be verbatim.  It has been added to and tidied up over the years. Whatever has happened to the text, the result is a highly eloquent plea from across the years for us to consider this planet on which we all live. Even if Chief Seattle’s speech was only half as good as the one above, it shows the Chief to have been a particularly wise and thoughtful man.

Steve Higgins is the author of Floating in Space set in Manchester, 1977. Click the links at the top of the page to buy or for more information.

An Airliner, An IRA Bomb, and John F Kennedy

It’s a wonderful summer in the UK and school holidays have started so a lot of people will be wanting to fly away for their summer break. Wherever people are going though, they must be eager to avoid the Ukraine. I’ve not seen the news much lately and like many people I’m struggling to understand what happened. Why shoot down a commercial airliner? Was it a mistake? Did somebody think it was a military flight? Who did shoot the plane down and what will be done about it?

Things like this, needless death and destruction, are deeply upsetting. I remember years ago watching the New York Twin Towers terrorist attacks, 9/11 as it is now known, unfold before me on television and I’d forgotten really just how shocking it was until I picked up a DVD of Oliver Stone’s film World Trade Centre recently. I bought it at a car boot sale and watched it one night after a late shift and the scenes of people glued to their TV sets reminded me of myself, back in 2001, unable to move away from the TV screen.

Courtesy wikipedia

Courtesy wikipedia

One sad aspect of these atrocities, particularly the 9/11 attack in New York was that they are based on religious hatred, More than that, they are based on mistaken religious hatred because as far as I know neither the Koran nor the Bible incite murder or hatred. The Bible asks us to love our enemies, not so easy in the case of Osama Bin Ladin I admit but hopefully, in the next world the Almighty will grant his soul the compassion and understanding for others which he did not possess in this world.

A long time ago I used to have a small shop in the Corn Exchange in Manchester. It was called Armchair Motorsports and I used to sell all sorts of Motorsport memorabilia. When things weren’t doing too well I accepted an offer from a guy I knew in a similar business and sold up. He didn’t use my unit at the Corn Exchange, as it was only rented and anyway, he had his own premises. Just as well because some time later the IRA planted a bomb outside and blew the building up. The thing is, what I thought to be something of a blow was in fact a good thing. If I hadn’t sold the business I could have been going to work that day and been injured or even killed. Tragedy, world tragedy, sometimes makes you look at your own life and think just how lucky you are compared to some.

For you regular readers, you will know how I like to tie up my blogs with something faintly amusing at the end but this subject is a tough one in which to inject some humour so I thought rather than go down that route and fail dismally I’d finish with a few thoughtful and sober words from President Kennedy. Words spoken by him in a speech he gave shortly before his death and words which I think are important to this day.

Kennedy was looking for something with which to bring the Americans and the Soviet peoples together, to find some common ground, not an easy task in the cold war period. This is what he said and I think there is something here for everyone, whether you are a Muslim, a Christian, a Ukrainian Separatist or just an ordinary guy like me.

“So, let us not be blind to our differences–but let us also direct attention to our common interests and to the means by which those differences can be resolved. And if we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity. For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.”