Friday, December 9, 2022
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‘Chief Seattle’ : The Earth is Precious


I read a speech by ‘Chief Seattle’ (1855) in the book ‘ The eyes of the panda ‘ by Etienne Vermeersch

Seattle (1786-1866) was a chieftain of the Suquamish and Duwamish Indian tribes, in present-day Washington state. His speech (some excerpts of which are below) was delivered to Governor Stevens, who wanted to buy the territory from the tribes on behalf of the president. Since the early 1970s, this speech has been highly regarded in environmentally conscious circles:

“ The great Chief in Washington has spoken: He wishes to buy our land… How can you buy or sell the air, the warmth of the land? That’s hard for us to imagine. If we cannot possess the sting of the air and the rippling of the water, how can you buy it from us? Every piece of this land is sacred to my people.

Every spruce gleaming in the sun, every sandy beach, every mist in the dark woods, every clearing, every buzzing bee is sacred in the thoughts and memories of my people. The sap that rises in the tree bears the memory of the red man. We are part of the earth and the earth is part of us.flowerThe fragrant flowers are our sisters, the reindeer, the horse, the great eagle, our brothers. The crests of the river, the juice of the meadow flowers, the sweat of the pony and of the man, it is all of the same sex, our sex. So when the great Chief in Washington announces that he wants to buy our land, he is asking a lot of us.

We know that the white man doesn’t understand our way of life. For him, one piece of land is equal to another. For he is a stranger who comes in the night and takes from the land what he needs. The earth is not his brother, but his enemy. And when he has conquered it, he moves on. He doesn’t care.

He forgets his father’s grave and his children’s inheritance. He treats his mother – the earth – and his brother – the sky – as merchandise, which he can exploit and resell like cheap colorful beads. His hunger will eat the earth bare and leave only a desert…If we decide to accept the offer, I want to make one condition: the white man must regard the animals of this country as his brothers.

I’m just a savage and I don’t understand. I saw thousands of rotting bison in the prairie, left behind by the white man who shot them from a moving train. I’m just a savage and I can’t understand how the smoking iron horse can be more important than the bison, which we kill just to stay alive. What is man without animals?surfWhen all the animals are gone, man will die of a feeling of great loneliness. What happens to animals soon happens to humans. All things hang together. What happens to the earth happens to the children of the earth. You must teach your children that the ground beneath their feet is the ashes of our grandfathers.

Teach them respect for the earth, tell your children that the earth is filled with the lives of our ancestors: that the earth is our mother. What happens to the earth, happens to the children of the earth. But we’ll consider your offer, because we know that if we don’t sell, the white man will come with his guns and take the land by force.

We are only primitives, and the white man—who now thinks he is strong—thinks he is a god and owns the whole earth. How can a man possess his mother?

mother with child
bend your head to the left to get a good look at this photo!. In the picture a rock ! Click on the picture to enlarge


The white man too will perish, perhaps before all the other tribes. Defile your bed and you will succumb to your own filth. But in your destruction you will burn with fire, kindled by the power of the God who brought you into this land and gave you dominion over this land and over the red man.

That fateful end is a secret to us, for we do not understand why the buffalo have been slaughtered, the wild horses have been tamed, why the furthest corners of the forest reek of the air of many men and the ripe corn on the hills is covered with talk wires. .

Where’s the scrub? gone. Where’s the eagle? gone. What does it mean to say goodbye to the fast pony and the hunt? The end of life and the beginning of destruction… reaching out

When the last red man is gone from this earth, and when the memory of him is but the shadow of a cloud over the prairie, still these beaches and forests will be inhabited by the ghosts of my people. For they love this land, as the newborn loves his mother’s heartbeat.

If we sell you our land, love it as we have loved it. Take care of it, as we have taken care of it. Keep in your heart the memory of the land as it is on the day you take it. And with all the strength of your mind and heart, keep it for your children and love it, as God loves us all.”


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