Chief Seattle's Letter to the
President of the United States

Chief Seattle was one of the last spokesmen of the Paleolithic moral order. In about 1852,
the United States Government inquired about buying the tribal lands for the arriving
people of the United States, and Chief Seattle wrote a marvelous letter in reply.

   " The 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 this 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 course 
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
juices 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 ghostly 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 to the rivers the kindness 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 it supports. The wind that gave our grandfather his first breath also receives
his last sigh. The wind also gives our children the spirit of life. So if we sell you 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 by talking wires?
Where will the thicket be? Gone! Where will the eagle be? Gone! And what is it to say
goodbye to the swift pony and the hunt?  The end of living and the beginning of survival.
   " When the last Red Man has vanished with his wilderness and his memory is only 
the shadow of a cloud moving across the prairie, will these shores and forests still be there?
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 all.
   " 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 brothers after all."

(from " The Power Of Myth ". Joseph Campbell with Bill Moyers. Anchor Books 1990).






Back to Articles
Back to Main Index