Note: Read this
first for a historical perspective on the speech.
In 1854, the "Great White Chief" in Washington made an offer for a large
area of Indian land and promised a reservation for the Indian people.
The following was Chief Seattle's reply.
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
Every part of the 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 courses 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 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 Chief in Washington sends word that he wishes to buy our land, he
asks much of us. The great Chief sends word that 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 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 the 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 father's grave behind, and he does not care. He kidnaps the earth from
his children and he does not care. His father's grave, and his children's birthright, are
forgotten. He treats his mother, the earth, and his brother, the sky, as things to bought,
plundered, sold like sheep or bright beeds. 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, cleaned by a midday rain, or scented with pinion pine.
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 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 receives 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 it 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 the land as his brothers.
I am a savage and 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 beasts? If all the beasts were gone, man would die from great
loneliness of spirit. For whatever happens to beasts, soon happens to man. All things are
You must teach your children that the ground beneath their feet is the ashes of your
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. If men spit upon the ground,
they spit upon themselves.
This we know: the earth does not belong to man; man belongs to the earth. This we
All things are connected like the blood which unites one family. All things are
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 which we know, which the white man may one day discover - our God is the
You may think 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 on its Creator.
The whites too shall pass; perhaps sooner than all the 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 by talking wires. Where is the
thicket? Gone. Where is the eagle? Gone.
The end of living and the beginning of survival.