Chief Seattle's Speech

Marcus L. Endicott (
Thu, 12 Mar 1992 14:56:43 -0800 (PST)

/* Written 9:22 pm Mar 10, 1992 by rdp7784@yak.COM in cdp:gen.nativenet */
/* ---------- "Supposed 'Speech of Chief Seattle'" ---------- */
Original-Sender: rdp7784@yak.COM (Randy Payne)

There have been many "versions" of Chief Sealth's (Seattle's) speech in print
and posted on the net. Below is a copy of the "honest-to-goodness" original
speech reprinted (without permission) from a book titled, Chief Seattle's
Unanswered Challenge (John M. Rich, Ye Galleon Press, 1977). The following
note precedes the book:

The speech of Noah Sealth, anglicized as Chief Seattle, was delivered in
Seattle in the autumn of 1854 in response to an address by Isaac Ingalls
Stevens, Governor of Washington Territory and the Commissioner of Indian
Affairs. It was delivered in front of Dr. Maynard's office near the waterfront
on Main Street and a near verbatim translation was made by Dr. Henry A. Smith.
The speech was given in the Duwamish tongue as Sealth had never learned to speak
English. The speech was not printed until November 5, 1887, in the Seattle
Sunday Star. It has been reprinted many times since in various books. The
John M. Rich version was first printed by the Pigott-Washington Printing
Company, Seattle, in 1932. It was printed again by Lowman and Hanford, Seattle,
in 1947, and by Glen Adam, Ye Galleon Press, Fairfield, Washington, 1970 and
1977 [and 1991], from a copy supplied by Mrs. Ben Morgan (Bernice) of Ocean
Shores. Statements of recent publication that John M. Rich wrote the speech
need not be taken seriously in view of the fact that at least two nineteenth
century printings exist, the second being in the Frederick James Grant, History
of Seattle, 1891. Chief Seattle died in 1866, supposedly about eighty years of
age. Many Indian chiefs were orators of ability and Chief Seattle was no

--------------------------- start of speech ------------------------------------

Yonder sky that has wept tears of compassion upon our fathers for centuries
untold, and which to us looks eternal, may change. Today it is fair, tomorrow
it may be overcast with clouds.

My words are like the stars that never set. What Seattle says the Great Chief
at Washington can rely upon with as much certainty as our paleface brothers can
rely upon the return of the seasons.

The son of the White Chief says his father sends us greetings of friendship and
good will. This is kind of him, for we know he has little need of our
friendship in return because his people are many. They are like the grass that
covers the vast prairies, while by people are few; they resemble the scattering
trees of a storm-swept plain.

The Great - and I presume - good White Chief, sends us word that he wants to buy
our lands but is willing to allow us to reserve enough to live on comfortably.
This indeed appears generous, for the Red Man no longer has rights that he need
respect, and the offer may be wise, also, for we are no longer in need of a
great country.

There was a time when our people covered the whole land as the waves of a
wind-ruffled sea covers its shell-paved floor, but that time has long since
passed away with the greatness of tribes now almost forgotten. I will not
dwell on nor mourn over our untimely decay, nor reproach my paleface brothers
with hastening it, for we, too may have been somewhat to blame.

Youth is impulsive. When our young men grow angry at some real or imaginary
wrong, and disfigure their faces with black paint, their hearts also are
disfigured and turn black, and then they are often cruel and relentless and
know no bounds, and our old men are unable to restrain them.

Thus it has ever been. Thus it was when the white man first began to push our
fore-fathers westward. But let us hope that the hostilities between the Red
Man and his paleface brother may never return. We would have everything to
lose and nothing to gain.

It is true that revenge by young braves is considered gain, even at the cost of
their own lives, but old men who stay at home in times of war, and mothers who
have sons to lose, know better.

Our good father at Washington - for I presume he is now our father as well as
yours, since King George has moved his boundaries farther north - our great and
good father, I say, sends us word that if we do as he desires he will protect

His brave warriors will be to us a bristling wall of strength, and his great
ships of war will fill our harbors so that our ancient enemies far to the
northward - the Sinsiams, Hydas and Tsimpsians - will no longer frighten our
women and old men. Then will he be our father and we his children.

But can that ever be? Your God is not our God! Your God loves your people and
hates mine! He folds His strong arms lovingly around the white man and leads
him as a father leads his infant son - but He has forsaken His red children, if
they are really His. Our God, the Great Spirit, seems, also to have forsaken
us. Your God makes your people wax strong every day - soon they will fill all
the land.

My people are ebbing away like a fast-receding tide that will never flow again.
The white man's God cannot love His red children or He would protect them. We
seem to be orphans who can look nowhere for help.

How, then, can we become brothers? How can your God become our God and renew
our prosperity and awaken in us dreams of returning greatness?

Your God seems to us to be partial. He came to the white man. We never saw
Him, never heard His voice. He gave the white man laws, but had no word for
His red children whose teeming millions once filled this vast continent as the
stars fill the firmament.

No. We are two distinct races, and must ever remain so, with separate origins
and separate destinies. There is little in common between us.

To us the ashes of our ancestors are sacred and their final resting place is
hallowed ground, while you wander far from the grave of your ancestors and,
seemingly, without regret.

Your religion was written on tablets of stone by the iron finger of an angry
God, lest you might forget it. The Red Man could never comprehend nor remember

Our religion is the traditions of our ancestors - the dreams of our old men,
given to them in the solemn hours of night by the Great Spirit, and the visions
of our Sachems, and is written in the hearts of our people.

Your dead cease to love you and the land of their nativity as soon as they pass
the ports of the tomb - they wander far away beyond the stars, are soon
forgotten and never return.

Our dead never forget this beautiful world that gave them being. They still
love its winding rivers, its great mountains and its sequestered vales, and
they ever yearn in tenderest affection over the lonely-hearted living, and
often return to visit, guide and comfort them.

Day and night cannot dwell together. The Red Man has ever fled the approach of
the white man, as the changing mist on the mountain side flees before the
blazing sun.

However, your proposition seems a just one, and I think that my people will
accept it and will retire to the reservation you offer them. Then we will
dwell apart in peace, for the words of the Great White Chief seem to be the
voice of Nature speaking to my people out of the thick darkness, that is fast
gathering around them like a dense fog floating inward from a midnight sea.

It matters little where we pass the remnant of our days. They are not many.
The Indian's night promises to be dark. No bright star hovers beyond the
horizon. Sad-voiced winds moan in the distance. Some grim Fate of our race is
on the Red Man's trail, and wherever he goes he will still hear the sure
approaching footsteps of his fell destroyer and prepare to stolidly meet his
doom, as does the wounded doe that hears the approaching footsteps of the

A few more moons, a few more winters - and not one of all the mighty hosts that
once filled this broad land and that now roam in fragmentary bands through these
vast solitudes or lived in happy homes, protected by the Great Spirit, will
remain to weep over the graves of the people once as powerful and as hopeful as
your own!

But why should I repine? Why should I murmur at the fate of my people? Tribes
are made up of individuals and are no better than they. Men come and go like
the waves of the sea. A tear, a tamanamus, a dirge and they are gone from our
longing eyes forever. It is the order of Nature. Even the white man, whose
God walked and talked with him as friend to friend, is not exempt from the
common destiny. We may be brothers, after all. We will see.

We will ponder you proposition, and when we decide we will tell you. But should
we accept it, I here and now make this the first condition - that we will not be
denied the privilege, without molestation, of visiting at will the graves of our
ancestors, friends and children.

Every part of this country is sacred to my people. Every hillside, every
valley, every plain and grove has been hallowed by some fond memory or some sad
experience of my tribe. Even the rocks, which seem to lie dumb as they swelter
in the sun along the silent sea shore in solemn grandeur thrill with memories
of past events connected with the lives of my people.

The very dust under your feet responds more lovingly to our footsteps than to
yours, because it is the ashes of our ancestors, and our bare feet are conscious
of the sympathetic touch, for the soil is rich with the life of our kindred.

The noble braves, fond mothers, glad happy-hearted maidens, and even the little
children, who lived and rejoiced here for a brief season, and whose very names
are now forgotten, still love these sombre solitudes and their deep fastnesses
which, at eventide, grow shadowy with the presence of dusky spirits.

And when the last Red Man shall have perished from the earth and his memory
among the white men shall have become a myth, these shores will swarm with the
invisible dead of my tribe; and when your children's children shall think
themselves alone in the fields, the store, the shop, upon the highway, or in
the silence of the pathless woods, they will not be alone. In all the earth
there is no place dedicated to solitude.

At night, when the streets of your cities and villages will be silent and you
think them deserted, they will throng with the returning hosts that once filled
and still love this beautiful land.

The white man will never be alone. Let him be just and deal kindly with my
people, for the dead are not powerless.

Dead - did I say? There is no death. Only a change of worlds!

------------------------------- end of speech ---------------------------------

Randall D. Payne ** Standard Disclaimers Apply **

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