Chief Seattle’s Speech – Summary

‘Chief Seattle’s speech’ is a heartfelt speech to the Governor of the state of Washington. The speech was publicized on a very large scale, in which he argued in favour of ecological responsibility and respect of land rights of Native Americans. Although what he actually said has been lost through translation and writing. The speech was published in Seattle newspaper in 1887 by a pioneer who confirmed that he had heard him delivering it in 1854. Apart from this no other record has been found.

Summary

Chief Seattle delivered the speech to mark the transfer of ancestral Red Indians’ land to the federal government. He says that the great chief in Washington sends greetings of friendship and goodwill and wishes to buy their land. This is kind on his part as he has little need of their friendship in return because his people are strong and more powerful than the Native Red Indians. Chief Seattle recalls the time when his people were larger in number but now they are reduced to a mournful memory. But he will not mourn over their untimely decay. The young men are too aggressive and want to take the revenge even at the cost of their own lives but the old men are wise and do not want to continue their hostile attitude towards them. It was the time when the white men pushed their forefathers westward. He wishes that George Washington, who he calls as their “good father”, will protect them. His brave warriors will protect them from ancient enemies.

Then he encounters a fear that the God of white people is not their God. He only loves his people. He makes the pale face stronger and has forsaken his Red children. He cannot love his Red Indian children, so how can they be brothers. They seem to be orphans. Thus he says that they are two distinct races with separate origins and separate destinies. There is little in common between them.

He further remarks that the ashes of his ancestors are sacred and their resting place is that land whereas the whites wander away from the graves of their ancestors. The white men’s religion was written upon stone tablets by the iron fingers of their God. But the Red Indians’ religion is the tradition of their ancestors. He then says that their dead men cease to love them (the Whites) but their (the Red men’s) ancestors can never forget this beautiful world. They keep on loving its verdant valleys, murmuring rivers, magnificent mountains, valleys, lakes and bays.

He remarks that Red Man has ever fled the approach of the White Man as the morning mist disappears before the morning sun. Grim fate seems to follow them and soon his race will disappear. But then Seattle says that they will consider the matter and before accepting President’s proposition, he had put forth the condition that they will not be denied to visit the tombs of their ancestors, friends and children anytime.

He concludes his speech by saying that when the last Red man has vanished from the earth, his memory will become myth and the shores and forests will hold the fruits of his tribe. The White Men will never be alone. He urges the White men to love and care the land as they did with all their strength, mind and heart, love and preserve it as God loves and preserves us. He believed that the dead of his community were the part of his world and said that there is no death but only a change of worlds.

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