"There is no death, only a change of worlds."
SEATTLE'S 1854 ORATION" - ver . 2
Native Eloquence, Etc., Etc. by Henry A. Smith: Scraps from a Diary:
Chief Seattle - A gentleman By Instinct
article in the series Early Reminiscences
Sunday Star, October 29, 1887
Chief Seattle was the largest Indian I ever saw, and by far the
noblest-looking. He stood 6 feet full in his moccasins, was
broad-shouldered, deep-chested, and finely proportioned. His eyes were
large, intelligent, expressive and friendly when in repose, and
faithfully mirrored the varying moods of the great soul that looked
through them. He was usually solemn, silent, and dignified, but on
great occasions moved among assembled multitudes like a Titan among
Lilliputians, and his lightest word was law.
rising to speak in council or to tender advice, all eyes were turned
upon him, and deep-toned, sonorous, and eloquent sentences rolled from
his lips like the ceaseless thunders of cataracts flowing from
exhaustless fountains, and his magnificent bearing was as noble as that
of the most cultivated military chieftain in command of the forces of a
continent. Neither his eloquence, his dignity, or his grace were
acquired. They were as native to his manhood as leaves and blossoms are
to a flowering almond.
influence was marvelous. He might have been an emperor but all his
instincts were democratic, and he ruled his loyal subjects with
kindness and paternal benignity.
always flattered by marked attention from white men, and never so much
as when seated at their tables, and on such occasions he manifested
more than anywhere else the genuine instincts of a gentleman.
Governor Stevens first arrived in Seattle and told the natives he had
been appointed commissioner of Indian affairs for Washington Territory,
they gave him a demonstrative reception in front of Dr. Maynard's
office, near the waterfront on Main Street. The bay swarmed with canoes
and the shore was lined with a living mass of swaying, writhing, dusky
humanity, until old Chief Seattle's trumpet-toned voice rolled over the
immense multitude, like the startling reveille of a bass drum, when
silence became as instantaneous and perfect as that which follows a
clap of thunder from a clear sky.
governor was then introduced to the native multitude by Dr. Maynard,
and at once commenced, in a conversational, plain, and straightforward
style, an explanation of his mission among them, which is too well
understood to require capitulation.
sat down, Chief Seattle arose with all the dignity of a senator, who
carries the responsibilities of a great nation on his shoulders.
Placing one hand on the, governor's head and slowly pointing heavenward
with the index finger of the other, he commenced his memorable address
in solemn and impressive tones.
sky that has wept tears of compassion on 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 stars that
never set. What Seattle says, the great chief, Washington , can rely
upon, with as much certainty as our paleface brothers can rely upon the
return of the seasons.
son of the white chief says his father sends us greetings of friendship
and good will. This is kind, 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 my people are few, and
resemble the scattering trees of a storm-swept plain.
great, and I presume also 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.
was a time when our people covered the whole land, as the waves of a
wind-ruffled sea cover its shell-paved floor. But that time has long
since passed away with the greatness of tribes now almost forgotten. I
will not mourn over our untimely decay, nor reproach my paleface
brothers for hastening it, for we, too, may have been somewhat to
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 their cruelty is relentless and knows no bounds, and
our old men are not able to restrain them.
let us hope that hostilities between the red man and his paleface
brothers may never return. We would have everything to lose and nothing
it is, that revenge, with our 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 old women, who have sons to lose, know better.
great father Washington, for I presume he is now our father as well as
yours, since George has moved his boundaries to the north; our great
and good father, I say, sends us word by his son, who, no doubt, is a
great chief among his people, that if we do as he desires, he will
protect us. His brave armies 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 Simsiams and Hydas, will no
longer frighten our women and old men. Then he will be our father and
we will be his children.
can this ever be? 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; he makes
your people wax strong every day, and soon they will fill the land;
while 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. They seem to be orphans and can look nowhere for
help. How then can we become brothers? How can your father become our
father and bring us prosperity and awaken in us dreams of returning
God seems to us to be partial. He came to the white man. We never saw
Hirn; never even heard His voice; He gave the white man laws but He had
no word for His red children whose teeming millions filled this vast
continent as the stars fill the firmament. No, we are two distinct
races and must ever remain so. There is little in common between us.
The ashes of our ancestors are sacred and their final resting place is
hallowed ground, while you wander away from the tombs of your fathers
seemingly without regret.
religion was written on tables of stone by the iron finger of an angry
God, lest you might forget it, The red man could never remember nor
religion is the traditions of our ancestors, the dream of our old men,
given them by the great Spirit, and the visions of our sachems, and is
written in the hearts of our people.
dead cease to love you and the homes of their nativity as soon as they
pass the portals of the tomb. They wander far off beyond the stars, are
soon forgotten, and never return. Our dead never forget the 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 and comfort them.
and night cannot dwell together. The red man has ever fled the approach
of the white man, as the changing mists on the mountainside flee before
the blazing morning sun.
your proposition seems a just one, and I think my folks will accept it
and will retire to the reservation you offer them, and we will dwell
apart and 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.
matters but little where we pass the remainder of our days. They are
Indian's night promises to be dark. No bright star hovers about the
horizon. Sad-voiced winds moan in the distance. Some grim Nemesis of
our race is on the red man's trail, and wherever he goes he will still
hear the sure approaching footsteps of the fell destroyer and prepare
to meet his doom, as does the wounded doe that hears the approaching
footsteps of the hunter. A few more moons, a few more winters, and not
one of all the mighty hosts that once filled this broad land or that
now roam in fragmentary bands through these vast solitudes will remain
to weep over the tombs of a people once as powerful and as hopeful as
why should be 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 tamanawus, a dirge, and
they are gone from our longing eyes forever. 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 shall see.
will ponder your proposition, and when we have decided 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 and
friends. Every part of this country is sacred to my people. Every
hillside, every valley, ever plain and grove has been hallowed by some
fond memory or some sad experience of my tribe,
the rocks that seem to lie dumb as they swelter in the sun along the
silent seashore in solemn grandeur thrill with memories of past events
connected with the fate of my people, and 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.
sable braves, and fond mothers, and glad-hearted maidens, and the
little children who lived and rejoiced here, and whose very names are
now forgotten, still love these solitudes, and their deep fastness 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
white men shall have become a myth, these shores shall swarm with the
invisible dead of my tribe, and when your children's children shall
think themselves alone in the field, the store, the shop, upon the
highway or in the silence of the 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 shall 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
speakers followed, but I took no notes. Governor Stevens' reply was
brief. He merely promised to meet them in general council on some
future occasion to discuss the proposed treaty. Chief Seattle's promise
to adhere to the treaty, should one be ratified, was observed to the
letter, for he was ever the unswerving and faithful friend of the white
man. The above is but a fragment of his speech, and lacks all the charm
lent by the grace and earnestness of the sable old orator, and the
occasion. - H.A. Smith.
Indians in early times thought that Washington was still alive. They
knew the name to be that of a president, and when they heard of the
president at Washington they mistook the name of the city for the name
of the reigning chief. They thought, too, that King George was still
England's monarch, because the Hudson Bay traders called themselves
"King George's Men." This innocent deception the company was shrewd
enough not to explain away, for the Indians had more respect for them
than they would have had, had they known England was ruled by a woman.
Some of us have learned better. (David M. Buerge, Seattle Weekly,
September 1, 1993: The Man who Invented Chief Seattle, p. 57).
"... all things share
the same breath - the beast, the tree,
the man ... the air shares its spirit with all the life it supports. "
Indigenous Peoples' Literature
Compiled by: Glenn Welker
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