The following is the response of Chief Sealth (often mistakenly called Chief Seattle) to the President of the
U.S. who wished to buy the tribal lands of Chief Sealth's people.
"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 courses 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 bothers. The rocky crests, the juices in the meadow, the body heat of the pony, and man, all belong to the same family-how can one separate a family?
The shining water that moves in the streams and rivers is not just water, but the blood of our ancestors. If we well 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 via 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 for sure is that 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 strange mystery to us. What will happen when the buffalo are all slaughtered and when all 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 thrill of a good and fair 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 prairies, will these shores and forests still be here? Will there be any of the spirit of my people left in this land?
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. The land is part of us.
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."
- Dr. Henry A. Smith wrote down the speech given by Chief Seattle before an assemblage, which included territorial governor Isaac I. Sevens, Native Americans, and white settlers, in December 1854 on the site of the city that would bear the tribal leader's name. Chief Seattle accepted the U.S. government's terms for buying tribal lands and establishing reservations but spoke sadly of "two distinct races with separate origins and separate destinies." He added, "It matters little where we pass the remnant of our days. They will not be many. The Indians' night promises to be dark."
Fifty years later on May 12, 1903, Theodore Roosevelt delivered a speech at Leland Stanford Junior University (now Stanford University) in California. Roosevelt spoke of the same piece of land that Chief Sealth spoke of. However, notice the words he chose to explain his thoughts. This reflects his cultural background. The following is an excerpt of that speech.
I want today, here in California, to make a special appeal to all of you, and to California as a whole, for work along a certain line the line of preserving your great natural advantages alike from the standpoint of use and from the standpoint of beauty. If the students of this institution have not be the mere fact of their surroundings learned to appreciate beauty, then the fault is in you and not in the surroundings. Here in California you have some of the great wonders of the world. You have a singularly beautiful landscape, singularly beautiful and singularly majestic scenery, and it should certainly be your aim to try to preserve for those who are to come after you that beauty, to try to keep unmarred that majesty.
Closely entwined with keeping unmarred the beauty of your scenery, your great natural attractions, is the question of making use of, not for the moment merely, but for future time, of your great natural products. Yesterday I saw for the first time a grove of your great trees, a grove which it has taken the ages several thousands of years to build up; and I feel most emphatically that we should not turn into shingles a tree which was already grown and old when the first Egyptian conqueror penetrated to the valley of the Euphrates, which it has taken so many thousands of years to build up, and which can be put to better use.
That, you may say, is not looking at the matter from the practical standpoint. There is nothing more practical in the end than the preservation of beauty, than the preservation of anything that appeals to the higher emotions in mankind. But, furthermore, I appeal to you from the standpoint of use. A few big trees, of unusual size and beauty, should be preserved for their own sake; but the forests as a whole should be used for business purposes, only they should be used in a way that will preserve them as permanent source of national wealth. In many parts of California the whole future welfare of the state depends upon the way in which you are able to use your water supply; and the preservation of the forests and the preservation of the use of water are inseparably connected.
-Theodore Roosevelt communicated directly with the American people at every possible opportunity. In 1902 and 1903, for example, the president spoke publicly at least once a week and sometimes twice a day in cities and towns from Massachusetts to California. Roosevelt continually addressed subjects of concern to himself and the country Cuba, the Philippines, the large corporations, good citizenship, forest preservation. His speeches were different in each location, and he always conveyed important philosophical ideas and explained government policies in a friendly, clear, and conversational manner. Roosevelt's speech at Leland Stanford Junior University in California reflects his position as a pioneer conservationist.
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