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The iconic text Chief Seattle Speech is a symbol of words that have transcended both time and space. Translated and adapted in several languages this piece of text bears messages that resound as much in today’s world as they did in 19th Century America, if not more.
The speech was delivered by Chief Seattle who was tribal chief of Red Indian tribes. Originally written in form of a letter it is widely revered as a pungent and hard-hitting representation of the aspirations and rights of the indigenous American people facing extermination at the hands and lust of foreign settlers and their colonist’s designs.
Also, it is believed to be one of the damaging expositions of the environmental cost and damages of the development that is based on the industrialized and consumerist West.
Chief Seattle Speech
Chief Seattle in the letter begins with the exaltation of nature’s endless and priceless bounties enjoyed by humans in general and his people in particular. He expresses his fear of alarming damage caused to nature’s reserves in the name of reckless and unfettered development and progress.
Such progress has brought the seemingly infinite environmental resources at the cusp of great peril and bleak future.
Rights of his People
He bravely declares that his resolve to protect the rights of his people and the health of his land will not buckle under the pressure of the federal government.
He calls out the Governor who wants to implement a land treaty in the area at the behest of the American president mocking their use of terms like friendship.
He goes on to foreshadow the prevailing misery of the native people and contrast it with the prosperity they enjoyed before being conquered by the colonists. He asserts that his people are facing a threat of extinction.
He condemns the greed and hunger of the White Foreigners who have snatched the lands of his people and its resources and are determined to eradicate their cultural identity, unique values, and celebrated history.
The foreigners want to impress their own values and practices on the natives as they presume a sense of superiority over the natives. He also disparages the native youth which is insensitive to its own reality and needs and is driven into a rash and irresponsible conduct.
He also casts suspicion over the President’s promises of offering protection against external enemies like Haidas etc and shielding the most vulnerable groups like women, children and the elderly.
He is skeptical of overreaching a union of accord and peace with the Whites who are completely different from his own people, in terms of their birth, lifestyles and objectives. It would be improbable to have a shared destiny when such huge differences exist between two distinct cultures and peoples.
He appreciates the love that the Red Indians have for nature even though it is the White American who enjoys the love and favors of God. He highlights the regard the natives pay to their dead and ancestors while visiting their burial spots whereas the Whites do not ever cast thought about their forefathers.
While the natives never forget that gifts that they are provided through the trials of their ancestors, the White man is only concerned about his present and does not celebrate his ancestry and their sacrifices.
He then comments on the White man’s religion i.e. Christianity calling it a religion engraved on stones lacking any meaningful connects with the heart and emotions.
On the flipside, the native lives the religion of their forefathers by fulfilling their dreams and implementing their age-old traditions. He warns his people of the perils of death and fate. The fact that death spares no soul must never be forgotten.
He goes on to hint at a possible agreement on the condition that the natives will be given access to the graves of their ancestors and family. He finishes the letter to stay honest to the terms of the agreement.
In the case of any foul play, the spirits of the dead native people will continue to haunt and trouble their White overlords even after physical death. The native lands will always be perfumed with fragrance, moist with the tears and blood and stimulated with the touch of its native inhabitants.