Table of Contents
‘What Is Man Without The Beasts?’ is a famous speech delivered by Chief Seattle. This speech is a plea, whereby he sheds light on the treaty of the American Government and the environmental concerns pertaining to it.
About the Author (Speaker):
Chief Seattle (1786-1866) was a Red Indian. He was the tribal leader of Dewanish in addition to other Pacific Northwest tribes. Interestingly, the city of Seattle is named after him. He is renowned for this speech, which he made in 1854.
The theme here is environment. Through his moving speech, Chief Seattle addresses the need for conservation of the environment. His attitude towards the whites can be taken as a minor theme as well.
Chief Seattle begins with a rhetorical question on how one can sell nature. This very beginning is a dig at Americans, who had ‘bought’ his land. He goes on to talk about how Earth as a whole was something sacred to them, the Red Indians, how they viewed themselves to be a part of Earth just like how it was a part of us. He delves into an intricate description of nature, revealing how much he and his people cherished it.
He then goes on to talk about how the ‘Great Chief of Washington’, referring to the American president, had wished to buy their land and he hand accepted. However, he delivers it with a friendly note of warning. He states that should they sell the land, they ought to remember the sacredness of this land just as they themselves had, and teach the future generations the same as well. He also states that children must be taught that the rivers, the blood of their ancestors, are ‘brothers’ and how they must be treated with kindness. This shows how he wished people to embrace nature and be one with it.
The White Man:
He goes on to talk about the contempt he has towards Americans for their treatment of the environment. He talks about how the whites seem oblivious to the stench in the air they breathe, air that is also breathed by animals and is very precious. He is hinting at the incessant pollution that is caused due to rampant industrialization and how it affects man and animals alike. He thus states that should their land be sold to them, it must be under the condition that they treat the air they breathe and animals as brothers as well, instead of giving importance to civilization and development that destroyed nature without a second thought.
He then talks about how their children must be taught to respect Earth. His example where spitting on the ground we walk on is equal to spitting on ourselves displays the high regard for the environment and his desire to protect the same. Throughout the speech, he keeps reiteration how man must not presume to be the overlords of Earth for we are mere part of it, where everything is interconnected. What he does to affect this ‘web’, he states, would only affect himself. Lastly, he ends by stating how God is one and does not view them as different and that just like how one cannot own a land, one can’t own God either. Thus, they must treat each other as brothers and respect the land they live in and its nature the same.
This is a thought-provoking speech delivered by Chief Seattle. Through his words, Chief Seattle exhibits the deep respect he has for nature and how he wished the whites would treat their land the same way they did instead of mindless destruction of environment in the name of ‘development’. Given his deep love for his land, it is no wonder that Seattle was named after him, rightly so.