Chief Seattle's Speech | Summary and Questions 2

Chief Seattle’s Speech | Summary and Questions

Chief Seattle’s Speech

When the European settlers entered in New England in the 17th century, they pushed the Native Americans towards the west and ultimately started their destruction. Intensive logging affected their environment besides, epidemic disease from Europe claimed lives of thousands of Native Americans, and the Euro-American easily took over regions and the land of local community. The Native Americans were appalled by their inferiority and on the colonist’s treatment of the environment.

The Chief Seattle’s 1854 speech is a discourse in reaction to treaty wherein the Indians were induced to surrender a large number of sections of land to the US government for a total of 150,000 dollars. The Chief Seattle’s Oration is viewed as the most significant environmental explanations ever. The Chief Seattle was the pioneer of the Dkhw’Duw’Absh, and a noticeable figure in the Indian-American relationship of the time. Right now, various Native American’s were being dispersed out of their tribes by the American’s and it was believed that they would be wiped out.

In the oration, The Chief Seattle endeavors to persuade the American winners that they should treat them decently notwithstanding their inferiority to the American people. Through metaphorical language and his regard for nature, the Chief requests to the Governor of their choice to assume control over Washington making of their time. Before the colonization of North America by the Europeans, the Native Americans lived gently and they saw their environment as harmonious. Their low-impacted innovations saw them live in congruity and regarding the environment.

Their religion revolved around the belief that animals, plants, rocks, mountains, rivers, and stars had souls. Upon arrival, the European colonists immediately began take natural resources for European trading and usage. Large forests were cut down for firewood, trading, and agriculture; animals were killed for skin, the girdling of the trees prevented the leaves from growing and eventually killing it. For every person added to the population, one or two hectors of land was cultivated.

This trend continued on until the beginning of the 20th century, and to this day, 1/3 of America’s forests have been cut down causing devastating environmental disruptions. The land which was once peaceful and quiet, home to the Native Americans who respected and loved it had changed horribly. Throughout America’s history, the capitalist Americans viewed the natural resources as a possibility for economic growth. The formation of a free market meant that government legislation and fiscal policies were inadequate to prevent environmental demolitions.

From the Colonisation up to the 20th century, the United States government failed to apply sustainable growth. This reflects on how our world economy is working. Governments fail to advocate environmental issues in order to boost the economy.

The Chief Seattle underlines the importance and value of the environment. He treats nature as a living thing.

“Yonder sky that has wept tears of compassion upon my people for centuries untold, and which to us appears changeless and eternal, may change. Today is fair. Tomorrow it may be overcast with clouds”.

This utilization of personification in this line telks how the rain is originating from the sky, but with the attack of the Americans, nature’s normal course is twisted. In this manner a cloud will overcast the sympathetic tears of the sky. The Chief is thoughtful towards his people; he says that :

“my people are few. They resemble the scattering tress of a storm-swept plain.”

The Chief underlines the worth of the trees, and while a large portion of the mass logging happened during America’s colonization, the biodiversity was seriously influenced during this timeframe.

This relates to how the Native American race is slowly coming to an end and it resembles the logging of the trees cut down by the American’s. Hence, the Chief emphasises that his men are part of nature therefore they are dying with it. Furthermore, the chief argues that the Euro-Americans never appreciated nature.

“Our dead never forget this beautiful world that gave them being. They still love its verdant valley’s, its murmuring rivers, and its magnificent mountains. ”

The Chief highlights that his race valued nature, and the love of nature goes on after their deaths.

The tone of the speech suddenly becomes more aggressive in the 9th paragraph. He argues that :

“your time of decay may be distant, but it will surely come, for even the White Man whose God walked and talked with him as a friend to friend, cannot be exempt from the common destiny. ”

The chief states that there will come a time, when their civilisation will come to an end and God will be unable to help them. This can be related to the damage we are doing now with climate change.

Global warming is now considered a threat to our world, with growing average temperatures; the climate is changing and can cause devastating natural disasters. Global Warming has been scientifically proven to be all caused by human’s destroying the world’s biodiversity and harming the earth’s atmosphere. Logging contributes to global warming, by deregulating the oxygen in the atmosphere. Therefore at this time, the logging of trees destroyed the biodiversity, and the Chief contended that whilst the Euro-Americans cut down trees, it will backfire on them and destroy their civilisation.

In the last paragraph, the Chief quotes that:

“these shores will swarm with the invisible dead of my tribe, and when your children’s children think themselves alone in the field, the store, the shop, the highway, or in the silence of the pathless woods, they will not be alone. In all the earth there is no place dedicated to solitude.”

The Chief describes that the legacy of his tribe will live on. This describes how the Natives have so much respect for their land, and they will value it forever, and live on with for eternity.

Moreover, The Euro-Americans and the Native American had contrasting views on the environments. The Natives had a belief that the environment is sacred and should be preserved, whereas the Euro-Americans preferred to economically benefit from nature. During this era, the industrialisation of America was booming, and the timber industry was at its peak. Nothing was known of the consequences for destroying the environment, however the Native Americans had their tradition to respect the environment and preserve it forever however this belief was uncommon to the European settlers.

Seattle's Speach Summary and Questions


Ref. I

My words are like the stars that never change. Whatever Seattle says, the Big Chief at Washington can rely upon with much certainty as he can upon the return of the sun or the seasons.

1. Who does ‘the Big Chief at Washington’ refer to?

Ans. The ‘Big Chief at Washington’ refers to Franklin Pierce, the 14th President of the United States of America.

2. Based on the given extract, what comparison does Chief Seattle make about his clan and white settlers?

Ans. Chief Seattle says that the white settlers are many. They are like the grass that covers the vast prairies. On the other hand, he says that his people are few. The Red Children resemble the scattering trees of a storm-swept plain.



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