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.

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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.

3. What are Seattle’s thoughts when the White Chief says he wishes to buy their land?

Ans. Seattle says that the offer indeed appears just, even generous, for the Red Man no longer has rights, he needs respect, and the offer may be wise, also, as they are no longer in need of an extensive country.

4. Why does Seattle say ‘the greatness of tribes are now but a mournful memory?’

Ans. Seattle says that there was a time when the Red children covered the land as the waves of a wind-ruffled sea covered its shell-paved floor, but that time has passed away. He says that
they will not dwell on, nor mourn over their untimely decay, nor reproach his paleface brothers hastening it, as the Red Children too are somewhat to be blamed.

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5. What do the young men do when they grow angry? What does it denote?

Ans. When the young men grew angry at some real or imaginary wrong, they disfigured their faces with black paint.

It denotes that their hearts are black and that they are often cruel and relentless.

6. Why does Chief Seattle say ‘the hostilities between us may never return?’

Ans. According to Seattle, in war, they would have everything to lose and nothing to gain.

Revenge by the young men was considered again, even at the cost of their own lives, but old men who stayed at home in times of war, and mothers who had sons to lose, knew

Ref. II

Our good father in Washington – for I presume he is now our father as well as yours, since King George has moved his boundaries further north- our great and good father, I say, sends us word that if we do as he desires he will protect us.

1. How will ‘our good father in Washington’ protect the native Americans if they fulfill his demand?

Ans. Their brave warriors will be to the Red children, a bristling wall of strength, and his wonderful ships of war will fill their harbours so that their ancient enemies far to the northward- the Haidas and Tsimshians- will cease to frighten their women, children and old men.

2. What makes Seattle say that God loves the white man and hates the Red children?

Ans. According to Seattle, the White man’s God folds his strong protecting arms lovinglynabout the paleface and leads them by the hand as a father leads an infant son. However, he has forsaken His Red children, if they really are His. He further says ‘Our God, (the God of the Red Man) the Great Spirit, seems also to have forsaken us.’ The White man’s god makes his people wax stronger every day. Soon they would fill all the land. The Red children are ebbing away like a rapidly increasing tide that will never return.

3. Why do the Red children regard themselves as orphans

Ans. The God of the Red children had given up on them. The White man’s God makes his people wax stronger every day. The White man’s God cannot love the Red children or He would protect them. They seem to be orphans who can look nowhere for help. If the Red children had a common Heavenly Father, He must be partial, for He came to His pale face children. They never saw him.

4. Why is there a little in common between the Red children and the white children?

Ans. There a little in common between the Red children and the White children because both of them belonged to two distinct races with separate origins and separate destinies.

5. How do both these distinct races feel about their dead ancestors?

Ans. The tribal people regard the ashes of their ancestors as sacred and their resting place as hallowed ground. The White man wandered far from the graves of his ancestors, seemingly without regret.

6. Where was the religion of the White man written?

Ans. The religion of the White man was written upon the tablets of stone by the iron finger of the White man’s God so that he would not forget.

7. Comment on the religion of the Red man.

Ans. The Red man’s religion is the tradition of their ancestors – the dreams of their old men, given them in solemn hours of the night by the Great Spirit; the visions of their schems, and is written in the hearts of the people.

Ref. III

Your dead ceases to love you and the land of their nativity as soon as they pass the portals of the tomb and wander away beyond the stars.

1. What makes the dead tribal people continue to love this beautiful world?

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The dead tribal people never forget the beautiful world that gave them being. They still love its verdant valleys, its murmuring rivers, its magnificent mountains, sequestered vales, and verdant lined lakes and bays, and ever yearn in tender fond affection over the lonely hearted living, and often return from the happy hunting ground to visit, guide, console and comfort them.

2. What, according to Chief Seattle, would be the state of his tribe if they accept the proposition made by the Big White Chief?

Ans. Chief Seattle’s tribe would dwell apart in peace, for the words of the Great White Chief seem to be the words of nature speaking to his people out of dense darkness.

He then goes on to say that it would matter little where they would pass the remnant of their days as they will not be many. The Indian’s night promises to be dark. There would not be a single star of hope hovering above the horizon. Sad-voiced winds Sad-voiced distance.

Grim fate seems to be on the Red Man’s trail, and wherever he would hear the approaching footsteps of his fell destroyer and prepare stolidly to meet his doom, as does the wounded doe that hears the approaching footsteps of the hunter.

3. What is the condition that Seattle puts forward before making a decision on the white man’s proposition?

Ans. He says that they would not be denied the privilege without molestation of visiting at any time the tombs of their ancestors, friends, and children.

4. What aspects in nature are sacred to the tribal people?

Ans. Every part of this soil is sacred in the estimation of his people. Every hillside, every valley, every plain and grove, has been hallowed by some sad and happy event in days long vanished. Even the rocks, which seem to be dumb and dead as theynswelter in the sun along the silent shore, thrill with memories of stirring events connected with the lives of many people.

5. Why does the dust upon which the white people stand now responds more lovingly to the footsteps of the tribal people than to those of the white people?

Ans. The dust responds more lovingly to the tribal people than to those of the white people because it is rich with the blood of their ancestors, and their bare feet are conscious of the sympathetic touch.

6. When will the shores swarm with the invisible dead of Seattle’s tribe?

Ans. According to Chief Seattle, when the last Red Man shall have perished, and the memory of his tribe shall have become a myth among the White Men, the shores will swarm with the invisible dead of his tribe.

7. Why does Seattle say ‘The White Man will never be alone?’

Ans. Chief Seattle says that when the White Man’s children’s children think themselves alone in the field, the store, the shop, upon 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. At night when the streets of their cities and villages are silent and they think them deserted, the Red Man will throng with the returning hosts that once filled them and still love this beautiful land.

8. What does Chief Seattle say about death?

Ans. Chief Seattle says that the dead are not powerless. He says that there is no death, only a change of worlds.

9. State the theme of the lesson.

Ans. Themes of the lesson are:
• Attachment to land

• Physical and mental oppression

• Clash of civilizations


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