Chief Seattle’s Letter (1854)
to the President of the United States
With background image of Floyd Red Crow Westerman.
n 1854, the aging Chief Seattle attended a reception for territorial Gov. Isaac Stevens, who had a controversial history of compelling the Native American tribes of Washington Territory by intimidation and brutal force to sign treaties that would cede most of their lands and rights over to Stevens’ government.
Chief Seattle, who spoke no English, delivered a speech, later translated by pioneer Dr. Henry A. Smith and published On Oct. 29, 1887 in a Seattle newspaper. Since that time, many versions and rewrites of that speech have appeared in various forms.
We have created a a poster of one version of that speech, illustrated with a background image of Floyd Red Crow Westerman… presented here as the well known “letter to the president”.
Extract from the Poster…
“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 whole in the memory and experience of my people. We know the sap that 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 brothers. The rocky crests, the juices in the meadow, the body heat of the pony, and man all belong to the same family. The shining water that moves in the streams and rivers is not just water, but the blood of our ancestors. If we sell you our land you must 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 give our children the spirit of life. The air is precious to the Red Man, for all things share the same breath. The White Man does not seem to notice the air he breathes. Like a man dying for many days…”