this morning wifeling adele & i again with our saint-of-the-day
in robert ellsberg’s best 1995 all saints
seattle, chief of the suquamish ( 1786-1866 )
( via chief seattle’s message in power of the people,
eds robert cooney and helen michalowski )
we’re so touched. adele says, gotta call him to thank you
so right away that she does, all the way to MARYKNOLL
secretary puts him right away on. adele can’t believe it
thank you, thank you, daily-bob !
so here, what we just read, is this holy day . . .
Seattle was born in a Suquamish village along Puget Sound, sometime around 1786. As a child he witnessed the arrival of the first whites in the Northwest. They were trappers and traders who did not come to stay. But for Seattle and his people, it was the beginning of irrevocable change.
In his early twenties, Seattle was named the chief of his tribe. By this time the early white visitors had opened the way for an ever-increasing stream of settlers. It fell to Seattle to set a strategy for dealing with these invaders and their insatiable claims. Seattle rejected the option of violent resistance and put his trust in the possibilities of peaceful dialogue. But as the full intentions of the whites became clear, his goal was reduced simply to ensuring the survival of his people.
In 1830 Seattle and many of the Indians in Puget Sound converted to Christianity. As a leader of his people he tried to integrate the principles of his faith with the beliefs of his ancestors. But with each passing year it seemed that his traditional world was growing smaller. Ultimately, Seattle came to believe that the struggle with the whites really represented the contrast between conflicting spiritual values. In particular, the Indians and the whites held to completely different understandings of the relationship between human beings and the earth.
The whites considered the land something to be bought and sold. As Seattle observed,
How can you buy or sell the sky, the warmth of the land? The idea is strange to us … Every part of this earth is sacred to my people. Every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every clearing and humming insect is holy in the memory and experience of my people … We are part of the earth and it is part of us.
In 1855 Seattle signed the Port Elliott Treaty, which trasferred ancestral Indian lands to the federal government and established a reservation for Native American tribes in the Northwest region. The alternative, he believed, was the extinction of his people. But he took the opportunity to address a letter to President Franklin Pierce. It is a haunting and prophetic document, often cited today by the proponents of ecology. It certainly does reflect Seattle’s profound ecological imagination, as well as the spiritual vision in which it was rooted:
We know that the White Man does not understand our ways. One portion of the land is the same to him as the next, for he is a stranger who comes in the night and takes from the land whatever he needs. The earth is not his brother, but his enemy, and when he has conquered it, he moves on.
One thing we know, which the White Man may one day discover -our God is the same God. You may think now that you own Him as you wish to own your land; but you cannot. He is the God of humanity, and his compassion is equal for the red man and the white. The earth is precious to him, and to harm the earth is to heap contempt on its Creator … Even the white man cannot be exempt from the common destiny. We may be brothers after all. We shall see.
Chief Seattle died on June 7, 1866, on the Port Madison Reservation near the city which today bears his name.
thank you seattle ! thank you robert, robert, helen, and more
after all that, sure gotta find more . . .
here, have a look at danish manisha’s own beautiful, first music video of the same story