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Mitos y Leyendas: Letter from Chief Seattle to Franklin Pierce

2024-01-22T16:18:23+00:00
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  • Genny de Bernardo shares a letter from Chief Seattle to President Franklin Pierce.
  • It is a response to a proposal to buy the lands where they were located.
  • The letter has a strong message about the nature of the Earth.

How is it feasible to acquire or trade with the sky or the warmth of the earth? This notion is strange to us.

If no one can claim ownership of the freshness of the wind or the brightness of the water, how can they consider the possibility of acquiring them? Every piece of this land has sacred value to my community.

Every shining branch of a pine tree, every grain of sand on the beaches, the darkness of the dense forest, every ray of light, and the buzzing of insects are objects of devotion in the memory and life of my people.

The sap flowing through the trees carries with it the history of Native Americans. The deceased of the white man forget their land of origin when they wander among the stars.

We are part of the Earth

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Our ancestors never forget this beautiful land, for it is the mother of Native Americans. We are a part of the earth, and she is a part of us.

The fragrant flowers are our relatives; the deer, the horse, and the majestic eagle are our brothers.

The rugged rocky peaks, the moist valleys of the prairies, the warmth of the bodies of horses and humans, all belong to the same family.

Therefore, when the Great White Chief in Washington expresses his desire to buy our lands, he asks much in return. The Great White Chief claims he will reserve a place where we can live contentedly.

My ancestors

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He will be our protector, and we will be his subjects. Therefore, we will contemplate his offer to acquire our land, although it will not be simple. This land is sacred to us.

This clear liquid that flows in streams and rivers is not simply water, but the blood of our ancestors.

If we sell the land, you must remember that it is sacred and teach your children that it is also sacred, and that each reflection on the crystal-clear waters of the lakes speaks of events and memories in the life of my people.

The whisper of the rivers is the voice of my ancestors. The rivers are our allies, quenching our thirst. The rivers carry our canoes and nourish our children.

The darkness

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If we are stripped of our lands, you must remember and teach your children that the rivers are our allies, and you must also treat them as such.

Therefore, you must show kindness to the rivers, as you would to any brother.

We understand that the white man does not understand our traditions. To him, a piece of land is the same as any other, since he is a stranger who arrives in the darkness and takes from the land what he needs.

The land is not his companion, but his adversary, and once conquered, he moves on. He leaves the graves of his ancestors without concern. He plunders the land for what would be for his children and does not care.

The noise

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The grave of his father and the rights of his children are forgotten. He treats his mother, the earth, his brother, and the sky as if they were objects that can be bought, plundered, or exchanged like commodities.

His greed will consume the earth, leaving only a wasteland in its wake. I do not understand, our customs differ from yours. Perhaps it is because I am a native and do not understand your way of life.

There is no tranquility in the cities of the white man. There is no place where one can hear the blossoming of leaves in spring or the fluttering of an insect.

But perhaps this is because I am a native and do not understand. The noise seems only to disturb our ears.

The sound of the Earth

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What life is left if a man cannot hear the solitary song of a bird or the nocturnal croaking of frogs around a lake?

I am a native and do not understand. We, the natives, prefer the soft whisper of the wind caressing the surface of a lake, and that same wind, purified by a daytime rain or scented by the pines.

The air is of great value to Native Americans, for all creatures share the same air: the animals, the trees, and humans, we all share the same breath.

It seems that the white man does not appreciate the air he breathes. He is insensitive like someone who is dying and does not perceive bad smells.

Purity in the Atmosphere

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But if you buy our land, you must remember that the air is precious to us, that the air shares its essence with the life that sustains it.

The wind that gave our grandparents their first breath also received their last sigh.

If we are stripped of our land, you must keep it intact and sacred, as a place where even the white man can enjoy the wind scented by the flowers of the fields.

Therefore, we will consider the offer to buy our land. If we decide to accept it, we will impose one condition: the white man must treat the animals of this land as his brothers.

Respect

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I am a native and understand no other way of acting. I saw thousands of buffaloes rotting on the plain, abandoned by the white man who killed them from a moving train.

I am a native and do not understand how the smoking iron horse can be more valuable than the buffalo, which we hunt only to survive.

What is man without the animals? If all the animals disappeared, man would perish in a deep spiritual loneliness, for what happens to the animals will also happen to man.

There is a connection in everything. You must teach your children that the ground beneath their feet is the ashes of our ancestors. To respect the land, tell your children that it has been enriched with the lives of our people.

Consequences

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Teach your children what we have taught ours: that the earth is our mother. Everything that affects the earth will affect the children of the earth. If men spit on the ground, they are spitting on themselves.

This is what we know: the earth does not belong to man; it is man who belongs to the earth. This is what we know: all things are connected like the blood that unites a family. There is a connection in everything.

What happens to the earth will affect the children of the earth. Man did not weave the web of life; he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.

Even the white man, whose God walks and talks with him, as friend to friend, cannot escape a shared destiny. We may be brothers, after all.

One God

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We shall see. But one thing is certain: the white man will one day discover that our God is the same God.

You may think you own Him as you wish to own our land, but you cannot. He is the God of man, and His compassion is equal for the red man and the white man.

The earth is precious, and to despise it is to despise its Creator. The whites will also pass; perhaps even more quickly than all the other tribes.

Contaminate your beds, and one night you will be suffocated by your own waste.

Survival

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When you take this land from us, you will shine brightly illuminated by the strength of the God who brought you to these lands and who, for some special reason, gave you dominion over the land and over the red man.

This destiny is a mystery to us, for we do not understand why the buffalo are exterminated, the wild horses are tamed, the secret corners of the forest are invaded by the smell of many men, and the view of the mountains is obstructed by the threads of speech.

What has happened to the thick forest? It is gone. What has happened to the eagle? It is gone. Life has come to an end. Now survival begins.

Mitos y Leyendas thanks you for your attention and hopes that this letter from Chief Seattle has been a beautiful message for you. Until next time!

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