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Greg Burnham

Speech

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I'm reading an awesome book called: Critical Path -- by author Buckminster

Fuller (a book highly recommended to me by Fletcher Prouty). Fuller is one of my

favorite authors. He also wrote a book called "Synergetics" that I read many

years ago.

In this book (Critical Path) he quotes an American Indian Chief (Chief Seattle)

who gave a speech in 1854 in response to an offer by the President (Franklin

Pierce) to "buy their land" (20 million acres) from them for $150,000! The

"Great White Chief" (President) also promised to provide a "reservation" for his

people.

The chief of the tribe, Chief Seattle, replied eloquently. In fact that is who

the city of Seattle is named after!

SPEECH:

How can you buy or sell the sky, the warmth of the land? The idea is strange to

us. If we do not own the freshness of the air and 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 clearing and

humming insect is holy in the memory and experience of my people. The sap which

courses through the trees carries the memories of the red man.

The white man's dead forget the country of their birth when they go to walk

among the stars. Our dead never forget this beautiful earth, for it is the

mother of the red man.

We are part of the earth and it is part of us.

The perfumed flowers are our sisters; the deer, the horse, the great eagle,

these are our brothers.

The rocky crests, the juices in the meadows, the body heat of the pony, and

man--all belong to the same family.

So, when the Great Chief in Washington sends word that he wishes to buy land, he

asks much of us. The Great Chief sends word he will reserve us a place so that

we can live comfortably to ourselves. He will be our father and we will be his

children. So... we will consider your offer to buy our land.

But it will not be easy. For this land is sacred to us.

This shining water that moves in the streams and rivers is not just water but

the blood of our ancestors.

If we sell you land, you must remember that it is sacred, and you must teach

your children that it is sacred and that each ghostly reflection in the clear

water of the lakes tells of events and memories in the life of my people.

The water's murmur is the voice of my father's father.

The rivers are our brothers, they quench our thirst. The rivers carry our

canoes, and feed our children. If we sell you our land, you must remember, and

teach your children, that the rivers are our brothers, and yours, and you must

henceforth give the rivers the kindness you would give any brother.

We know that the white man does not understand our ways. One portion of 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.

He leaves his father's graves behind, and he does not care.

He kidnaps the earth from his children, and he does not care.

His father's grave, and his children's birthright, are forgotten. He treats his

mother, the earth, and his brother, the sky, as things to be bought, plundered,

sold like sheep or bright beads.

His appetite will devour the earth and leave behind only a desert.

I do not know. Our ways are different from your ways.

The sight of your cities pains the eyes of the red man. But perhaps it is

because the red man is a savage and does not understand.

There is no quiet place in the white man's cities. No place to hear the

unfurling of leaves in spring, or the rustle of an insect's wings.

But perhaps it is because I am a savage and do not understand.

The clatter only seems to insult the ears. And what is there to life if a man

cannot hear the lonely cry of the whippoorwill or the arguments of the frogs

around a pond at night? I am a red man and do not understand.

The Indian prefers the soft sound of the wind darting over the face of a pond,

and the smell of the wind itself, cleaned by a midday rain, or scented with the

pinion pine.

The air is precious to the red man, for all things share the same breath--the

beast, the tree, the man, they all share the same breath. The white man does not

seem to notice the air he breathes.

Like a man dying for many days, he is numb to the stench.

But 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.

And if we sell you our land, you must keep it apart and sacred, as a place where

even the white man can go to taste the wind that is sweetened by the meadow's

flowers.

So we will consider your offer to buy our land. If we decide to accept, I will

make one condition: The white man must treat the beasts of this land as his

brothers.

I am a savage and I do not understand any other way.

I've seen a thousand rotting buffaloes on the prairie, left by the white man who

shot them from a passing train.

I am a savage and I do not understand how the smoking iron horse can be more

important than the buffalo that we kill only to stay alive.

What is man without the beasts? If all the beasts were gone, man would die from

a great loneliness of spirit.

For whatever happens to the beasts, soon happens to man. All things are

connected.

You must teach your children that the ground beneath their feet is the ashes of

your grandfathers. So that they will respect the land, tell your children that

the earth is rich with the lives of our kin.

Teach your children what we have taught our children: that the earth is our

mother.

Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth. If men spit upon the

ground, they spit upon themselves.

This we know: The earth does not belong to man; man belongs to the earth. This

we know.

All things are connected like the blood which unites one family. All things are

connected.

Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons 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 be exempt from the common destiny.

We may be brothers after all.

We shall see.

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 our land; but you

cannot. He is the God of man, and His compassion is equal for the red man and

the white.

This earth is precious to Him, and to harm the earth is to heap contempt on its

Creator.

The whites too shall pass; perhaps sooner than all other tribes. Contaminate

your bed, and you will one night suffocate in your own waste.

But in your perishing you will shine brightly, fired by the strength of God who

brought you to this land and for some special purpose gave you dominion over

this land and over the red man.

That destiny is a mystery to us, for we do not understand when the buffalo are

all slaughtered, the wild horses are tamed, the secret corners of the forest

heavy with scent of many men, and the view of the ripe hills blotted by talking

wires.

Where is the thicket? Gone.

Where is the eagle? Gone.

The end of living and the beginning of survival.

====================================

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I'm reading an awesome book called: Critical Path -- by author Buckminster

Fuller (a book highly recommended to me by Fletcher Prouty). Fuller is one of my

favorite authors. He also wrote a book called "Synergetics" that I read many

years ago.

In this book (Critical Path) he quotes an American Indian Chief (Chief Seattle)

who gave a speech in 1854 in response to an offer by the President (Franklin

Pierce) to "buy their land" (20 million acres) from them for $150,000! The

"Great White Chief" (President) also promised to provide a "reservation" for his

people.

The chief of the tribe, Chief Seattle, replied eloquently. In fact that is who

the city of Seattle is named after!

SPEECH:

How can you buy or sell the sky, the warmth of the land? The idea is strange to

us. If we do not own the freshness of the air and 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 clearing and

humming insect is holy in the memory and experience of my people. The sap which

courses through the trees carries the memories of the red man.

The white man's dead forget the country of their birth when they go to walk

among the stars. Our dead never forget this beautiful earth, for it is the

mother of the red man.

We are part of the earth and it is part of us.

The perfumed flowers are our sisters; the deer, the horse, the great eagle,

these are our brothers.

The rocky crests, the juices in the meadows, the body heat of the pony, and

man--all belong to the same family.

So, when the Great Chief in Washington sends word that he wishes to buy land, he

asks much of us. The Great Chief sends word he will reserve us a place so that

we can live comfortably to ourselves. He will be our father and we will be his

children. So... we will consider your offer to buy our land.

But it will not be easy. For this land is sacred to us.

This shining water that moves in the streams and rivers is not just water but

the blood of our ancestors.

If we sell you land, you must remember that it is sacred, and you must teach

your children that it is sacred and that each ghostly reflection in the clear

water of the lakes tells of events and memories in the life of my people.

The water's murmur is the voice of my father's father.

The rivers are our brothers, they quench our thirst. The rivers carry our

canoes, and feed our children. If we sell you our land, you must remember, and

teach your children, that the rivers are our brothers, and yours, and you must

henceforth give the rivers the kindness you would give any brother.

We know that the white man does not understand our ways. One portion of 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.

He leaves his father's graves behind, and he does not care.

He kidnaps the earth from his children, and he does not care.

His father's grave, and his children's birthright, are forgotten. He treats his

mother, the earth, and his brother, the sky, as things to be bought, plundered,

sold like sheep or bright beads.

His appetite will devour the earth and leave behind only a desert.

I do not know. Our ways are different from your ways.

The sight of your cities pains the eyes of the red man. But perhaps it is

because the red man is a savage and does not understand.

There is no quiet place in the white man's cities. No place to hear the

unfurling of leaves in spring, or the rustle of an insect's wings.

But perhaps it is because I am a savage and do not understand.

The clatter only seems to insult the ears. And what is there to life if a man

cannot hear the lonely cry of the whippoorwill or the arguments of the frogs

around a pond at night? I am a red man and do not understand.

The Indian prefers the soft sound of the wind darting over the face of a pond,

and the smell of the wind itself, cleaned by a midday rain, or scented with the

pinion pine.

The air is precious to the red man, for all things share the same breath--the

beast, the tree, the man, they all share the same breath. The white man does not

seem to notice the air he breathes.

Like a man dying for many days, he is numb to the stench.

But 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.

And if we sell you our land, you must keep it apart and sacred, as a place where

even the white man can go to taste the wind that is sweetened by the meadow's

flowers.

So we will consider your offer to buy our land. If we decide to accept, I will

make one condition: The white man must treat the beasts of this land as his

brothers.

I am a savage and I do not understand any other way.

I've seen a thousand rotting buffaloes on the prairie, left by the white man who

shot them from a passing train.

I am a savage and I do not understand how the smoking iron horse can be more

important than the buffalo that we kill only to stay alive.

What is man without the beasts? If all the beasts were gone, man would die from

a great loneliness of spirit.

For whatever happens to the beasts, soon happens to man. All things are

connected.

You must teach your children that the ground beneath their feet is the ashes of

your grandfathers. So that they will respect the land, tell your children that

the earth is rich with the lives of our kin.

Teach your children what we have taught our children: that the earth is our

mother.

Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth. If men spit upon the

ground, they spit upon themselves.

This we know: The earth does not belong to man; man belongs to the earth. This

we know.

All things are connected like the blood which unites one family. All things are

connected.

Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons 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 be exempt from the common destiny.

We may be brothers after all.

We shall see.

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 our land; but you

cannot. He is the God of man, and His compassion is equal for the red man and

the white.

This earth is precious to Him, and to harm the earth is to heap contempt on its

Creator.

The whites too shall pass; perhaps sooner than all other tribes. Contaminate

your bed, and you will one night suffocate in your own waste.

But in your perishing you will shine brightly, fired by the strength of God who

brought you to this land and for some special purpose gave you dominion over

this land and over the red man.

That destiny is a mystery to us, for we do not understand when the buffalo are

all slaughtered, the wild horses are tamed, the secret corners of the forest

heavy with scent of many men, and the view of the ripe hills blotted by talking

wires.

Where is the thicket? Gone.

Where is the eagle? Gone.

The end of living and the beginning of survival.

====================================

Thanks for that one Monk.

Yes, I too remember Synergetics, the book, mostly math, that set the stage for computers and the global village and the geodesic dome.

Bucky gave a lecture at Antioch College that I attended, but he was pretty old then (circa 1970), and just read from a book in a monotone that put most to sleep.

I remember the three laws of the day however, "Everything is connected to everything, everything is in constant motion and there's no such thing as a free lunch."

And a tip of the hat to Bucky for reminding us of our roots through that great speech by Chief Seattle, which is new to me.

To think the Indians who lived where I am now in Jersey lived in harmony with the environment for ten thousand years and we've only been here a few hundred and have thoroughly plundered the place.

BK

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Washington State Library

Olympia, Washington

letterhead (1993)

Nancy Zussy, State Librarian

The speech given by Chief Seattle in January of 1854 is the subject of a great deal of historical debate. The most important fact to note is that there is NO VERBATIM TRANSCRIPT IN EXISTENCE. All known texts are second-hand.

Version 1 appeared in the Seattle Sunday Star on Oct. 29, 1887, in a column by Dr. Henry A. Smith. He makes it very clear that his version is not an exact copy, but rather the best he could put together from notes taken at the time. There is an undecided historical argument on which native dialect the Chief would have used, Duwamish or Suquamish. Either way all agree the speech was translated into the Chinook Jargon on the spot, since Chief Seattle never learned to speak English.

[Version 1 begins: Yonder sky has wept tears of compassion on our fathers for centuries untold, and which, to us, looks eternal, may change. To-day it is fair, to-morrow it may be overcast with clouds. My words are like the stars that never set. ...]

Version 2 was written by poet William Arrowsmith in the late 1960s. This was an attempt to put the text into more current speech patterns, rather than Dr. Smith's more flowery Victorian style. Except for this modernization, it is very similar to Version 1.

[Version 2 begins: Brothers: That sky above us has pitied our fathers for many hundreds of years. To us it looks unchanging, but it may change. Today it is fair. Tomorrow it may be covered with cloud. ...]

Version 3 is perhaps the most widely known of all. This version was written by Texas professor Ted Perry as part of a film script. The makers of the film took a little literary license, further changing the speech and making it into a letter to President Franklin Pierce, which has been frequently reprinted. No such letter was ever written by or for Chief Seattle.

[Version 3 begins: The Great Chief in Washington sends word that wishes to buy our land. The Great Chief also sends us words of friendship and goodwill. This is kind of him, since we know he has little need of our friendship in return. But we will consider your offer. For we know that if we do not sell, the white man may come with guns and take our land. How can you buy or sell the sky, the warmth of the land? The idea is strange to us. ...]

Version 4 appeared in an exhibit at Expo '74 in Spokane, Washington, and is a shortened edition of Dr. Perry's script (Version 3).

[Version 4 begins: The President in Washington sends word that he wishes to buy our land. Buy our land! But how can you buy or sell the sky? the land? The idea is strange to us. ...] ...

The best description of the saga of Chief Seattle's speech can be found in an essay by Rudolf Kaiser: "Chief Seattle's Speech(es): American Origins and European Reception" published in Recovering the Word: Essays on Native American Literature by the University of California Press, 1987. Another excellent discussion appears in David Buerge's article "Seattle's King Arthur: How Chief Seattle continues to inspire his many admirers to put words in his mouth," appearing in the July 17, 1991 Seattle Weekly.

Attachments:

<a href="http://www.synaptic.bc.ca/ejournal/newsweek.htm">Newsweek, May 4, 1992An article challenging the authenticity of the Perry text. It is also a chastisement for those who fail to check their sources. Museum of History and IndustryA brief historical outline of the conditions under which Chief Seattle originally spoke, and how the various textual transcriptions of that text came to be. Joseph CampbellJoseph Cambell fooled by the Perry Text. The Smith TextThe text most often referred to as 'authentic'.

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Washington State Library

Olympia, Washington

letterhead (1993)

Nancy Zussy, State Librarian

The speech given by Chief Seattle in January of 1854 is the subject of a great deal of historical debate. The most important fact to note is that there is NO VERBATIM TRANSCRIPT IN EXISTENCE. All known texts are second-hand.

Version 1 appeared in the Seattle Sunday Star on Oct. 29, 1887, in a column by Dr. Henry A. Smith. He makes it very clear that his version is not an exact copy, but rather the best he could put together from notes taken at the time. There is an undecided historical argument on which native dialect the Chief would have used, Duwamish or Suquamish. Either way all agree the speech was translated into the Chinook Jargon on the spot, since Chief Seattle never learned to speak English.

[Version 1 begins: Yonder sky has wept tears of compassion on our fathers for centuries untold, and which, to us, looks eternal, may change. To-day it is fair, to-morrow it may be overcast with clouds. My words are like the stars that never set. ...]

Version 2 was written by poet William Arrowsmith in the late 1960s. This was an attempt to put the text into more current speech patterns, rather than Dr. Smith's more flowery Victorian style. Except for this modernization, it is very similar to Version 1.

[Version 2 begins: Brothers: That sky above us has pitied our fathers for many hundreds of years. To us it looks unchanging, but it may change. Today it is fair. Tomorrow it may be covered with cloud. ...]

Version 3 is perhaps the most widely known of all. This version was written by Texas professor Ted Perry as part of a film script. The makers of the film took a little literary license, further changing the speech and making it into a letter to President Franklin Pierce, which has been frequently reprinted. No such letter was ever written by or for Chief Seattle.

[Version 3 begins: The Great Chief in Washington sends word that wishes to buy our land. The Great Chief also sends us words of friendship and goodwill. This is kind of him, since we know he has little need of our friendship in return. But we will consider your offer. For we know that if we do not sell, the white man may come with guns and take our land. How can you buy or sell the sky, the warmth of the land? The idea is strange to us. ...]

Version 4 appeared in an exhibit at Expo '74 in Spokane, Washington, and is a shortened edition of Dr. Perry's script (Version 3).

[Version 4 begins: The President in Washington sends word that he wishes to buy our land. Buy our land! But how can you buy or sell the sky? the land? The idea is strange to us. ...] ...

The best description of the saga of Chief Seattle's speech can be found in an essay by Rudolf Kaiser: "Chief Seattle's Speech(es): American Origins and European Reception" published in Recovering the Word: Essays on Native American Literature by the University of California Press, 1987. Another excellent discussion appears in David Buerge's article "Seattle's King Arthur: How Chief Seattle continues to inspire his many admirers to put words in his mouth," appearing in the July 17, 1991 Seattle Weekly.

Attachments:

<a href="http://www.synaptic.bc.ca/ejournal/newsweek.htm">Newsweek, May 4, 1992An article challenging the authenticity of the Perry text. It is also a chastisement for those who fail to check their sources. Museum of History and IndustryA brief historical outline of the conditions under which Chief Seattle originally spoke, and how the various textual transcriptions of that text came to be. Joseph CampbellJoseph Cambell fooled by the Perry Text. The Smith TextThe text most often referred to as 'authentic'.

Yes,

The Native American Indians of North America did not have a written tradition, but an oral one, telling stories that were passed on from generation to generation.

There have been reports that the Leni Lenape or Delaware Indians, one of the first to great the European explorers, had a "book" of pictures of stick men and images that were carved or painted with red cranbury die on the back of birch tree barks. Called the Walm Olum, or Red Score, it gave the history of the tribe dating back to the trip across the Bearing Straights from Asia and travels across the country as a tribe, a chronicle of their chiefs and their wars with other tribes. Legend has it that the Red Score was more like an opera/ballet than a book to be read, as it was meant tobe read/sang by an Indian called Talking Wood and the historic scenes acted out in a dance by another Indian Dancing Bear. When the tribe finally left the East Coast and made their way west in the early 1800s, an academic professor who studied the tribe obtained a copy of the Walum Olum, had an Indian interpret it for him and made a transcript of the images and their meanings. Although this professor had been involved in some questionable historic practices, and the authenticy of his work questioned, the story of the Walum Olum is generally believed by the Indians themselves.

So it would be natural for Chief Seattle to give such a speech without having a written text, and like the speech of Col. Travis at the Alamo, and the English King (Henry?) before the battle in France ("The greater the odds thegreater the glory"), we don't have a verbatum transcript or tape recording, so we have to go with what witnesses claim was said.

Even with embellshments, the message was clear, and still resonates today.

After all, that's the Indian oral tradition.

BK

Edited by William Kelly

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John,

The version I reproduced here is the one that is quoted in Buckminster Fuller's book, Critical Path, as I said.

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Yes I gathered that, however I was aware of the disputes of the actual wordings of the speech and while this version is indeed inspiring, it, like many latter records by memory and by people not versed in the nuances of the language spoken, means inevitably a poetic licence creeps in.

The same happened to Buddhas words which were spoken in pali (an unwritten language) and passed on through centuries by chanting, when it was finally written many parts had attained a taint of superstition and then western translators of the modern era again in dealing with a quite complex language did the best they could with a dead language and with concepts they could not be expected to comprehend so there again is an example of the alteration process that such things undergo.

The same difficulty is faced in australia where the more than 40,000 year old Aboriginal civilisation has a record that has passed through the generations in spoken form in about 500 languages, many lost now, but many still alive and well. Even then conceptually for a westerner much is hard to understand and much is closely guarded and only interpretations available.

Still, to try to understand it in whatever form it is presented is a good thing, imo.

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