Chief Seattle, delivered this speech in 1854 -- one year before a great treaty-making council between Indian tribes and the U.S. government. The government proposed that reservations be established and although several tribes opposed this, treaties were signed: each of the tribes was to select its favorite home valley as its reservation. Three months later, war broke out.
The following are some of his thoughts:
The great Chief in Washington sends word that he wishes to buy our land. 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 the sparkle of the water, how can you buy them? Every part of this earth is sacred to my people.
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.
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. The Indian prefers the soft sound of the wind darting over the face of a pond and the smell of the wind itself, cleansed by a midday rain or scented with the pinion pine.
So if we sell you our land, love it as we've loved it. Care for it as we've cared for it. Hold in your mind the memory of the land as it is when you take it. And with all your strength, with all your mind, with all your heart, preserve it for your children and love it ... and God loves us all.