Letter to President Pierce, Chief Seattle, 1855
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. He leaves his fathers’ graves, and his
children’s birthright is forgotten. 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 leaves of spring or the rustle of insect’s
wings. But perhaps because I am a savage and do not
understand, the clatter only seems to insult the ears. The
Indian prefers the soft sound of the wind darting over the
face of the pond, the smell of the wind itself cleansed by
a mid-day rain, or scented with the pinon breath – the
beasts, the trees, the man. Like a man dying for many
days, he is numb to the stench.
What is man without the beasts? If all the beasts were
gone, men would die from great loneliness of spirit, for
whatever happens to the beasts also happens to man.
All things are connected. Whatever befalls the earth
befalls the sons of the earth.
It matters little where we pass the rest of our days; they
are not many. A few more hours, a few more winters,
and none of the children of the great tribes that once
lived on this earth, or that roamed in small bands in the
woods, will be left to mourn the graves of a people once
as powerful and hopeful as yours.
The whites, too, shall pass – perhaps sooner than other
tribes. Continue to contaminate your bed, and you will
one night suffocate in your own waste. When the buffalo
are all slaughtered, the wild horses all tamed, the secret
corners of the forest heavy with the 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.
And what is it to say goodby to the swift and the hunt,
the end of living and the beginning of survival? We might
understand if we knew what it was that the white man
dreams, what he describes to his children on the long
winter nights, what visions he burns into their minds, so
they will wish for tomorrow. But we are savages. The
white man’s dreams are hidden from us.
Chief Seattle. "Letter to President Pierce." Letter to President Pierce. 1855. N.p.: n.p., n.d. N. pag. Context.org. 1996. Web. 11 Mar. 2016.
The word "savage" is used several times in the passage (lines 9, 12, 42) primarily to emphasize the author's