Wednesday, 14 December 2011

The Earth is our mother...

Christmas, and all the hysterical shopping that goes with it is upon us again. Why not take a second to consider what this festival to the glory of capitalism means for the world around us? This statement by Chief Seattle from 1854 whilst extremely profound was also, unfortunately rather prophetic.

Mindless consumption really doesn't show how much we love one another, but how much disdain we have for the world, and its precious resources, which are part of us all.

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

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

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

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

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

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
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

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

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

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

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.