Yonder sky that has wept tears of compassion upon my people for centuries
untold, and which to us appears changeless and eternal, may change.
Today is fair. Tomorrow it may be overcast with clouds. My words are
like the stars that never change. Whatever Seattle says, the great
chief at Washington can rely upon with as much certainty as he can
upon the return of the sun or the seasons. The white chief says that
Big Chief at Washington sends us greetings of friendship and goodwill.
This is kind of him for we know he has little need of our friendship
in return. His people are many. They are like the grass that covers
vast prairies. My people are few. They resemble the scattering trees
of a storm-swept plain. The great, and I presume -- good, White Chief
sends us word that he wishes to buy our land but is willing to allow
us enough to live comfortably. This indeed appears just, even generous,
for the Red Man no longer has rights that he need respect, and the
offer may be wise, also, as we are no longer in need of an extensive
There was a time when our people covered the land as the waves of
a wind-ruffled sea cover its shell-paved floor, but that time long
since passed away with the greatness of tribes that are now but a
mournful memory. I will not dwell on, nor mourn over, our untimely
decay, nor reproach my paleface brothers with hastening it, as we
too may have been somewhat to blame.
Youth is impulsive. When our young men grow angry at some real or
imaginary wrong, and disfigure their faces with black paint, it denotes
that their hearts are black, and that they are often cruel and relentless,
and our old men and old women are unable to restrain them. Thus it
has ever been. Thus it was when the white man began to push our forefathers
ever westward. But let us hope that the hostilities between us may
never return. We would have everything to lose and nothing to gain.
Revenge by young men is considered gain, even at the cost of their
own lives, but old men who stay at home in times of war, and mothers
who have sons to lose, know better.
Our good father in Washington--for I presume he is now our father
as well as yours, since King George has moved his boundaries further
north--our great and good father, I say, sends us word that if we
do as he desires he will protect us. His brave warriors will be to
us a bristling wall of strength, and his wonderful ships of war will
fill our harbors, so that our ancient enemies far to the northward
-- the Haidas and Tsimshians -- will cease to frighten our women,
children, and old men. Then in reality he will be our father and we
his children. But can that ever be? Your God is not our God! Your
God loves your people and hates mine! He folds his strong protecting
arms lovingly about the paleface and leads him by the hand as a father
leads an infant son. But, He has forsaken His Red children, if they
really are His. Our God, the Great Spirit, seems also to have forsaken
us. Your God makes your people wax stronger every day. Soon they will
fill all the land. Our people are ebbing away like a rapidly receding
tide that will never return. The white man's God cannot love our people
or He would protect them. They seem to be orphans who can look nowhere
for help. How then can we be brothers? How can your God become our
God and renew our prosperity and awaken in us dreams of returning
greatness? If we have a common Heavenly Father He must be partial,
for He came to His paleface children. We never saw Him. He gave you
laws but had no word for His red children whose teeming multitudes
once filled this vast continent as stars fill the firmament. No; we
are two distinct races with separate origins and separate destinies.
There is little in common between us.
To us the ashes of our ancestors are sacred and their resting place
is hallowed ground. You wander far from the graves of your ancestors
and seemingly without regret. Your religion was written upon tablets
of stone by the iron finger of your God so that you could not forget.
The Red Man could never comprehend or remember it. Our religion is
the traditions of our ancestors -- the dreams of our old men, given
them in solemn hours of the night by the Great Spirit; and the visions
of our sachems, and is written in the hearts of our people.
Your dead cease to love you and the land of their nativity as soon
as they pass the portals of the tomb and wander away beyond the stars.
They are soon forgotten and never return. Our dead never forget this
beautiful world that gave them being. They still love its verdant
valleys, its murmuring rivers, its magnificent mountains, sequestered
vales and verdant lined lakes and bays, and ever yearn in tender fond
affection over the lonely hearted living, and often return from the
happy hunting ground to visit, guide, console, and comfort them.
Day and night cannot dwell together. The Red Man has ever fled the
approach of the White Man, as the morning mist flees before the morning
sun. However, your proposition seems fair and I think that my people
will accept it and will retire to the reservation you offer them.
Then we will dwell apart in peace, for the words of the Great White
Chief seem to be the words of nature speaking to my people out of
It matters little where we pass the remnant of our days. They will
not be many. The Indian's night promises to be dark. Not a single
star of hope hovers above his horizon. Sad-voiced winds moan in the
distance. Grim fate seems to be on the Red Man's trail, and wherever
he will hear the approaching footsteps of his fell destroyer and prepare
stolidly to meet his doom, as does the wounded doe that hears the
approaching footsteps of the hunter.
A few more moons, a few more winters, and not one of the descendants
of the mighty hosts that once moved over this broad land or lived
in happy homes, protected by the Great Spirit, will remain to mourn
over the graves of a people once more powerful and hopeful than yours.
But why should I mourn at the untimely fate of my people? Tribe follows
tribe, and nation follows nation, like the waves of the sea. It is
the order of nature, and regret is useless. Your time of decay may
be distant, but it will surely come, for even the White Man whose
God walked and talked with him as friend to friend, cannot be exempt
from the common destiny. We may be brothers after all. We will see.
We will ponder your proposition and when we decide we will let you
know. But should we accept it, I here and now make this condition
that we will not be denied the privilege without molestation of visiting
at any time the tombs of our ancestors, friends, and children. Every
part of this soil is sacred in the estimation of my people. Every
hillside, every valley, every plain and grove, has been hallowed by
some sad or happy event in days long vanished. Even the rocks, which
seem to be dumb and dead as the swelter in the sun along the silent
shore, thrill with memories of stirring events connected with the
lives of my people, and the very dust upon which you now stand responds
more lovingly to their footsteps than yours, because it is rich with
the blood of our ancestors, and our bare feet are conscious of the
sympathetic touch. Our departed braves, fond mothers, glad, happy
hearted maidens, and even the little children who lived here and rejoiced
here for a brief season, will love these somber solitudes and at eventide
they greet shadowy returning spirits. And when the last Red Man shall
have perished, and the memory of my tribe shall have become a myth
among the White Men, these shores will swarm with the invisible dead
of my tribe, and when your children's children think themselves alone
in the field, the store, the shop, upon the highway, or in the silence
of the pathless woods, they will not be alone. In all the earth there
is no place dedicated to solitude. At night when the streets of your
cities and villages are silent and you think them deserted, they will
throng with the returning hosts that once filled them and still love
this beautiful land. The White Man will never be alone.
Let him be just and deal kindly with my people, for the dead are
not powerless. Dead, did I say? There is no death, only a change of