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.
My words are like the stars. They do not set. What Seattle says,
the great chief Washington can count on as surely as our white brothers
can count on the return of the seasons.
The White Chief's son says his father send us words of friendship
and goodwill. This is kind of him, since we know he has little need
of our friendship in return. His people are many, like the grass that
covers the plains. My people are few, like the trees scattered by
the storms on the grasslands.
The great---and good, I believe---White Chief sends us word that
he wants to buy our land. But he will reserve us enough so that we
can live comfortable. This seems generous, since the red man no longer
has rights he needs respect. It may also be wise, since we no longer
need a large country. Once my people covered this land like a flood-tide
moving with the wind across the shell-littered flats. But that time
is gone, and with it the greatness of tribes now almost forgotten.
But I will not mourn the passing of my people. Nor do I blame our
white brothers for causing it. We too were perhaps partly to blame.
When our young men grow angry at some wrong, real or imagined, they
make their faces ugly with black paint. Then their hearts too are
ugly and black. They are hard and their cruelty knows no limits, and
our old men cannot restrain them.
Let us hope that the wars between the red man and his white brothers
will never come again. We would have everything to lose and nothing
to gain. Young men view revenge as gain, even when they lose their
own lives. But the old men who stay behind in time of war, mothers
with sons to lose -- they know better.
Our great father Washington---for he must be our father now as well
as yours, since George has moved his boundary northward---our great
and good father sends us word by his son, who is surely a great chief
among his people, that he will protect us if we do what he wants.
His brave soldiers will be a strong wall for my people, and his great
warships will fill our harbors. Then our ancient enemies to the north---the
Haidas and Tsimshiams----will no longer frighten our women and old
men. Then he will be our father and we will be his children.
But can that ever be? Your God loves your people and hates mine.
He puts his strong arm around the white man and leads him by the hand,
as a father leads his little boy. He has abandoned his red children.
He makes your people stronger every day. Soon they will flood all
the land. But my people are an ebb-tide, we will never return. No,
the white man's God cannot love his red children or he would protect
them. Now we are orphans. There is no one to help us.
So how can we be brothers? How can your father be our father, and
make us prosper and send us dreams of future greatness? Your God is
prejudiced. He came to the white man. We never saw him, never even
heard his voice. He gave the white man laws, but he had no word for
his red children whose numbers once filled this land as the stars
filled the sky.
No, we are two separate races, and we must stay separate. There is
little in common between us.
To us the ashes of our fathers are sacred. Their graves are holy
ground. But you are wanderers, you leave your fathers' graves behind
you, and you do not care.
Your religion was written on tables of stone by the iron finger of
an angry God, so you would not forget it. The red man could never
understand it or remember it. Our religion is the ways of our forefathers,
the dreams of our old men, sent them by the Great Spirit, and the
visions of our sachems. And it is written in the hearts of our people.
Your dead forget you and the country of their birth as soon as they
go beyond the grave and walk among the stars. They are quickly forgotten
and they never return. Our dead never forget this beautiful earth.
It is their mother. They always love and remember her rivers, her
great mountains, her valleys. They long for the living, who are lonely
too and who long for the dead. And their spirits often return to visit
and console us.
No, day and night cannot live together.
The red man has always retread before the advancing white man, as
the mist on the mountain slopes runs before the morning sun.
So your offer seems fair, and I think my people will accept it and
go to the reservation you offer them. We will live apart, and in peace.
For the words of the Great White Chief are like the words of nature
speaking to my people out of great darkness---a darkness that gathers
around us like the night fog moving inland from the sea.
It matters little where we pass the rest of our days. They are not
many. The Indians's night will be dark. No bright star shines on his
horizons. The wind is sad. Fate hunts the red man down. Wherever he
goes, he will hear the approaching steps of his destroyer, and prepare
to die, like the wounded doe who hears the steps of the hunter.
A few moons, a few more winters, and none of the children of the
great tribes that once lived in this wide earth or that roam now in
small bands in the woods will be left to mourn the graves of a people
once as powerful and as hopeful as yours.
But why should I mourn the passing of my people? Tribes are made
of men, nothing more. Men come and go, like the waves of the sea.
A tear, a prayer to the Great Spirit, a dirge, and they are gone from
our longing eyes forever. Even the white man, whose God walked and
talked with him as friend to friend, cannot be exempt from the common
We may be brothers after all. We shall see.
We will consider your offer. When we have decided, we will let you
know. Should we accept, I here and now make this condition: we will
never be denied the right to visit, at any time, the graves of our
fathers and our friends.
Every part of this earth is sacred to my people. Every hillside,
every valley, every clearing and wood, is holy in the memory and experience
of my people. Even those unspeaking stones along the shore are loud
with event and memories in the life of my people. The ground beneath
your feet responds more lovingly to our steps than yours, because
it is the ashes of our grandfathers. Our bare feet know the kindred
touch. The earth is rich with the lives of our kin.
The young men, the mothers, and girls, the little children who once
lived and were happy here, still love these lonely places. And at
evening the forests are dark with the presence of the dead. When the
last red man has vanished from this earth, and his memory is only
a story among the whites, these shores will still swarm with the invisible
dead of my people. And when you children's children think they are
alone in the fields, the forests, the shops, the highways, or the
quiet of the woods, they will not be alone. There is no place in this
country where a man can be alone. At night when the streets of your
towns and cities are quiet, and you think they are empty, they will
throng with the returning spirits that once thronged them, and that
still love these places. The white man will never be alone.
So let him be just and deal kindly with my people. The dead have