Chief Seattle in Nomadic Spirit pages
Friday night beers -- revisited
- This was my first encounter with Chief Seattle,Ted Perry Text,
written by an American screenwriter for a Hollywood film. I found
it posted on the bathroom wall of a suburban Sydney home. It is
among the least accurate texts, directly contradicting many of
the statements made in the Smith Text. Not that I knew that at
the time, or was wise enough to avoid falling into the "noble
"I'm really amazed that though I grew up in North America
it would be on a suburban Sydney bathroom wall that I would find
the following gem of a quote. Please tip your glasses to some
savage wisdom." -- Patrick <sigh> Jennings
An eMail compendium.
- These texts were forwarded to me by tom
kunesh. The Washington State Library has since contacted me
and confirmed that all the following materials were part of a
dispatch originating from their facility. The first link is to
a cover letter written by one of the librarians and the others
represent attachments intended to clear up the issue (as much
as possible) of just what Chief Seattle might have said.
- Washington State Library
- A useful dispatch from the office of the State Librarian,
Washington State Library. It defines four versions of the speech
attributed to Chief Seattle and quotes the opening lines of
each. To this letter were attached the following items:
- Just Too Good to Be True:
another reason to beware of false eco-prophets
- An article challenging the authenticity of the Perry text.
It is also a chastisement for those who fail to check their
- Museum of History and Industry
- A brief historical outline of the conditions under which Chief
Seattle originally spoke, and how the various textual transcriptions
of that text came to be.
- Joseph Campbell
- It comforts me to know that someone with Campbell's academic
credentials was also fooled by the Perry Text.
- The Smith Text
- The text most often referred to as 'authentic'. Smith was
in attendance when Seattle originally spoke, but the speech
Smith published was reconstructed some time later from memory
and notes. Subtle variations of the Smith Text are floating
around. For example, the The
Alternate "Chief Seattle Statement" - with Editorial Commentary
appends this final line to the speech:
Dead - did I say? There is no death. Only a change
Various Versions of the Speech
SEATTLE'S 1854 ORATION" - ver. 1
- One of the first alternative texts I encountered. It is so different
from the Perry Text I'd found that I
began to wonder...
"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."
-- Chief Seattle
SEATTLE'S 1854 ORATION" - ver. 2
- Another early discovery of mine. Closer in content to Version
1 above than the Perry Text. This page
incorporates the full Dr. Henry A. Smith article in which the
"Old Chief Seattle was the largest Indian I ever saw, and
by far the noblest-looking. He stood 6 feet full in his moccasins,
was broad-shouldered, deep-chested, and finely proportioned. His
eyes were large, intelligent, expressive and friendly when in
repose, and faithfully mirrored the varying moods of the great
soul that looked through them. He was usually solemn, silent,
and dignified, but on great occasions moved among assembled multitudes
like a Titan among Lilliputians, and his lightest word was law."
-- Dr. Henry A. Smith
SEATTLE'S 1854 ORATION" - ver. 3
- This is the full Perry Text as I found
it in the suburban Sydney bathroom.
" 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? " --
Ted Perry, Hollywood Screenwriter
SEATTLE'S 1854 ORATION" - ver. 4
- Another early discovery of mine. Closer in content to the Smith
text above than the Perry Text.
"The President in Washington sends word that he wishes to
buy our land. But how can you buy or sell the sky? 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?"
Chief Seattle on the Web
:: Chief Seattle
- The Wikipedia Free Encyclopedia
is an exquisite result of the internet. This is a brief Wikipedia
page, in need of some filling out.
Chief Seattle's grave marker reads "Seattle, Chief of the
Suquamps and Allied Tribes, Died June 7, 1866. Firm Friend of
the Whites, and For Him the City of Seattle was Named by Its Founders,"
and, on the reverse, "Baptismal Name: Noah Sealth, Age probably
- -- Wikipedia
- A page devoted to the controversy surrounding the authenticity
of Seattle's speech.
"It's always fashionable to dispute the authenticity of the
Chief Seattle speech. Skeptics gleefully brandish some apocryphal
'source'; and then go hack down a couple of rain forests...Seattle
devotees feverishly clutch their versions and champion them with
the wildeyed passion of Bible Defenders.
"It undermines one of the many 'credos' of the environmental
movement." -- John M. Rich from Chief Seattle's Unanswered
- Chief Seattle's tribe has so far avoided the extinction Seattle
himself feared. They've put up a nice little website with cultural/traditional
information and yet another variation of the Smith Text.
"Chief Seattle, a hereditary leader of the Suquamish Tribe,
was born around 1786, passed away on June 7, 1866, and is buried
in the tribal cemetery at Suquamish, Washington. The speech Chief
Seattle recited during treaty negotiations in 1854 is regarded
as one of the greatest statements ever made concerning the relationship
between a people and the earth - that speech, published in the
Seattle Sunday Star , Seattle, Washington Territory, October 29,
1887, is reproduced here for you." -- Suquamish Tribe Website
- A page from the Urban
Legends Archive containing the 1992 Omni Magazine article
by Linda Marsa.
Wrong, say scholars. "Native American culture is constantly being
exploited and apporpriated as illustrations of whatever European
theory is in fashion," says Jack D. Forbes, a professor of Native
American studies at the University of California at Davis. These
range from the extreme individualism of the 1983 novel _Hanto
Yo_ to the New Age spiritualism of Lynn Andrews. "When," asks
Forbes, echoing the frustrations of other Native Americans, "will
the thefts of our spiritual traditions end?" -- Linda Marsa
"Chief Seattle Statement" - with Editorial Commentary
- Well, in true full-circle fashion, this old page hails from
Australia, the land where I first encountered Chief Seattle. In
addition to the statement itself, yet another version of The
Smith Text, and some insightful commentary, there're also
a lotta links to Native American resources.
"It has been brought to my attention since our publication
of the "Statement of Chief Seattle" (which I had read in a local
newspaper in the wild west of Southern Ireland in the summer of
1977) that this statement, in fact, was not the statement made
by the chief." -- PRF Brown
Books about Chief Seattle's Speech
the Word: Essays on Native American Literature
by Brian Swann, Arnold Krupat. University of California Press, 1987
- Recommended by Nancy Zussy, State Librarian, Washington State
The best description of the saga of Chief Seattle's speech can
be found in an essay by Rudolf Kaiser: "Chief Seattle's Speech(es):
American Origins and European Reception" published in Recovering
the Word: Essays on Native American Literature
by Albert Furtwangler
- An academic text thoroughly exploring the history of Seattle.
"English professor Furtwangler, who has previously written
on historical topics (e.g., Acts of Discovery: Visions of America
in the Lewis & Clark Journals, Univ. of Illinois, 1993), first
examines the origins of the speech and the setting in which it
was purportedly made. Concluding that it is not certain that Seattle
uttered the sentiments attributed to him, he then places the speech
in the context of the intellectual thought of that era. He also
looks at Stevens's role in the Washington Territory." --
World of Chief Seattle : How Can One Sell The Air?
by Warren Jefferson
- The Publisher's Weekly says of it:
In his debut work, Warren Jefferson pays tribute to The World
of Chief Seattle. For 11,000 years his people, the Suquamish,
have lived across the bay from the city that took their chief's
name. Most famous for his 1854 speech promising the American government
peace and respect in return for the same, Chief Seattle saw his
world diminish during his long and celebrated life, as a result
of the appropriation of land by the American government, the introduction
of Euro-American diseases and the suppression of many tribal customs
and religious practices.
Seattle's Speech (1853)
This book appears to provide a version associated with the Smith
Eagle, Sister Sky: A Message From Chief Seattle
Illustrated by Susan Jeffers
[ Not recommended! ]This book contains
the Perry Text illustrated for grade school consumption.
Whatever befalls the earth, befalls the children of the earth.
We did not weave the web of life, we are merely a strand in it.
Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves.
- attributed to Chief Seattle
but actually the words of Ted Perry