The speech of Noah Sealth,
anglicized as Chief Seattle, was delivered in Seattle in the autumn
of 1854 in response to an address by Isaac Ingalls Stevens, Governor
of Washington Territory and the Commissioner of Indian Affairs.
It was delivered in front of Dr. Maynard's office near the waterfront
on Main Street and a near verbatim translation was made by Dr.
Henry A. Smith.
The speech was given in the Duwamish tongue as
Sealth had never learned to
speak English. The speech was not printed until
November 5, 1887, in the
Seattle Sunday Star. It has been reprinted many
times since in various
books. The John M. Rich version was first printed by
Printing Company, Seattle, in 1932. It was printed
again by Lowman and
Hanford, Seattle, in 1947, and by Glen Adam, Ye
Galleon Press, Fairfield,
Washington, 1970 and 1977 [and 1991], from a copy
supplied by Mrs. Ben
Morgan (Bernice) of Ocean Shores.
Statements of recent publication that John M. Rich
wrote the speech need not
be taken seriously in view of the fact that at least
two nineteenth century
printings exist, the second being in the Frederick
James Grant, History of
Seattle, 1891. Chief Seattle died in 1866,
supposedly about eighty years of
age. Many Indian chiefs were orators of ability and
Chief Seattle was no
--------------------------- start of
Yonder sky that has wept tears of compassion upon
our fathers for centuries
untold, and which to us looks eternal, may change.
Today it is fair,
tomorrow it may be overcast with clouds.
My words are like the stars that never set. What
Seattle says the Great
Chief at Washington can rely upon with as much
certainty as our paleface
brothers can rely upon the return of the seasons.
The son of the White Chief says his father sends us
greetings of friendship
and good will. This is kind of him, for we know he
has little need of our
friendship in return because his people are many.
They are like the grass
that covers the vast prairies, while by 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 wants to
buy our lands but is willing to allow us to reserve
enough to live on
comfortably. This indeed appears generous, for the
Red Man no longer has
rights that he need respect, and the offer may be
wise, also, for we are no
longer in need of a great country.
There was a time when our people covered the whole
land as the waves of a
wind-ruffled sea covers its shell-paved floor, but
that time has long since
passed away with the greatness of tribes now almost
forgotten. I will not
dwell on nor mourn over our untimely decay, nor
reproach my paleface
brothers with hastening it, for 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,
their hearts also are
disfigured and turn black, and then they are often
cruel and relentless and
know no bounds, and our old men are unable to
Thus it has ever been. Thus it was when the white
man first began to push
our fore-fathers westward. But let us hope that the
hostilities between the
Red Man and his paleface brother may never return.
We would have everything
to lose and nothing to gain.
It is true that revenge by young braves 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 at Washington - for I presume he is
now our father as well
as yours, since King George has moved his boundaries
farther 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 great
ships of war will fill our harbors so that our
ancient enemies far to the
northward - the Sinsiams, Hydas and Tsimpsians -
will no longer frighten our
women and old men. Then will he be our father and we
But can that ever be? Your God is not our God! Your
God loves your people
and hates mine! He folds His strong arms lovingly
around the white man and
leads him as a father leads his infant son - but He
has forsaken His red
children, if they are really His. Our God, the Great
Spirit, seems, also to
have forsaken us. Your God makes your people wax
strong every day - soon
they will fill all the land.
My people are ebbing away like a fast-receding tide
that will never flow
again. The white man's God cannot love His red
children or He would protect
them. We seem to be orphans who can look nowhere for
How, then, can we become brothers? How can your God
become our God and renew
our prosperity and awaken in us dreams of returning
Your God seems to us to be partial. He came to the
white man. We never saw
Him, never heard His voice. He gave the white man
laws, but had no word for
His red children whose teeming millions once filled
this vast continent as
the stars fill the firmament.
No. We are two distinct races, and must ever remain
so, with separate
origins and separate destinies. There is little in
common between us.
To us the ashes of our ancestors are sacred and
their final resting place is
hallowed ground, while you wander far from the grave
of your ancestors and,
seemingly, without regret.
Your religion was written on tablets of stone by the
iron finger of an angry
God, lest you might forget it. The Red Man could
never comprehend nor
Our religion is the traditions of our ancestors -
the dreams of our old men,
given to them in the solemn hours of 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 ports of the tomb - they wander far away
beyond the stars, are soon
forgotten and never return.
Our dead never forget this beautiful world that gave
them being. They still
love its winding rivers, its great mountains and its
sequestered vales, and
they ever yearn in tenderest affection over the
lonely-hearted living, and
often return to visit, guide and comfort them.
Day and night cannot dwell together. The Red Man has
ever fled the approach
of the white man, as the changing mist on the
mountain side flees before the
However, your proposition seems a just one, 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
voice of Nature speaking to my people out of the
thick darkness, that is
fast gathering around them like a dense fog floating
inward from a midnight
It matters little where we pass the remnant of our
days. They are not many.
The Indian's night promises to be dark. No bright
star hovers beyond the
horizon. Sad-voiced winds moan in the distance. Some
> grim Fate of our race
is on the Red Man's trail, and wherever he goes he
will still hear the sure
approaching footsteps of his fell destroyer and
prepare to stolidly meet his
doom, as does the wounded doe that hears the
approaching footsteps of the
A few more moons, a few more winters - and not one
of all the mighty hosts
that once filled this broad land and that now roam
in fragmentary bands
through these vast solitudes or lived in happy
homes, protected by the Great
Spirit, will remain to weep over the graves of the
people once as powerful
and as hopeful as your own!
But why should I repine? Why should I murmur at the
fate of my people?
Tribes are made up of individuals and are no better
than they. Men come and
go like the waves of the sea. A tear, a tamanamus, a
dirge and they are gone
from our longing eyes forever. It is the order of
Nature. Even the white
man, whose God walked and talked with him as friend
to friend, is not exempt
from the common destiny. We may be brothers, after
We will see.
We will ponder you proposition, and when we decide
we will tell you. But
should we accept it, I here and now make this the
first condition - that we
will not be denied the privilege, without
molestation, of visiting at will
the graves of our ancestors, friends and children.
Every part of this country is sacred to my people.
Every hillside, every
valley, every plain and grove has been hallowed by
some fond memory or some
sad experience of my tribe. Even the rocks, which
seem to lie dumb as they
swelter in the sun along the silent sea shore in
solemn grandeur thrill with
memories of past events connected with the lives of
The very dust under your feet responds more lovingly
to our footsteps than
to yours, because it is the ashes of our ancestors,
and our bare feet are
conscious of the sympathetic touch, for the soil is
rich with the life of
The noble braves, fond mothers, glad happy-hearted
maidens, and even the
little children, who lived and rejoiced here for a
brief season, and whose
very names are now forgotten, still love these
sombre solitudes and their
deep fastnesses which, at eventide, grow shadowy
with the presence of dusky
And when the last Red Man shall have perished from
the earth and his memory
among the white men shall have become a myth, these
shores will swarm with
the invisible dead of my tribe; and when your
children's children shall
think themselves alone in the fields, 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 will be silent and
you think them deserted, they will throng with the
returning hosts that once
filled 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.