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Sun, 18 May 1997 17:07:11 -0700 (PDT)
James Michael Craven (
Letter from Chief Sealth to President Franklin Pierce--1855

" The Great Chief in Washington sends word that he wishes to buy our land. How can you buy or sell the sky--the warmth of the land. The idea is strange to us. Yet we do not own the freshness of the air or the sparkle of the water. How can you buy them from us. Every part of this earth is sacred to my people.

We know that the White Man does not understand our ways. One portion of the 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 and his children's birthright is forgotten.

There is no quiet place in the White Man's cities. No place to hear the leaves of spring or the rustle of insect wings. But perhaps because I am savage and do not understand--the clatter only seems to insult the ears. And what is there to life if a man[sic] cannot hear the lonely cry of the whipoorwill or the arguments of a frog around the pond at night.

The Whites too, shall pass--perhaps sooner than other tribes. Continue to contaminate your bed and you will one night suffocate in your own waste. When the buffalo are all slaughtered, the wild horses tamed, the secret corners of the forest heavy with the 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. And what is it to say goodbye to the swift and the hunt. The end of living and the beginning of survival.

Chief Sealth 1855