William M. Cary (1840-
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. You say
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-
that he wishes to buy our lands 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 country. There was a time when our people
covered the land as the waves of a windruffled sea cover its shell-
now but a mournful memory. I will not mourn over our untimely decay, nor reproach my paleface brothers with hastening it as we too may have been
somewhat to blame.
Our good father at Washington sends us word that if we do as he desires he will protect us. His brave warriors will be our strength, and as he will be our
father, we will be 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 his infant son -
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. Our people
are ebbing away like a rapidly receding tide that will never return. 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 -
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 tables of stone by the iron finger of your God so that you could not forget. The Red Man could never
comprehend nor remember it. Our religion is the traditions of our ancestors -
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 way beyond the stars. They are soon forgotten and never return. Our dead never forget the beautiful world that
gave them being. They still love its verdant valleys, its murmuring rivers, its magnificent mountains, and often return from the Happy Hunting Ground to
visit, guide, console and comfort the living.
A few more moons. A few more winters -
over the graves of a people -
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 with friend, cannot be exempt from the common destiny. We may be
brothers after all. We will see.
from: Indian Oratory: Famous Speeches by Noted lndian Chieftain.s, ed. W. Vanderwerth (Norman, Okla. Univ. of Oklahoma Pr., 1971).
1.1. Give a short summary of the text in not more than 200 words (± 10%)
1.2. What is Chief Seattle’s main intention?
2. Analysis and discussion
2.1. Find an adequate heading for the text in question.
2.2. Divide the text into its constituent parts.
2.3. The most striking feature of Seattle's speech is his poetic use of language. Give examples.
2.4. What is the effect of the poeticity of the text on you, the reader? Do you think this effect was intended by the author?
2.5. Give reasons why speeches usually contain more poetic embellishments than other prose texts do.
2.6. Characterize Seattle's attitude towards the white invaders of his native country.
2.7. What are the fundamental differences between the Indian's and the white man's way of thinking? Illustrate the Indian's concept of nature and
religion? Make use of your reading knowledge.