Chief Seattle


The Original

Web Publication by Mountain Man Graphics, Australia in the Southern Spring of 1995


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.

I therefore requested information from various parties in confirmation of this view, and if possible, supportive documentation. In the interim period this further information has been received. For example, someone who runs a surf shop advised me that they have a poster on their wall with the following quotation .....


However, further information received seems to be rather more substantial, and I am therefore presenting it as the "Alternate Statement" of Chief Seattle. I believe that readers will find it just as profound (if not moreso) than what we may all believe to the "original".

In order to completely open concerning this "revelation" I will simply present the E-Mail information flow surrounding this matter as it was received and in the sequence it was received - culminating in the "Alternate Statement", and leave it up to the reader to come to his or her own conclusion in this matter, if one is warranted.

It is a cosmic tapestry upon which a terrestrial web is woven. Truth always has the property of rising from the baser sensitivities and making itself known to the wise .... this has not changed since ancient times. I therefore place value in both these statements which I have published - otherwise they would not be part of this small island of Inner Space known as Mountain Man Graphics.

Whether the inspiration of Chief Seattle in 1854, or whether the inspiration of one Ted Perry, Hollywood screenwriter, in the early '70's, or whether the inspiration of another, or both, or neither, or a host of other ancestors through which any and all "Life-View Statements" have evolved .... to my sensibility both these statements are worthy of note.

And it is for this wisdom manifest in both accounts, that I have published both accounts.

And I would like to take this opportunity to thank all these folk referenced in the Electonic-Mail-Trail which is presented, without further commentary, in the remained of this web document.

PRF Brown
BCSLS {FreshWater}
Mountain Man Graphics,

Initial E-MAIL Received

Date: Sun, 29 Oct 95 11:41:54 -0800
From: Jim Baldwin
Organization: International Secular Atavism
To: prfbrown@magna.com.au
Subject: "Chief Seattle" is a hoax!!

The man who actually wrote that speech is a Hollywood screenwriter. He has *admitted* that he was assigned to look up the speech made by Seattle, but it was simply not very inspiring or significant in any way, and it certainly did not say anything about ecology. So he did what any Hollywood screenwriter would do: he wrote a *fictional* version of the speech, not reflecting what a Native American's attitude would be, but what a late 20th century "green" person would think.

Of course, I sent of a reply to Jim, and his answer follows ....

Further E-Mail Received ...

Date: Sun, 29 Oct 1995 14:50:09 -0800 (PST)
From: Scribe Ortho-Priapulus MetaQuincunx
To: Mountain Man
Subject: Re: "Chief Seattle" is a hoax!!

On Mon, 30 Oct 1995, Mountain Man wrote:

> >The man who actually wrote that speech is a Hollywood screenwriter.

> And his name was Longfellow right?
> And he also wrote the "Song of Hiawatha" ....

No, his name is Ted Perry and he wrote the speech in the late 70's for a movie called "Home" which was produced in the US by the Southern Baptist Convention. He had no idea that anyone would consider his work anything other than fiction, and he has spent quite a bit of time in the past few years trying to set the record straight. So I was wrong in calling it a hoax, it was just a misattribution that has gained a life of its own.

While the sentiment expressed in the speech is quite admirable, it is not made more so by being attributed to an Aboriginal leader. Furthermore, I think Mr. Perry deserves credit for the fine speech he has written, and if you attribute it to Seathl, you deny Mr. Perry his just credit. I realize you did not know this, a lot of people don't, and poor Mr. Perry has been beating his head against the wall trying to set the record straight, and meantime he's been unjustly villified for "falsifying" the historical record.

I'm emailing you some supporting documentation I found on the net, as well as the real, original Seathl speech, which says little or nothing about ecology. Perhaps you could put up the real Seathl speech alongside the correctly attributed Ted Perry speech. Just a thought.

Still further information received ...

Date: Sun, 29 Oct 1995 14:54:15 -0800 (PST)
From: Scribe Ortho-Priapulus MetaQuincunx
To: Mountain Man
Subject: Documentation regarding Ted Perry/Chief Seathl

This section is from the document '/Distribution list log/History/log.started.930627'.

>From HISTORY@ibm.gwdg.de Thu Aug 19 16:58:00 1993
Date: Thu, 19 Aug 93 21:58:00 EST
From: Nicholas Clifford
Subject: Re: Chief Seattle
To: Multiple Recipients of

Since Ted Perry is a colleague of mine at Middlebury College, I followed the Seattle story as it broke in the New York Times a year or so ago. Prof. Perry has never tried to maintain that the speech was anything but a fictional version of what Seattle MIGHT have said; but various publishers and users of the speech decided that it would sell better if it was represented as containing the actual words of the chief. The original version (that is, the original Perry version) was indeed done as a film or a TV script for the Southern Baptist convention (Perry is a film historian and critic of some note).

If I remember correctly the stories in the TIMES about the whole affair, insofar as there is any record of the real Chief Seattle's speech, it suggests that he spoke not about the environment, but rather about simlarities and differences between Christianity (he was a Roman Catholic) and Native American religion.

And, as Jeffrey Russell has recently shown, the men and women of the European middle ages never believed in a flat earth; but the philosophes of the 18th cent. thought that the middle ages should have had such a belief, so they conveniently invented the version.

Nick Clifford, Middlebury College
This section is from the document '/Distribution list log/History/log.started.930627'.

>From HISTORY@ibm.gwdg.de Wed Aug 25 15:20:06 1993
Date: Wed, 25 Aug 93 15:20:06 GMT
From: lambert@UNI2A.UNIGE.CH
Subject: Re: Chief Seattle
To: Multiple Recipients of

In article <1993Aug15.211040.28183@emma.ruc.dk>, sune@emma.ruc.dk (Sune Johansson) writes:
> Chief Seattle (17xx -1866) from the Suqvamish tribe, was called so by
> the white, and became worldfamous under this name, because they used
> his name for the town Seattle, Washington, USA.
> Since the beginning of the nineteen seventies, a speech, which had
> been made by him, has been a popular ingridient in the environment-
> debate. The speech critizise the white mans lack of culture, called
> civilization, especially our ruthless exploitation of nature.
> Later on it has been proofed, that the speech was written as a films-
> cript by a certain Ted Perry. The producer of this film "Home" was
> Southern Baptist Convention, who suppressed the authors name to make
> the impression more authentic!

The general tone of this posting is relatively conspiratorial. Perhaps someone should contact Ted Perry. National Public Radio did about two years ago and interviewed him for All Things Considered (before it switched to American Public Radio). Perry wrote it for a film, yes, and the name was not suppressed as some conspiracy, but I would assume for the same reason "Long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away" was not followed by a credit. Perry himself was shocked to see it later, I believe for the first time in the Whole Earth catalog, with his name attached.

No one who ever looked into the question thought that Chief Seattle wrote the piece. He talks of the thousands of buffalo he had seen shot by white men from their trains. Chief Seattle never saw the trains, never saw the great herds of buffalo of the central plains, and ergo never saw thousands shot from the trains. Tracking down the actual author, however, was not obvious, and the event awaited, I believe, the NPR people. They started at Washington's State Historical Society where they were assured that the citation was false, but they could not say who had written it. From there, I don't know.

I have been collecting Seattle apocryphana in my head and the spread of this false speech is amazing. Michael Buhler, a Swiss, has translated it into French as a song (Ainsi parlait un veil indien). The Newberry Library, a relatively scholarly and serious institution, has done a (very nice) t-shirt. Of course greeting cards and bumper stickers.

Tom Lambert - lambertuni2a.unige.ch

Background to The "Alternate Statement" of Chief Seattle ...

To: Mountain Man
Subject: The original Chief Seathl speech

Date: Wed, 8 Sep 1993 18:53:00 PDT

Original Sender: Gary Trujillo
Mailing List: NATIVE-L (native-l@gnosys.svle.ma.us)

/* Written 4:41 pm Sep 5, 1993 by gates in igc:iearn.fp */
/* ---------- "CHIEF SEATTLE'S 1854 ORATION" ---------- */


Source: "Four Wagons West,"

by Roberta Frye Watt, Binsford & Mort, Portland Ore., 1934.
Originally published in the Seattle Sunday Star, Oct. 29 1887.

The text was produced by one "Dr." Smith, an early settler in Seattle, who took notes as Seattle spoke in the Suquamish dialect of central Puget sound Salish (Lushootseed), and created this text in English from those notes. Smith insisted that his version "contained none of the grace and elegance of the original" The last two sentences of the text here given have been considered for many years to have been part of the original, but are now known to have been added by an early 20th C. historian and ethnographic writer, A. C. Ballard.

There are many versions and excerpts from this text, including a wholly fraudulent version mentioning buffalo and the interconnectedness of all life which was written by a Hollywood screenwriter in the late 70's and which has gained wide currency. The bogus version has been quoted by individuals as prominent and diverse as former U.S. President Bush and Joseph Campbell.

At the time this speech was made it was commonly believed by whites and as well by many Indians that Native americas would inevitalby become extinct.

The "Alternate Statement" of Chief Seattle ...

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.

The white chief says 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-swept plain.
The great, and I presume -- good, White Chief sends us word
that he wishes to buy our land 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 wind-ruffled sea cover its shell-paved floor,
but that time long since passed away with the greatness of tribes that are now but a mournful memory.
I will not dwell on, nor mourn over, our untimely decay, nor reproach my paleface brothers with hastening it,
as 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,
it denotes that their hearts are black, and that they are often cruel and relentless,
and our old men and old women are unable to restrain them.
Thus it has ever been.
Thus it was when the white man began to push our forefathers ever westward.
But let us hope that the hostilities between us may never return.
We would have everything to lose and nothing to gain.
Revenge by young men 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 in Washington--for I presume he is now our father as well as yours,
since King George has moved his boundaries further 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 wonderful ships of war will fill our harbors,
so that our ancient enemies far to the northward -- the Haidas and Tsimshians,
will cease to frighten our women, children, and old men.
He in reality he will be our father and we 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 an infant son.
But, He has forsaken His Red children, if they really are His.
Our God, the Great Spirit, seems also to have forsaken us.
Your God makes your people wax stronger every day.
Soon they will fill all the land.

Our people are ebbing away like a rapidly receding tide that will never return.
The white man's God cannot love our people or He would protect them.
They seem to be orphans who can look nowhere for help.
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, for He came to His paleface 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 tablets of stone by the iron finger of your God so that you could not forget.

The Red Man could never comprehend or remember it.
Our religion is the traditions of our ancestors --
the dreams of our old men, given them in solemn hours of the 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 portals of the tomb and wander away beyond the stars.
They are soon forgotten and never return.

Our dead never forget this beautiful world that gave them being.
They still love its verdant valleys, its murmuring rivers, its magnificent mountains,
sequestered vales and verdant lined lakes and bays,
and ever yearn in tender fond affection over the lonely hearted living,
and often return from the happy hunting ground to visit, guide, console, and comfort them.

Day and night cannot dwell together.
The Red Man has ever fled the approach of the White Man, as the morning mist flees before the morning sun.
However, your proposition seems fair
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 words of nature speaking to my people out of dense darkness.

It matters little where we pass the remnant of our days.
They will not be many.
The Indian's night promises to be dark.
Not a single star of hope hovers above his horizon.
Sad-voiced winds moan in the distance.
Grim fate seems to be on the Red Man's trail,
and wherever he will hear the approaching footsteps of his fell destroyer and prepare stolidly to meet his doom,
as does the wounded doe that hears the approaching footsteps of the hunter.

A few more moon,
a few more winters,
and not one of the descendants of the mighty hosts that once moved over this broad land
or lived in happy homes, protected by the Great Spirit,
will remain to mourn over the graves of a people once more powerful and hopeful than yours.

But why should I mourn at the untimely fate of my people?
Tribe follows tribe, 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 to friend,
cannot be exempt from the common destiny.
We may be brothers after all.
We will see.

We will ponder your proposition and when we decide we will let you know.
But should we accept it, I here and now make this condition that we will not be denied the privilege
without molestation of visiting at any time the tombs of our ancestors, friends, and children.
Every part of this soil is sacred in the estimation of my people.
Every hillside, every valley, every plain and grove,
has been hallowed by some sad or happy event in days long vanished.

Even the rocks, which seem to be dumb and dead as the swelter in the sun along the silent shore,
thrill with memories of stirring events connected with the lives of my people,
and the very dust upon which you now stand responds more lovingly to their footsteps than yours,
because it is rich with the blood of our ancestors,
and our bare feet are conscious of the sympathetic touch.
Our departed braves, fond mothers, glad, happy hearted maidens, and even the little children
who lived here and rejoiced here for a brief season,
will love these somber solitudes and at eventide they greet shadowy returning spirits.

And when the last Red Man shall have perished,
and the memory of my tribe shall have become a myth among the White Men,
these shores will swarm with the invisible dead of my tribe,
and when your children's children think themselves alone in the field, 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 are silent and you think them deserted,
they will throng with the returning hosts that once filled them 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.
Dead, did I say? - There is no death, only a change of worlds.

Return to compare with the "Generally Accepted" Version

Further Native American Links

  • The Soul of the Indian - Dr Charles Eastman (1911) - The OnLine Book - a MUST.
  • Sacred Assembly Proclamation - Hull, Quebec, Canada - Dec'95
  • Native American Poetry - Selection from the work of Larry Kibby, Elko, NV
  • Julia White - Catalog of Native American writings and inspirations ...
  • American Indian Computer Art Project
  • Fourth World Documentation Project
  • Native American Art Gallery
  • Native American Resource Center
  • Native American Artists
  • Native-Lit: Uof Kansas
  • NativeNet WWW Home Page
  • Native News Journal Archive
  • Ojibwe Language and Culture
  • Oneida Indian Nation of NY
  • Powersource Gallery
  • Prehistoric Archeology of the North East
  • The Art of R. Brownell McGrew
  • Rainbow Walker Links
  • Sioux Native American Home Page
  • Sunshine Studio - Santa Fe Indian Traders (Native American Art & Crafts) - Challis & Arch Thiessen
  • Tlingit Webpages - SE Alaska - Artwork,history,sound,poetry,links & Search Engine
  • UoK Native Network 1
  • UoK Native Network 2
  • Wabimeguil Home Page
  • World Heritage Materials 1
  • World Heritage Materials 2

    You shall hear how Hiawatha prayed
    and fasted in the forest,
    Not for greater skill in hunting,
    Not for greater craft in fishing,
    Not for triumphs in the battle,
    And renown among the warriors,
    But for profit of the people,
    For advantage of the nations.

    "The Song of Hiawatha" ... H.W.Longfellow {1855}

    If you have reached this point, and have not already done so, I would greatly recommend a small click to fetch the entire contents of a book published in 1911 by Dr Charles Alexander Eastman, born Ohiyesa, in 1954 of the Sioux, entitled The Soul of the Indian. You will not be disappointed in its reading and contemplation.

    May the Age of Information dawn within,
    And may your feet find their way to Journey's End.


    PRF Brown
    BCSLS {Freshwater}
    Mountain Man Graphics, Australia.


    Chief Seattle


    The Original

    Web Publication by Mountain Man Graphics, Australia in the Southern Spring of 1995