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Seattle's Lament

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 the tribes that are now but a mournful memory . . . . To us the ashes of our ancestors are sacred and their resting place is hallowed ground . . . . Our religion is the traditions of our ancestors the dreams of our old men, given 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. . . . Our dead never forget the 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.


It matters little where we pass the remnant of our days.  They will not be many.  The Indians' 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 goes, 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 moons.  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 with friend, cannot be exempt from the common destiny.  We may be brothers after all.  We will see.


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 they 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 to 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 our 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 there 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.

Chief Seattle - 1786-1866 - Suquamish Tribe