I first saw the following in the incredible book The Power of Myth, by Joseph Campbell. It is also available on audio and DVD. The Power of Myth was an absolute game changer for me the first time I listened to it. I have listened to it many times since then and my appreciation for it continues to grow.
For some reason it came to me this morning to post this letter from Chief Seattle. Maybe it is the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, who knows. I am growing in my trust of what comes to me and continue to “listen” to what the Universe (call it what you want) is telling me.
I hope you find the following as inspiring and gratitude creating as I do.
A letter from Chief Seattle, in approximately 1852, to Washington in response to an inquiry regarding buying tribal lands for the arriving people of the United States.
“The President in Washington sends word that he wishes to buy our land. But how can you buy or sell the sky? The land? The idea is strange to us. If we do not own the freshness of the air and the sparkle of the water, how can you buy them?
Every part of this earth is sacred to my people. Every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every meadow, every humming insect. All are holy in the memory and experience of my people.
We know the sap which courses through the trees as we know the blood that courses through our veins. We are a part of the earth and it is a part of us. The perfumed flowers are our sisters. The bear, the deer, the great eagle, these are our brothers. The rocky crests, the juices in the meadow, the body heat of the pony, and man, all belong to the same family.
The shining water that moves in the streams and rivers is not just water, but the blood of our ancestors. If we sell you our land, you must remember that it is sacred. Each ghostly reflection in the clear waters of the lakes tells the events and memories in the life of my people. The water’s murmur is the voice of my father’s father.
The rivers are our brothers. They quench our thirst. They carry our canoes and feed our children. So you must give to the rivers the kindness you would any brother.
If we sell you our land, remember that the air is precious to us, that the air shares its spirit with all the life it supports. The wind that gave our grandfather his first breath also receives his last sigh. The wind also gives our children the spirit of life. So if we sell you our land, you must keep it apart and sacred, as a place where man can go to taste the wind that is sweetened by the meadow flowers.
Will you teach your children what we have taught our children? That the earth is our mother? What befalls the earth befalls all the sons of the earth. This we know: the earth does not belong to man, man belongs to the earth. All things are connected like the blood that unites us all. Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.
One thing we know: our god is also your god. The earth is precious to him and to harm the earth is to heap contempt on its creator.
Your destiny is a mystery to us. What will happen when all the buffalo are slaughtered? The wild horses tamed? What will happen when the secret corners of the forests are heavy with the scent of many men and view of the ripe hills is blotted with talking wires? Where will the thicket be? Gone! Where will the eagle be? Gone! And what is it to say goodbye to the swift pony and hunt? The end of living and the beginning of survival.
When the last Red Man has vanished with this wilderness and his memory is only the shadow of a cloud moving across the prairie, will these shores and forests be here?
We love this earth as a newborn loves it mother’s heartbeat. So, if we sell you our land, love it as we have loved it. Care for it as we have cared for it. Hold in your mind the memory of the land as it is when you receive it. Preserve the land for all children and love it, as god loves us all.
As we are part of the land, you too are part of the land. The earth is precious to us. It is also precious to you. One thing we know: there is only one god. No man, be he Red Man or White Man, can be apart. We are brothers after all.