Chief Seattle’s 1854 Treaty speech.


Below is what is probably the best, if not the only mostly authentic English translation of Chief Seattle’s Treaty speech.  It is not a direct translation as such but rather a recreation of the speech from notes and memory some time later by a Dr, Smith, an early settler in the area who apparently understood the Suquamish dialect and took notes during Chief Seattle’s speech.  Dr Smith noted that his translation from notes contains none of the grace or elegance of the original speech presented by Chief  Seattle.

There is a second speech, widely attributed to Chief Seattle, but incorrectly so.  It follows this presentation and I will discuss its source and merits separately below after this speech.

Chief Seattle at age 80.

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. Continue reading