There is a great deal of controversy surrounding Chief Seattle's speech of 1854. There are many sources of information, various versions of the speech, and debates over its very existence.
LETTER FROM CHIEF SEALTH [SEATTLE] OF THE DUWAMISH TRIBE TO PRESIDENT FRANKLIN PIERCE:
THE GREAT CHIEF IN WASHINGTON SENDS WORD THAT HE wishes to buy our land. How can you buy or sell the sky, the warmth of the land? The idea is strange to us. We do not own the freshness of the air or the sparkle of the water.
The white man does not understand our ways. He is a stranger who comes in the night and takes from the land whatever he needs. The earth is not his brother but his enemy, and when he has conquered it, he moves on. He leaves his fathers' graves, and his children's birthright is forgotten.
There is no quiet place in the white man's cities. No place to hear the leaves of spring or the rustle of insect's wings. What is there to life if a man cannot hear the cry of the whippoorwill or the arguments of the frogs around a pond at night? The Indian prefers the soft sound of the wind darting over the face of the pond, and the smell of the wind itself cleansed by a midday rain, or scented with a pinion pine. The air is precious to the red man. For all Things share the same breath; the beasts, the trees, the man. The white man does not seem to notice the air he breathes. Like a man dying for many days, he is numb to the stench.
If I decide to accept, I will make one condition. The white man must treat the beasts of this land as his brothers. I am a savage and I do not understand any other ways. I have seen a thousand rotting buffaloes on the prairies left by the white man who shot them from a passing train. If all the beasts were gone, men would die from great loneliness of spirit, for whatever happens to the beast also happens to the man. All things are connected. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth.
One thing we know which the white man may one day discover. Our God is the same God. You may think that you own him as you wish to own our land. But you cannot. He is the Body of man. His compassion is equal for the red man and the white. This earth is precious to him. To harm the earth is to heap contempt on its creator. The whites too shall pass - perhaps sooner than other tribes. Continue to contaminate your bed, and you will one night suffocate in your own waste.
If we agree, it will be to secure the reservation you have promised. There perhaps we may live out our brief lives as we wish. When the last red man has vanished from the earth, and the memory is only the shadow of a cloud moving across the prairie, these shores and forest will still hold the spirits of my people, for they love this earth as the newborn loves its mother's heartbeat. If we sell you our land, love it as we've cared for it. Hold in your mind one memory of the land, as it is when you take it. And with all your strength, with all your might, and with all your heart - preserve it for your children, and love it as God loves us all. This earth is precious to Him.
Even the white man cannot be exempt from the destiny. My words are like stars - they do not set.
POSTSCRIPT: Three years after signing the treaty, Chief Seattle was starving, sick and dying on the reservation the Salish were moved to waiting for the government to ratify the treaty.