Chief Seattle’s Speech
In Chief Seattle’s Speech we have the theme of friendship, control, religion, trust and acceptance. Taken from the original Seattle Sunday Star article the reader realises from the beginning of the speech that Chief Seattle comes in peace or friendship towards the white man. He knows of the atrocities that have been caused between both the Native Americans and the white settlers in America. However he is keen to put those aside in the interest of peace and prosperity. What is also interesting about the story is the Chief’s allusion to God. Judging him to be a creation of the white man and as such a God only to the white man. Chief Seattle himself relies on nature as his God and any land that a Indian may have died upon is seen as sacred land and land that other Native Americans themselves will also hold in high degree. This may be important as God for the Native Americans is totally different to a white man’s God. He does not judge people but rather ensures that they live on by way of the land. What is also interesting about the story is that Chief Seattle is willing to capitulate to the demands of the white man. That being he is prepared to accept whatever the white man says when it comes to what reservation the Chief and his followers will live on.
Though some readers might find this strange. The chief may be aware that he can no longer defeat the white man. That his losses have been too severe and if anything it is better for the Chief and his followers to come out of the shadows and participate in the generally accepted life that has become America. Even if their lands have been taken from them. In reality white settlers in America stole most if not all the Indian land and only allowed for Native Americans to live on small reservations. Where once an Indian had the freedom to roam all of America. Even if it meant hostility from other Native Americans. However over time white settlers due to their number overtook Native Americans as the predominant force in America and it would appear that Chief Seattle has learnt to accept this. Though he still knows that the white man’s God is not universal. He is non-inclusive of Indian people. This may be important as many might assume that God is inclusive of all his children. However due to biblical teachings at the time the Indian was seen as the enemy. Such was the greed of the white person and their belief in their own self-importance.
Throughout the speech it is also noticeable that Chief Seattle is passive. Which may suggest to some readers that he has no option but to agree to the settlement terms of the white man. However Chief Seattle, though it goes against his reasoning, could easily have continued to fight the white man. Though instead came with peace on his mind. He no longer had a need for the large volume of land that was at stake and a reservation may in fact have been more apt for him and his followers. There is also a sense that Chief Seattle is putting his trust in the white men despite both parties being foes for so long. As to why this is may be difficult to say but Chief Seattle may have had enough of the numerous losses suffered by Native Americans while fighting the more superior white forces. He may have reached a point in whereby any form of peace was better than losing more men unnecessarily.
The end of the story is also interesting as it would appear that Chief Seattle is issuing the white men with a warning. ‘Let him be just and deal kindly with my people, for the dead are not altogether powerless.’ This line in itself may be important as it highlights that Chief Seattle believes in the power of the spirits of the Indian dead. Whereas the white men’s dead do not appear to have the same influence. Once gone they seem to be forgotten. This is not the case for Chief Seattle. It is as though he has something to fall back on should the white men not be trusted. For the moment Chief Seattle is prepared to trust the white men though things if necessary could change. The spirit of the Native Americans lives on and can be called upon at any time. What the Chief is agreeing to is not written in stone and should circumstances necessitate. Chief Seattle is prepared to continue to fight. The mistreatment of the Indian being one such example. Chief Seattle is prepared to live side by side with the white man but only if the Indian is treated fairly.