Thursday, March 25, 2010

Take nothing but memories, leave nothing but footprints!

There seems to be a war against the trees (read the poem: "The War Against the Trees")... for a while now... and the folks waging it are winning it too. Sadly! The bottomline appears to be: mere trees should not and must not be allowed to stand in the way of "progress and development". Signs of the times... we live in. What a pity! It is high time we stopped the indiscriminate murder of the lush green trees and the enchanting forests.

"While the bulldozers, drunk with gasoline,
Tested the virtue of the soil

This phrase is also ironic since the bulldozers are not concerned with the soil's quality, as farmers are, but with what lies beneath the soil.

A while ago I read a wonderful post on my fellow blogger Ashwin Baindur's blog (thebutterflydiaries) and feel like to share it with you all. I have his permission to do so as well *smiling* So, read on...

At a time when the people of the world cannot agree what to do about climate change and when England is completely covered with snow as if replaying the events of the 2004 film "The Day After Tomorrow", it is pertinent to remember the words of a very famous Native American, Chief Si'ahl (anglicised as Seattle).

Chief Si'ahl (c. 1780 – June 7, 1866) , the leader of the Suquamish and Duwamish tribes in what is now the American state of Washington, allegedly wrote the letter in the 1800s to the United States Government.

It is less important to know whether he wrote it or not, than to know what is said in it.

Chief Seattle's Letter

"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 the 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 part of the earth and it is part of us. The perfumed flowers are our sisters. The bear, the deer, the great eagle, these are our brothers. The rocky crests, the dew 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 glossy reflection in the clear waters of the lakes tells of 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 the rivers the kindness that you would give 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 that it supports. The wind that gave our grandfather his first breath also received his last sigh. The wind also gives our children the spirit of life. So if we sell 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 the buffalo are all slaughtered? The wild horses tamed? What will happen when the secret corners of the forest are heavy with the scent of many men and the 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 to say goodbye to the swift pony and then 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 still be here? Will there be any of the spirit of my people left?

We love this earth as a newborn loves its 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.

As we are part of the land, you too are part of the land. This 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 all brothers after all."

P.S. This letter, a famous speech and many quotations (including the title of this post) are alleged to have been quoted by Chief Si'ahl.

P.P.S. Read more about Chief Si'ahl here and his quotations here. More about the Suquamish tribe here.

Note: I read this poem ("The War Against the Trees" by Stanley Kunitz - 1905-2006) a while back. I must say... the poem is an eye opener to the devastation brought on by "development". We must understand the need to protect the environment... before it is too late.


1. Chief Seattle/Chief Si'ahl, whose letter warns us of the need to hold nature dear in our hearts. (The only known photograph of Chief Seattle, taken 1865)

2. But how can you buy or sell the sky? the land? (Wonderful thoughts... isn't it??).

Pic Credits - Clouds over hills image, Palouse fields – all these images are of Washington State where Chief Si'ahl lived with his tribe. Chief Seattle's image though public domain and available in Wikimedia Commons was selected from a web-site using Google Images.


  1. Did I miss your informative post...yes I did...:D


    Truly now...welcome back...:D

  2. Welcome back, good to see you resume with thoughtful posts.

  3. hey long time no see. how are you now? welcome back!

  4. @ Sid 'Ravan' Kabe: Thanks! Am flattered :)

  5. @ Gyanban: Thanks a bunch! Glad you liked it :)

  6. @ Reema: Thanks! Am better... will blog as often as I can... and have a lot of posts to catch up on...

  7. Aah! Glad to see you back in form! Wonderful, informative post that was..Almost instantly reminded me of "The World is Too Much With Us" by Wordsworth! Few lines:
    "This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
    The winds that will be howling at all hours,
    And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
    For this, for everything, we are out of tune."


  8. The title quote is awesome and thanks for the informative post...

  9. Avatars have been happening everywhere across the world since ages ..... seems like Domination is quite natural in this universe which knows only one thing ie, Energy transformation

  10. Roshmi, Thanks for the Chief' letter. Had read it long back agao and then completely forgot about it. It refreshed me. I believe that Nature will win at the end...We need it for our existense, not the vice versa. Just wait and watch for the retailiation of nature :(

  11. @ Preeti: Thanks and glad you liked the post. Thanks again for mentioning those lovely words from "The World is Too Much With Us" by Wordsworth. He truly lived up to his name...

  12. @ Mahesh: You are very right! :)

  13. @ infopediaonlinehere: Thanks and welcome to my blog!

  14. @ Yayaver: I agree with you completely. Sadly... these forces/folks blinded by greed fail to see it coming...

  15. Beautiful Roshmi...I want to come back sometime and read this one again...and again.

    Keep Blogging