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Franklin Pierce, 1854
Chief in Washington sends word that he wishes to buy our land. The Great
Chief also sends us words of friendship and good will. This is kind of
him, since we know he has little need of our friendship in return. But
we will consider your offer. For we know that if we do not sell, the
white man may come with guns and take our land.
How can you buy or sell the sky, the warmth of 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 clearing,
and every humming insect is holy in the memory and experience of my
people. The sap which courses through the trees carries the memories of
the red man. So, when the Great Chief in Washington sends word that he
wishes to buy our land, he asks much of us...
Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth. 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. But we will consider your offer to go to
the reservation you have for my people. We will live apart, and in
It matters little where we spend the rest of our days. Our children have
seen their fathers humbled in defeat. Our warriors have felt shame, and
after defeat they turn their days in idleness and contaminate their
bodies with sweet foods and strong drinks. It matters little where we
spend the rest of our days. They are not many. A few more hours, a few
more winters, and none of the great tribes that once lived on this earth
or that roam now in small bands in the woods will be left to mourn the
graves of a people once as powerful and hopeful as yours. But why should
I mourn the passing of my people: Tribes are made of men, nothing more.
Men come and go, like the waves of the sea. Even the white man, whose
God walks and talks with him as friend to friend, cannot be exempt from
the common destiny.
One thing we know, which the white man may one day discover- our God is
the same God. You may think now that you own Him as you wish to own our
land; but you cannot. He is the God of man; and his compassion is equal
for the red man and the white. This earth is precious to Him and to harm
the earth is to heap contempt on its Creator. The whites too shall pass;
perhaps sooner than all other tribes. Continue to contaminate your bed,
and you will one night suffocate in your own waste.
But in your perishing you will shine brightly, fired by the strength of
the God who brought you to this land and for some special purpose gave
you dominion over this land and over the red man. That destiny is a
mystery to us, for we do not understand when the buffalo are all
slaughered, the wild horses are all tamed, and the view of the ripe
hills blotted by talking wires. Where is the thicket? Gone. Where is the
eagle? Gone. And what is it to say goodbye to the swift pony and the
hunt? The end of living and the beginning of survival. So we will
consider your offer to buy the land.
If we agree, it will be to secure the reservation you have promised.
There, perhaps, we may live out our brief days as we wish. When the last
red man has vanished from this earth, and his memory is only the shadow
of a cloud moving across the prairie, these shores and forests will
still hold the spirits of my people. For they love this earth as a
new-borne loves its mother's heartbeat. So, if we sell our land, love it
as we've loved it. Care for it as we've cared for it. Hold in your mind
the memory of the land as it is when you take it. And with all your
strength, with all your mind, with all your heart, preserve it for your
children, and love it...as God loves us all. One thing we know, Our God
is the same God. This earth is precious to him. Even the white man
cannot be exempt from the common destiny. We may be brothers after all.
We shall see........