Chief Seattle's Manifesto to the US President

Image: Adir Sodré


Commentary on the text that is considered one of the most profound pronouncements in defense of the environment

In 1855, responding to a proposal by the then President of the United States of America, Franklin Pierce (1804-1869), who wanted to buy land belonging to the indigenous people, the Indian Chief Seattle wrote the manifesto Preservation of the environment, published in Brazil with 20 illustrations by Vera Rodrigues.

In the presentation, editor Sérgio Amad Costa informs that the Manifesto was translated from the original version, located at the Seattle Historical Society, in Washington. It is also known that “Chief Seattle was born in 1790 and died in 1866. He led the Duwamish and the Suquamish, Saminish, Skopamish and Stakmish tribes, being the first signatory of the Treaty of Port Elliot, by which these tribes submitted to US government impositions, receiving, in exchange, an indigenous reservation. It should also be remembered that the city of Seattle, in the USA, is named after the chief of the Duwamish” (p. 5).

Although written more than 160 years ago, the manifesto is considered one of the most profound pronouncements on the defense of the environment, and is undeniably up to date. This is because it draws attention to the lack of respect and care for the earth and, consequently, for the ecological balance.

Seattle begins its response to President Pierce by stating that its people will consider the proposal received to sell their land, although it asks itself: “Is it possible to buy or sell the sky and the heat of the earth? Such an idea is foreign to us. If we don't own the freshness of the air and the sparkle of the water, how can you buy them? Every piece of this land is sacred to my people. Every shining pine needle, every sand on the beach, every mist in the dense forests, every clearing and humming insect is holy in the memory of my people. The sap that runs through the trees carries the memories of the red man (…) We are part of the earth and it is part of us (…). In this way, when the great Chief sends word that he wants to buy our land, he asks a lot of us (…). We will consider his offer to buy our land. But it won't be easy, because this land is sacred to us” (p. 11,13, 15 and XNUMX).

In his wisdom, Chief Seattle gives advice to the white man, remembering that he must teach children that "the rivers are our brothers", that "the earth is our mother". Thus, “whatever happens to the earth will happen to the children of the earth. If men despise the soil, they are despising themselves (…). What happens to the earth will happen to the children of the earth. Man did not weave the web of life; he is merely one of his strands. Whatever he does to the fabric, he will do to himself” (p. 19, 36 and 39).

At a time when we are witnessing deforestation and illegal fires in the country, when the Ministry of the Environment is, to say the least, completely inoperative, the words of Chief Seattle in this beautiful book, in which text, illustrations and cover are harmoniously integrated , should not be ignored. If forests, rivers, lakes, seas, animals, mountains are not preserved, he says, “it is the end of life and the beginning of a sub-life” (p. 45).

*Afranio Catani is a retired professor at USP and visiting professor at UFF.

Reduced version of the review published in Magazine of Business Administration (RAE), São Paulo, EAESP-FGV, vol. 28 no 1, p. 58, January-March, 1988.



SEATTLE (Indian Chief). Preserving the Environment – ​​Chief Seattle's Manifesto to the US President. Translation: Magda Guimarães Khouri Costa. Sao Paulo: Babel Cultural.



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