Chief Seattle & Cohousing
From: Mmariner (
Date: Tue, 23 Jan 1996 13:07:03 -0600
I just received an electronic copy of the famous words attributed to Chief
Seattle.  At the risk of being hopelessly idealistic, needlessly pedantic, or
maybe just whoppingly irrelevant, I include them below.

Could it be that cohousing is one small step back toward valuing the land
like the Native Americans do/did?  If so, how can we structure the agreements
involved in holding the land so that stewardship of the land is best served?
 Some people I know feel that a land trust is a good legal instrument to
ensure the land is stewarded sustainably.   Are existing or planned cohousing
communities set up as land trusts?    - Mike M

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 
Chief Seattle quote:

"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 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.

The white man's dead forget the country of their birth when they go to walk
among the stars. Our dead never forget this beautiful earth, for it is the 
mother of the red man.  We are part of the earth and it is part of us. 
The perfumed flowers are our sisters; the deer, the horse, the great
eagle, these are our brothers. The rocky crests, the juices in the meadows,
the body heat of the pony, and man - all belong to the same family.

So, when the Great Chief in Washington sends word that he wishes to buy our
land, he asks much of us. The Great Chief sends word he will reserve us a 
place so that we can live comfortably to ourselves. He will be our father 
and we will be his children.

So we will consider your offer to buy our land. But it will not be easy. For
this land is sacred to us. This shining water that moves in the streams 
and rivers is not just water but the blood of our ancestors. If we sell 
you land, you must remember that it is sacred, and you must teach your
children that it is sacred and that each ghostly reflection in the clear
water 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. The rivers carry our
canoes, and feed our children. If we sell you our land, you must remember, 
and teach your children, that the rivers are our brothers and yours, and 
you must henceforth give the rivers the kindness you would give any

We know that the white man does not understand our ways. One portion of land
is the same to him as the next, for 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 
father's grave behind, and he does not care. He kidnaps the earth from his
children, and he does not care. His father's grave, and his children's
birthright are forgotten. He treats his mother, the earth, and his 
brother, the sky, as things to be bought, plundered, sold like
sheep or bright beads. His appetite will devour the earth and leave behind
only a desert.

I do not know. Our ways are different from your ways. The sight of your
cities pains the eyes of the red man. There is no quiet place in the white 
man's cities. No place to hear the unfurling of leaves in spring or the 
rustle of the insect's wings. The clatter only seems to insult the ears. And
what is there to life if a man cannot hear the lonely cry of the 
whippoorwill or the arguments of the frogs around the pond at night? I am a 
red man and do not understand.  The Indian prefers the soft sound of the 
wind darting over the face of a pond and the smell of the wind itself,
cleansed by a midday rain, or scented with pinon pine.

The air is precious to the red man for all things share the same 
breath, the beast, the tree, the man, they all share the same breath. 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. But if we sell you our land, you 
must remember that the air is precious to us, that the air shares its spirit 
with all the life it supports.

The wind that gave our grandfather his first breath also receives his last
sigh. And if we sell you our land, you must keep it apart and sacred as a 
place where even the white man can go to taste the wind that is sweetened 
by the meadow's flowers.

You must teach your children that the ground beneath their feet is the ashes
of our grandfathers.  So that they will respect the land, tell your 
children that the earth is rich with the lives of our kin.  Teach your 
children that we have taught our children that the earth is our mother. 
Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth. If men spit upon
ground, they spit upon themselves.

This we know: the earth does not belong to man; man belongs to the earth.
All things are connected. We may be brothers after all. We shall see. One 
thing we know which the white man may one day discover: our God is the same

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. 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 slaughtered, the wild horses are tame, the secret corners of the 
forest heavy with scent of many men and the view of the ripe hills 
blotted by talking wires.

Where is the thicket?  Gone. Where is the eagle?  Gone.

The end of living and the beginning of survival."

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