Whatever We Do to the Web, We Do to Ourselves


“The dead are not altogether powerless” Chief Seattle 

I have been listening to Joseph Campbell and the Power of the Myth. I find speech  stimulates a practice. It brings different pieces of the puzzle to the forefront to be placed. 

The fourth episode Sacrifice and Bliss opened with the response Chief Seattle presented to Washington’s desire to buy their land. 

Upon hearing Chief Seattle's words I felt it obligatory to learn more of this man, whose eloquence of speech in such hostile environment brought me to stoned silence in order to listen. I am forever awed by those who are able to keep their dignity by recognizing the preservation of those who attempt to oppress them.

This response was laden with the burden of a man who carried the hopes of a people suffocating at the result of an offer that could not be refused and clearly was a sugar coated death sentence. 

Meeting that resistance with the equanimity he mastered proves there are Chiefs and there are Commanders, possibly they can be found in one person but it’s a rarity. Ghengis Khan has a known quote, ”Conquering is easy, it’s ruling that is hard.”

Here is the portion that Joseph Campbell read and motivated my interest with- 

The end of living and the beginning of survival.

Your 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.

Every part of this earth is sacred to my people. Every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every meadow. All are holy in the memory and experience of my people. 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.

Each ghostly 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 carry our canoes and feed our children.

If we sell you our land, 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.

This we know: the earth does not belong to humanity, humanity belongs to the earth. All things are connected like the blood that unites us all. Humanity did not weave the web of life, we are merely a strand within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves.

Your destiny is a mystery to us. What will happen when the buffalo are all slaughtered? 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 by talking wires? The end of living and the beginning of survival.

When the last Red People have vanished with this wilderness and our memory is only the shadow of a cloud moving across the prairie, will these shores and forests still be here? Will there be any 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 all.

One thing we know: there is only one God. No one, be they Red or White, can be apart. We are relatives after all.

—Chief Seattle

There is more from 1854 time of negotiation, I was most touched by his one condition applied to their ponderance and possible acquiesce of the proposal that would define the fate of his people. 

It seems its high time for each of us to consider our end and what we do with time we are gifted., to ensure the roads beyond what we may consider possible are not hindered by our ignorance.

Kara Thorsen