When we consider how the pilgrims were welcomed by Native Americans and given sustenance for their survival, we should question why immigrants entering our country today are being singled out and refused a welcoming hand by those who were once immigrants themselves.
In December 1854, Chief Sealth (Seattle) sent the following message to President Franklin Pierce:
How Can You Buy or Sell the Earth?
The Great 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.
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 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….
This we know; All things are connected. 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 you have for my people. We will live apart and in peace.
One thing we know, which the white man one day will 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 the heap contempt on its Creator. The whites too shall pass; perhaps sooner than the 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 slaughtered, the wild horses are tamed, and the view of the ripe hill blotted by talking wires.
Where is the thicket? Gone. Where is the eagle? Gone. 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 man has vanished from the earth, and his memory is only the shadow of a cloud moving across the prairie, these shores and forests will still hold the spirit of my people. For they love this earth as a newborn loves the 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 preserve it for your children, and love it…as God loves us all. One thing we know. 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…
In closing, I would like to share with you some Indian tribal proverbs from the book, The Soul Would Have No Rainbow If the Eyes Had No Tears, by Guy A Zona.:
Good and evil cannot dwell together in the same heart. So a good man ought not to go into evil company—Delaware
Know that we are eager to share our gifts in the name of love—Seneca
He who is present at a wrongdoing and does not lift a hand to prevent it is as guilty as the wrongdoers—Omaha
Speak the truth in humility to all people. Only then can you be a true man—Sioux
The Great Spirit is always angry with men who shed innocent blood—Iowa
It is senseless to fight when you cannot hope to win—Apache
There is no warning for upcoming danger—Cheyenne
The words of God are not like the oak leaf, which dies and falls to the earth, but like the pine tree that stays green forever—Mohawk
Those who not fear God are not strong—Seneca
Trouble no man about his religion- respect him in his views and demand that he respect yours—Shawnee
Sharing and giving are the ways of God—Sauk
I am living in poverty, but in peace—Hopi
We are friends; we must assist each other to bear our burdens—Osage
Walk lightly in the spring; mother earth is pregnant—Kiowa
Sharing and giving are the ways of God—Sauk
To our Native American brothers and sisters, new immigrants, and all others: I wish you, and your generations to come, a peaceful and hopeful Thanksgiving.