Did You Know?
Chief Seattle's Speech
Chief Seattle is known for a speech he gave to the Washington territorial governor in 1854 regarding the status of his people and their future during treaty negotiations with the U.S. government. There are at least four variations of the speech, which has raised the authenticity of the words. Seattle spoke in either Suquamish or Duwamish, which was translated immediately into Chinook, then into English. There is one surviving transcript of the speech, which is based on the notes of Dr. Henry A. Smith. It was published in the Seattle Sunday Star on October 29, 1887.
In the 1960s poet William Arrowsmith revised the speech into modern-day English. Playwright Ted Perry asked Arrowsmith's permission to use his adaptation of the speech as the basis for a new fictitious speech which would be the narration for a film on pollution and ecology called Home. Without Perry's permission or knowledge, the film's producers revised the text even further, adding phrases referring to God and the line, "I am a savage and do not understand." To promote the film, the producers made 18,000 posters with their version of Perry's script, claiming it was a speech given by Chief Seattle.
- The World of Chief Seattle: How Can One Sell the Air?
By Warren Jefferson. Native Voices Book Publishing, 2001.
- Biography Resource Center
"Seattle." Encyclopedia of World Biography, 2nd ed. 17 Vols. Gale Research, 1998. Reproduced in Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills, Mich.: Gale, 2008.
Last updated by harbisons on April 11, 2008
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