Around this time every year the Four of Us have favorite books we re-read over and over one of them is this week's Book of the Week: Brother Eagle, Sister Sky.
Susan Jeffers has beautifully illustrated and adapted a speech said to have been delivered by Si'ahl, or as we know in these times, Chief Seattle. According to the Duamish tribe Si'ahl was "a venerable leader respected for his peaceful ways, not his prowess at war." We read it every Thanksgiving to remember the people who have lived and died, celebrated and mourned on this land before us:
"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. The rocky crests, the meadows, the ponies – all belong to the same family."*We are reminded about how important it is to listen to one another, to hear each other's stories, pass them along, and hopefully learn from each other.
Susan Jeffers closes Brother Eagle, Sister Sky with a more about Chief Seattle and his legacy:"Teach your children what you have been taught. The earth is our mother. What befalls the earth befalls all the sons and daughters of the earth."*
"The origins of Chief Seattle’s words are partly obscured by the mists of time. Some call his words a letter and some a speech. What is known is that Chief Seattle was a respected and peaceful leader of one of the Northwest Indian Nations. In the mid-1850s when the government in Washington, D.C., wanted to buy the lands of his exhausted and defeated people, he responded in his native tongue, with a natural eloquence stemming from his oral tradition.
His words were transcribed by Dr. Henry A. Smith, who knew him well, and that transcription was interpreted and rewritten more than once in this century. Joseph Campbell adapted and brought Chief Seattle’s message to a wider audience with his appearances on Bill Moyers’ PBS series and in the book The Power of Myth. I too have adapted Chief Seattle’s message for Brother Eagle, Sister Sky. What matters is that Chief Seattle’s words inspired- and continue to inspire- a most compelling truth: In our zeal to build and possess, we may lose all that we have.
We have come late to environmental awareness, but there was a thundering message delivered a century ago by many of the great Native American chiefs, among them Black Elk, Red Cloud, and Seattle.
To all of the Native American people, every creature and part of the earth was sacred; it was their belief that to waste or destroy nature and its wonders is to destroy life itself. Their words were not understood in their time. Now they haunt us. Now they have come true, and before it is too late we must listen."*We are learning that as stories are passed along they do change with each telling. As The Mom reads Brother Eagle, Sister Sky she usually tears up, adding her emotional edits to the story The Sisters will pass along.
On the fourth Thursday of every November you will find the Four of Us celebrating the land and all of people who have lived here, giving thanks for the those who plant the seeds and harvest our food. And you will find us reading Brother Eagle, Sister Sky and recommitting ourselves to do as Chief Seattle requested:
"Preserve the land and the air and the rivers for your children’s children and love it as we have loved it."*
|The only photograph of Si'ahl (Chief Seattle)|