“…the care of the earth is our most ancient and most worthy and, after all, our most pleasing responsibility. To cherish what remains of it, and to foster its renewal, is our only legitimate hope.” – Wendell Berry
Wilpena pound, Flinders Ranges, South Australia, Australia. Photograph by Australian landscape photographer Scott Leggo. For more information http://www.scottleggoimages.com
After many years of practice, I have learned to feel and understand this sacred land. I certainly did not grow up knowing its power or its wisdom, or how it has connected me to every part of my being. I did not know the rejuvenation, healing and peace I would receive from this precious space, or how it would whisper words of truth to me. I did not know my responsibility or my ability to foster its renewal. But I do now. Chief Seattle, Chief of the Suquamish Indians, allegedly wrote to the American Government in the 1800’s – In this letter he gave us the most profound understanding of the land. Let’s us learn from those who have gone before us, and remember our responsibility to honor this sacred space.
CHIEF SEATTLE’S LETTER TO PRESIDENT WASHINGTON
“The 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. If we do not own the freshness of the air and the sparkle of the water, how can you buy them?
Every part of the earth is sacred to my people. Every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every meadow, every humming insect. All are holy in the memory and experience of my people.
We know the sap which courses through the trees as we know the blood that courses through our veins. 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 shining water that moves in the streams and rivers is not just water, but the blood of our ancestors. If we sell you our land, you must remember that it is sacred. Each glossy 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 quench our thirst. They carry our canoes and feed our children. So you must give the rivers the kindness that you would give any brother.
If we sell you our land, remember that the air is precious to us, that the air shares its spirit with all the life that it supports. The wind that gave our grandfather his first breath also received his last sigh. The wind also gives our children the spirit of life. So if we sell our land, you must keep it apart and sacred, as a place where man can go to taste the wind that is sweetened by the meadow flowers.
Will you teach your children what we have taught our children? That the earth is our mother? What befalls the earth befalls all the sons of the earth.
This we know: the earth does not belong to man, man belongs to the earth. All things are connected like the blood that unites us all. 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.
As we are part of the land, you too are part of the land. This earth is precious to us. It is also precious to you.