Posts Tagged ‘chief seattle’

Torn by the Land


“To us the ashes of our ancestors are sacred and their resting place is hallowed ground. You wander far from the graves of your ancestors and seemingly without regret. Your religion was written upon tablets of stone by the iron finger of your God so that you could not forget. The Red Man could never comprehend or remember it. Our religion is the traditions of our ancestors — the dreams of our old men, given them in solemn hours of the night by the Great Spirit; and the visions of our sachems, and is written in the hearts of our people.”
– Chief Seattle in Contested Speech
Wendell Berry talks of two types of people in the world, the nurturer and the exploiter. The more I begin to understand my own tendencies and those of the people around me, I’m frightened by human potential and those types who have defined our history.
I think often about owning land. Why? Do I crave the security of entering into the communion of homeownership? Do I want to draw a line in the sand as if to say, “This is mine?” Or is it just a bit of the ol’ “if you can’t beat ’em join ’em?”
People talk of owning property in terms of “view” and “location” but rarely does someone say to me, “I would like to buy this piece of land because the history my family has here.” It’s as if the land has become only something to look at and possess, another thing to place in a box in the attic or in a storage facility nearby.
I’m well aware of the belief that if one doesn’t own something then they don’t care for it. This I believe only if one is brought up without a strong value system and/or sense of entitlement, but I’m not sold on this idea when it comes to the land. No law or ownership is required for me to know that I shouldn’t throw trash from a moving vehicle, nor should I dump my refuse while going for a walk in the woods.