All things share the same breath – the beast, the tree, the man… the air shares its spirit with all the life it supports. Ted Perry
Raise your hand if you’ve read this quote before. It’s typically attributed to a speech given by Chief Seattle, See-ahth in the Lushootseed language, in 1854 however it was actually written by screenwriter Ted Perry for Home, a 1972 film about ecology.
I came across it today looking for quotes about trees and air since I had a photo I wanted to post but was having a hard time settling on what to write. I often use quotes as a writing prompt and I thought the sentiment was a good representation of my thoughts but one of my personal rules about using quotes is to never feature one without reading about the author first. Using a quote out of context can be tricky and while the few short sentences might work to illustrate my photo I never want to misrepresent someone’s work. This particular search led me down a long, winding trail of PNW history and in the end I decided I still wanted to use the words but couldn’t do so without explaining a bit of the story behind them. A writing prompt at it’s best.
In truth Chief Seattle (c. 1786-1866) lived a remarkable life leading his people through a period of tumultuous change and was widely recognized as a great speaker, diplomat and warrior however the extensive quotes and texts of speeches and letters you see in books were all written by someone else many years after his death. Some famous passages attributed to Chief Seattle were in fact the words of men who recorded their memories of a speech 30 years after the event and many are no more than fiction, referencing events and inventions that occurred long after his death.
If you’d like to read more about Chief Seattle, this period in history and the story of an undocumented speech follow the links below. If you continue your search and find more interesting documentation please share in the comments below!