Missed in History: The Famous Speech Chief Seattle Never Made

BY Tracy V. Wilson / POSTED March 20, 2013
Hammerbrook - City can this really be true?
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Chief Seattle Statue, Pioneer Square Historical Area, Seattle, WA, USA (© Stuart Westmorland/Corbis) Chief Seattle Statue, Pioneer Square Historical Area, Seattle, WA, USA (© Stuart Westmorland/Corbis)

“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.” It’s attributed to Chief Seattle – it’s been called part of the most famous speech ever made by a Native American – but Chief Seattle said no such thing. This episode is what he did say … we think … there’s some doubt on that score, too. We also talk about his life and the role he played in the founding of Seattle.

I was the researcher on this one, and here are my links. In particular, the first one is one of the first documents of the misattribution I ever read. It’s the thing that made me want to know more back in college (which led to a paper and a semester of independent study full of inter-library loan from Seattle).

The Speeches:

Our listener mail is a correction to a correction. It’s from Jacqueline and about whether you can describe  a pope as “resigned.”

Here’s a link to the episode.

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