Puget Sound and the entire Pacific Northwest remain largely influenced by the man from whom Seattle received its name. Duwamish Chief Sealth delivered a speech in 1855 to an audience of white settlers and area tribe members, as territorial governor Isaac Stevens was negotiating the purchase of Puget Sound from its original inhabitants. Chief Sealth’s address, considered one of the most important in Native American history, delivered in part the following message:
“The earth does not belong to human beings; human beings belong to the earth. This we know. All things are connected like the blood that unites one family. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons and daughters of the earth. How can you buy or sell the sky, the warmth of the land? If we do not own the freshness of the air and the sparkle of the water, how can you buy them? Every part of this earth is sacred to my people. Every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every clearing and humming insect is holy in the memory and experience of my people.”
The peaceful Duwamish led by Chief Sealth cooperated with the newcomers to help them build their settlement and exist in their new environment, but sadly relations eventually broke down as the growing white population forced the Duwamish and other area tribes out of their own lands. Although the ensuing history was full of violence and the decimation of Native American communities, something of Chief Sealth’s wisdom seems to have been internalized and handed down through the generations, for the modern people of Puget Sound embrace the beliefs expressed in his speech as an abiding philosophy.
It may have taken a long time and come at great expense, but the Pacific Northwest today is one of the most environmentally conscious areas of the country, perhaps the world, with a strong feeling of this sacredness for the land and a reverence for nature and its preservation. For a city founded on industries exploitative of natural resources, such as lumber and fishing, this turnabout is quite remarkable.
Before we get into Seattle-specific parks and recreation in the next chapter, let’s take a look at some of the magnificent natural resources in the greater Pacific Northwest region. One of the things Seattleites love best about their habitat is that within an hour or so you can be in complete wilderness, where it is possible to hike or camp for days without encountering another person.