RELIGION AND THEOLOGY
The concept of sacredness begs a flurry of difficult questions. The complexity is further compounded by the varying views of sacredness between cultures (Hubert 1994). Sacredness is not an isolated quality but forms a web of interconnectivity that binds together all components of the earth. It is not viewed as an abstract concept but an experiential all-encompassing sphere of existence that spans the entire universe (Furtwangler 2011). The mere fact that all organisms, both living and non-living are interconnected brings them together in a sacred bond that cannot be broken.
The words in the letter are claimed to have been spoken by Chief Seattle, a chief of the Suquamish and Duwamish dialects who lived from around the year 1786 to 1866. A luminary among his people, he played a pivotal role in determining the way this section of the Native American tribes reacted to the immigrant settlers that were angling for newer lands to settle.
The context of the said speech has remained contested. One source claims the speech to have been given on the occasion of a visit by the first Governor of Washington Territory Isaac Stevens and was supposed a reply to President Pierce’s letter expressing intention to buy land partly occupied by the Suquamish and Duwamish for the settlement of incoming migrants. The words of the speech bear deep implications especially in the context of the present resounding call for environmental protection and preservation. The speech presents a paradigm, a philosophy of inherent interconnectivity hence value in every component of the earth. Such ideals have informed calls for ecological protection among a wide spectrum of conservationists.
The concept that no part of the universe exists on its own but that all exist in a web of complex interrelationships is one that is prevalent among the larger proportion of indigenous people. The belief that humans are not the center but just a part of this web is sobering enough in the context of the prevailing state of environmental degradation. One who destroys a part of the web destroys themselves, the credo declares. Well, to the modern reader that boasts insight and sophistication, the language of the speech may appear too florid and vacuous but the philosophy of it is much relevant in the present times.
- Hubert, J. (1994). Sacred beliefs and beliefs of sacredness. Sacred sites, sacred places.
- Furtwangler, A. (2011). Answering Chief Seattle. University of Washington Press.