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Date: 2024-02-24 Page is: DBtxt001.php txt00013309

TPB Dialog
John Kiehl / Alan Longley

The importance of the natural world ... the commons ... the perspective of Chief Seattle


Peter Burgess

(no subject) Inbox x alan longley May 12 to me, John Dear John and Peter,

One of the basic legal principles used to administer legal issues in the large number of native jurisdictions within the continental US is called 'simultaneous jurisdiction'. This involves the application of both local native law and constitutional law.

This makes the US Constitution a defacto treaty in respective of the many Indian nations. But the Indians have never agreed to it, nor of course were any of the Indian Chiefs ever invited to sign the Constitution.

Yet the Indians, for instance, serve in the military and swear to uphold the US Constitution. This is another reason why the constitution might well be recast as a Constitutional Treaty, one that is signed by the Indians.

Many of the Indians I have discussed this with would not be inclined to sign. I sometimes make headway with their position by pointing out that constitutions all over the world have been created based on the US model and many have likewise displaced native populations. Updating our model to recognize the defacto status of the Constitution as a treaty could better the plight of native populations all over the world. Because of the international implication, some Indians changed their minds.

Would acknowledging the status of the US Constitution as a Treaty have implications in the Mid East?

Lacking much hope of achieving any of this in reality, I have worked on various fictional treatments over the years.

Oh, accounting metrics devolve from the law - I am including a Peter Burgess figure. Most of my fiction on this matter include biologically inspired systems thinking.

I have never written a script before. Would you read it if I did?

Peter, maybe we could write the script together. I would even have a diminutive budget to accommodate you. Can I pay you by the word? Just joking.

Best, Alan Longley
John Kiehl
May 12

to alan, me

Here’s a copy of the Chief Seattle letter I made reference to yesterday. It’s pretty much believed to be apocryphal, or at best based on another letter the Chief suffposedly DID write which you can find by GOOGLE. I’ve also attached the poem Robert Frost read at Kennedy’s inauguration which seems relevant in a different sort of way.

Chief Seattle's Letter

'The President in Washington sends word that he wishes to buy our land. But how can you buy or sell the sky? the land? The idea is strange to us. If we do not own the freshness of the air and the sparkle of the water, how can you buy them?

Every part of the earth is sacred to my people. Every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every meadow, every humming insect. All are holy in the memory and experience of my people.

We know the sap which courses through the trees as we know the blood that courses through our veins. We are part of the earth and it is part of us. The perfumed flowers are our sisters. The bear, the deer, the great eagle, these are our brothers. The rocky crests, the dew in the meadow, the body heat of the pony, and man all belong to the same family.

The shining water that moves in the streams and rivers is not just water, but the blood of our ancestors. If we sell you our land, you must remember that it is sacred. Each glossy reflection in the clear waters of the lakes tells of events and memories in the life of my people. The water's murmur is the voice of my father's father.

The rivers are our brothers. They quench our thirst. They carry our canoes and feed our children. So you must give the rivers the kindness that you would give any brother.

If we sell you our land, remember that the air is precious to us, that the air shares its spirit with all the life that it supports. The wind that gave our grandfather his first breath also received his last sigh. The wind also gives our children the spirit of life. So if we sell our land, you must keep it apart and sacred, as a place where man can go to taste the wind that is sweetened by the meadow flowers.

Will you teach your children what we have taught our children? That the earth is our mother? What befalls the earth befalls all the sons of the earth.

This we know: 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.

One thing we know: our God is also your God. The earth is precious to him and to harm the earth is to heap contempt on its creator.

Your destiny is a mystery to us. What will happen when the buffalo are all slaughtered? The wild horses tamed? What will happen when the secret corners of the forest are heavy with the scent of many men and the view of the ripe hills is blotted with talking wires? Where will the thicket be? Gone! Where will the eagle be? Gone! And what is to say goodbye to the swift pony and then hunt? The end of living and the beginning of survival.

When the last red man has vanished with this wilderness, and his memory is only the shadow of a cloud moving across the prairie, will these shores and forests still be here? Will there be any of the spirit of my people left?

We love this earth as a newborn loves its mother's heartbeat. So, if we sell you our land, love it as we have loved it. Care for it, as we have cared for it. Hold in your mind the memory of the land as it is when you receive it. Preserve the land for all children, and love it, as God loves us.

As we are part of the land, you too are part of the land. This earth is precious to us. It is also precious to you.

One thing we know - there is only one God. No man, be he Red man or White man, can be apart. We ARE all brothers after all.'
The Gift Outright
Related Poem Content Details


The land was ours before we were the land’s.
She was our land more than a hundred years
Before we were her people. She was ours
In Massachusetts, in Virginia,
But we were England’s, still colonials,
Possessing what we still were unpossessed by,
Possessed by what we now no more possessed.
Something we were withholding made us weak
Until we found out that it was ourselves
We were withholding from our land of living,
And forthwith found salvation in surrender.
Such as we were we gave ourselves outright
(The deed of gift was many deeds of war)
To the land vaguely realizing westward,
But still unstoried, artless, unenhanced,
Such as she was, such as she would become.
alan longley
May 12

to John, me

Dear John,

Thanks for sending those two pieces. The Chief Seattle letter made me so want to exit the world of scheming maniacs, which includes me. So much so that when I read the Frost piece it was difficult to feel warm and fuzzy about the identity quandary of displaced Europeans. The Frost piece starts out, 'The land was ours before we were the land's'. This makes poetic the blunt extension of the European land right system onto these shores and admits of a disconnect with mother earth. A lot of genocide was committed in this mind set. So the remainder of the poem seems to depict a slow smothering siege: manifest destiny.

But if I exit the world of scheming maniacs, say, live in the woods, things get pretty lonely fast. I grew up mainly in rural areas and being in nature, especially in winter, was lonesome. Nature sounds good when Cheif Seattle talks about it, but I have memory of so much melacholy.

Better to choose the melanchology of maniacs who are so linkedin they are locked out.

I suppose there is a happy medium.

The text being discussed is available at

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