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4. Chief Seattle's Phony Speech
Speaking of Earth Day 1971, Snopes.com also susses out another form of Indian impersonation. While there was in fact a historical figure named Chief Seattle, he never gave the stirring speech that's well-known to all environmentalists and head-shop regulars. "How can you buy or sell the sky? The land?," asks Seattle in response to a government offer to purchase Suquamish territory.
Typically dated to 1854, Chief Seattle's speech is more wooden than, well, a cigar-store Indian, trading in the sort of phoney-baloney Noble Savage pieties that would make Rousseau blush:
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.
The words are the work of screenwriter Ted Perry, who wrote the speech in 1971. Twenty years later, a version was published in a children's book (Brother Eagle, Sister Sky) that sold hundreds of thousands of copies to credulous readers. There is a record of Chief Seattle talking to government agents in 1854, but it's a paraphrase made decades after feds bought the land. According to the witness, Seattle thanked the president for his generosity in buying the land.
NEXT: If He'd Really Been an Indian, He Would Have Called Them "Little Chingachgooks" rather than "Little Eichmanns"...