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Betsy’s Corner: Chief Seattle’s Wise Words

“We are earth people on a spiritual journey to the stars. Our quest, our earth walk, is to look within, to know who we are, to see that we are all connected to all things, that there is no separation, only in the mind.” – Lakota Seer

The native people of North America were a group of over 550 tribes. The area was populated by a peaceful group of land lovers for hundreds and thousands of years. When Columbus came to America in 1492 he started a wave of exploration and immigration that continues.

Our 50 United States evolved out of 13 small colonies. As a child of the 1960s, I learned about “Manifest Destiny” and the “Savage Redman.” In the 1970s, as we celebrated our patriotic bicentennial surrounding 1976, there was a lot of flag waving and revived interest in everything American from history to architecture to folk art. Somehow we forgot what the “American Indians” had happen to them by our ancestors. My English and Irish great great great grandparents escaped religious persecution by coming to Massachusetts and New York. This land was the “land of the tomorrow” and as the song lyrics go… “This land was made for you and me….”

Were the city streets paved in gold? My great great grandfather was a Connecticut farmer who went to Sacramento in 1849 and struck gold! My ancestors fought in the Revolution and the Civil War, they endured unbearable sadness and hardships as children died young and adults fell victim to diseases and incurable sickness. This is the story of America – and it’s a melting pot. Now its time to re-think what we were taught.

How did the Native American’s feel when the white man arrived here? Did an Indian Chief actually sell Manhattan for $23 in wampum? Did Pocahontas and Minnehaha welcome the white man and help the new settlers? How much was legend and how much is factual? I’d like to go back in time and meet some of the native people who lived in the 1800s when their tribes were a “vanishing race.”

On a recent visit to the Seattle Art Museum, I was lucky to see a fabulous photography exhibit by Edward S. Curtis. If you are not familiar with that name, look it up. Curtis documented local Seattle tribe members on glass plate negatives and film. He actually compiled a historic book contained hundreds of photo-engravings from the late 19th Century. The words of Chief Seattle can be heard in my mind….

“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. How can you buy or sell the sky, the warmth of the land? The idea is strange to us. Every part of the 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. We are part of the Earth and it is part of us. We know that the white man does not understand our ways.

One portion of the land is the same to him as the next, for he is a stranger who comes in the night and takes from it whatever he needs. The Earth is not his brother, but his enemy, and when he has conquered it he moves on.”

This quote is a reminder. It is a gentle guide. It is the truth. It is time to save the environment. It is a wake-up call to conserve energy and we need a Green New Deal. We have got to protect our environment, parkland and open space. We have got to share and protect the land and recycle all that we can.

Our town is taking steps in the right direction. Did you hear about the Transition Longmeadow group? Do you know how the Energy and Sustainability Committee has been conducting an energy audit (electricity and gas use) for each and every public building in town? The plastic bag ban has been officially approved by the Attorney General – and the ban will start in 6 months. We are taking baby steps ahead. It is hard to take a giant leap when we have old-fashioned thinking and an ancient infrastructure below our roads and streets. Did you know there are still public buildings with asbestos and K & T (Knob and Tube) electrical wiring? Are we running an energy efficient town? Are we thinking about the air we breathe and the health of our seniors and children – and all of us in the middle?

Do you know about the proposed Tennessee Valley Pipeline expansion that has been proposed on land now owned by the Longmeadow Country Club? Is it safe to have a metering station near a school in a residential neighborhood? Are we all doing our best to anticipate the needs of future generations? We are all part of the web of life and our fate is woven together with that of our neighbors. Let’s think outside the box and come up with some well thought out solutions to make this a better place. Why are we here anyway? Let’s repair the world, as best we can.

Thank you. This topic will be expanded upon in the coming weeks and months. In the meantime, stop sitting in your car with the engine on while you use your cell phone. You are wasting precious gas and polluting the air.

– By Betsy Huber Port