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Blog Action Day: Climate Change: Meditations on Chief Seattle and Father Blanco

Whatever befalls the earth

befalls the sons and daughters of the earth.

We did not weave the web of life;

We are merely a strand in it

Whatever we do to the web,

we do to ourselves…

Chief Si’ahl (Chief Seattle) (1788-1866)

Native American (Suquamish) Leader

It must have been serendipity; for when the Native American Chief Si’ahl (Chief Seattle, 1788-1866) contemplated about the web of life and of nature; and humbly expressed that as humans we are merely a strand in it; a vast expanse of ocean away in the Philippines; a contemporary Friar Francisco Manuel Blanco (1778-1845); diligently authored what was to become a pioneering scientific work on the flora of the Philippines: Flora de Filipinas. Según el sistema de Linneo (Flora of the Philippines according to the system of Linnaeus), 1837.

Whatever we do to the web of life; as Chief Seattle exhorted; we do to ourselves. A deeply spiritual leader of his Native American tribes; he made a pact and accommodated the white settlers into his lands. In contrast, the Spanish friar, Blanco labored to describe the Flora: the taxonomic, economic and medicinal properties of each of the 903 species and variants identified which the colony could benefit from.

Both undeniably great men; one spiritually attuned to the land of his birth but who welcomed foreign settlers in peace; the other a religious colonist and adept; who scientifically explored his adopted land; and whose accumulated botanical knowledge benefited both masters and natives. Both men unequivocally brought healing to their lands.

We did not weave the web of life; but as keepers of its wisdom both Chief Seattle and Fr. Blanco understood the implications of meditating on and studying its strands. The former, a wise leader who had gone through life preserving the sacred and natural laws of his ancestors; while the latter, who thorough in his observations; and meticulous in his studies; echoed the philosophy of his muse, Swedish botanist, Carolus Linnaeus (1707-1778): nature does not proceed by leaps.

The understanding and love of nature connected these two great but disparate men; both products of their time and circumstance. But they knew the healing of their people could come from beneath their feet and the nature that surrounds them. Whatever befalls the earth, befalls the sons and daughters of the earth.

To take inspiration from another contemporary, this time an English poet, mystic and artist, William Blake (1757-1827) :

Chief Seattle saw a world in a grain of sand

Father Blanco, a heaven in a wild flower

They held infinity in the palm of their hands

And eternity in an hour