The Chief Seattle Speech

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English Composition 1 (Internet)

Assignments –� Unit 3:
Writing to Analyze –� Essay Assignment 3


Essay Assignment 3:
Analysis of King’s "Letter from Birmingham City Jail" or Seattle’s "1854
Treaty Oration"

Both Martin Luther King’s "Letter from
Birmingham City Jail" and Chief Seattle’s "1854 Treaty Oration" are
especially effective literary works. For Essay Assignment 3, you need to analyze one of
the works by explaining the author’s purpose and how he achieves that purpose.

More specifically, for this essay assignment, you need to

  1. choose either King’s "Letter from
    Birmingham City Jail" or Chief Seattle’s "1854 Treaty oration" as
    your subject;
  2. identify what you think is the writer’s primary purpose
    in the work;
  3. analyze and explain the strategies and techniques that the
    writer uses to help him achieve his purpose and to make his work effective; and
  4. use plenty of specific examples (supporting evidence) from
    the work to develop and support your analysis, explaining how the examples help the writer
    achieve his purpose effectively.

Notice what the assignment does not ask you to do:
to summarize the work you are supposed to analyze. You can assume that your readers have
read King’s letter and Seattle’s’ speech but have not studied them or analyzed
them in the way that you will be doing. You should not simply summarize what King or
Seattle says but should instead help readers understand and appreciate the
works of literature, specifically the writer’s purpose and how he achieves this

To help you generate ideas for your essay, you should study
carefully some of the questions under "Points to Focus on for Critical Reading"
on pages 422 to 423 of the textbook. Applying some of these questions to King’s
letter and Seattle’s speech should help you discover ways that King and Seattle
effectively present their ideas and achieve their purposes. This assignment will require
plenty of class discussion, so make sure to offer a lot of suggestions and ideas in WebBoard and to read the comments posted
by others.

To help you decide on the author’s purpose, you first need
to consider the original audience for each work. The original audience for King’s letter
is explained on the first page of his letter; the original audience for Seattle’s speech
is suggested in the speech itself. Then, you need to decide on what you think is the
intended effect or goal of each work. In other words, both King and Seattle wanted to
achieve something. Given the audience for each work and the work itself, you must decide
what the author wanted to achieve. What was the author’s goal? How did he want to affect
his audience? Identifying the main goal or aim will give you the primary purpose of the

Due Dates (Drafts must be submitted by 10:00
p.m. on the due dates.)

  • Tuesday, March 14: Draft of at least 500 words due
    for peer critique.
    Attach your word-processing file to a message under "Essay Drafts for Peer
    Critique" in the Unit 3 conference area of WebBoard .
  • Wednesday, March 22: Revised Draft of at least 600
    words due.
    Attach your word-processing file to a message in your private conference area of WebBoard .

  • A good online version of Chief
    Seattle’s "1854 Treaty Oration" is available at

  • A good online version of King’s "Letter from
    Birmingham City Jail" is available at

A Little Background on the Works
Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, "Letter from Birmingham
City Jail" begins with a preface that should help you understand the context of the
letter. In Birmingham, Alabama, King was arrested while peacefully marching for civil
rights. While imprisoned, King read a published letter written by several local clergy
that criticized and condemned King’s actions. King’s letter is his response to the

Chief Seattle (c.1790-1866), leader of the Suquamish and
other tribes in what is now Washington State, delivered his "1854 Treaty
Oration" during negotiations with the United States government that resulted in the
exchange of 2,000,000 acres of Native American land for $150,000. Dr. Henry A. Smith, who
was present during the original speech, reproduced the speech from notes and published it
in the Seattle Sunday Star on October 29, 1887. In 1996, only 794 members of the
Suquamish tribe remained.

A Problem to Avoid
I have given similar assignments in the past, and a problem that
sometimes arises is that students will focus on the beliefs expressed in the letter or
speech and will write an essay summarizing those beliefs. This is not the assignment,
though. Remember, the assignment asks that you write an essay in which you explain
King’s purpose or Seattle’s’ purpose and illustrate the ways in which King or
Seattle effectively achieves his purpose. The assignment does not ask for a summary of the
content of King’s letter or Seattle’s speech.

To help you avoid a simple summary of the works, you should
ask yourself "so what?" for every fact from King’s letter or Seattle’s speech
that you include in your essay. In other words, quotations or summaries of material from
the works should be in your paper only if they have a specific purpose, only of they are
helping you prove a specific point about the work.

Using Quotations
Note: Ordinarily, when you quote, paraphrase or summarize a
source in your own writing, as you will be doing for this essay assignment, you have to
cite and document that source according to a standard system of documentation and have to
include a separate "Works Cited" page. (We will be using the MLA, or Modern
Language Association, style of documentation.) However, we will wait and discuss MLA
citation and documentation as part of the next unit. You do not need to cite and document
King’s letter or Seattle’s speech for this assignment. And please do not try to.
There are a lot of rules to follow when you cite and document sources, and I would prefer
to wait for the next unit and essay assignment before you start citing and documenting

However, you will need to quote from King’s letter or
Seattle’s speech, and integrating quotations smoothly and logically into your essay will
be important, so you should carefully study the Integrating
and Using Quotations Properly web handout. Give special attention to the four main
approaches to integrating quotations into your own sentences and the proper punctuation
for the approaches. Make sure that you do not have any quotations standing alone in your

In several important ways, this essay assignment is
significantly different from the other essays you have written for the course so far. In
addition, the rest of the essay assignments in the class share many characteristics with
this assignment. Therefore, make sure to read the evaluation criteria below carefully.

Evaluation Criteria for Essay Assignment 3

  • Thesis

Whether you choose to write about King’s "Letter
from Birmingham City Jail" or Seattle’s "1854 Treaty Oration," you will
need to give your essay a well-focused thesis, or main idea, and everything in your essay
should help you support and develop your thesis. The thesis is what gives an essay a
purpose and a point, and, in a well-focused essay, every part of the essay helps the
writer develop the thesis in some way.

Probably the most important sentence is an essay is the
thesis statement, which is a sentence that conveys the thesis—the main point and
purpose of the essay.

Your thesis should be stated in your introduction as one
complete sentence

  1. identifies the subject of the essay,

  2. states the main points developed in the

  3. clarifies how all of the main points are
    logically related, and

  4. conveys the purpose of the essay.

In high school, students often are told to begin an
introduction with a thesis statement and then to follow this statement with a series of
sentences, each sentence presenting one of the main points or claims of the essay. While
this approach probably helps students organize their essays, spreading a thesis statement
over several sentences in the introduction usually is not effective. For one thing, it can
lead to an essay that develops several points but does not make meaningful or clear
connections among the different ideas.

If you can state all of your main points logically in just
one sentence, then all of those points should come together logically in just one essay.
When I evaluate an essay, I look specifically for a one-sentence statement of the thesis
in the introduction that identifies the subject of the essay, states all of the main
points of the essay, clarifies how those points are logically related, and conveys the
purpose of the essay.

If you are used to using the high school model to present
the thesis of an essay, you might wonder what you should do with the rest of your
introduction once you start presenting a one-sentence statement of your thesis. Well, an
introduction should do two important things: (1) present the thesis statement, and (2) get
readers interested in the subject of the essay.

Instead of outlining each stage of an essay with separate
sentences in the introduction, you could draw readers into your essay by appealing to
their interests at the very beginning of your essay. Why should what you discuss in your
essay be important to readers? Why should they care? Answering these questions might help
you discover a way to draw readers into your essay effectively. Once you appeal to the
interests of your readers, you should then present a clear and focused thesis statement.
(And thesis statements most often appear at the ends of introductions, not at the

Coming up with a thesis statement during the early stages
of the writing process is difficult. You might instead begin by deciding on three or four
related claims that you think you could prove in your essay. Think in terms of paragraphs:
choose claims that you think could be supported and developed well in one body paragraph
each. Once you have decided on the three or four main claims and how they are logically
related, you can bring them together into a one-sentence thesis statement.

  • Organization

Effective organization will be especially important for
Essay 3, and there are some fairly rigid guidelines that you should follow.

Each body paragraph of your essay should begin with a topic
sentence, a statement of the main point of the paragraph. Just as a thesis statement
conveys the main point of an entire essay, a topic sentence conveys the main point of a
single body paragraph.

If the purpose of a paragraph is to persuade readers, the
topic sentence should present a claim, or something that you can prove with specific
evidence. If you begin a body paragraph with a claim, a point to prove, then you know
exactly what you will do in the rest of the paragraph: prove the claim. You also know when
to end the paragraph: when you think you have convinced readers that your claim is valid
and well supported.

If you begin a body paragraph with a fact, though,
something that it true by definition, then you have nothing to prove from the beginning of
the paragraph, possibly causing you to wander from point to point in the paragraph. The
claim at the beginning of a body paragraph is very important: it gives you a point to
prove, helping you unify the paragraph and helping you decide when to end one paragraph
and begin another.

For more information about organization and the support and
development of ideas, see Effective Argumentation with
Claims, Evidence, and Warrants .

  • Support and Development of Ideas

An effective analysis must be well supported with specific
evidence. For Essay 3, this evidence will be details from King’s "Letter from
Birmingham City Jail" or from Seattle’s "1854 Treaty Oration."

In your essay, you will be trying to explain and prove
something about your subject, so you need to use plenty of specific evidence from the
subject itself to support your analysis of it. As suggested above, a good approach to
supporting an analysis of a literary work is dividing your analysis into a few separate
claims and then supporting each one of those claims thoroughly.

Remember, to make your analysis of King’s letter or
Seattle’s speech convincing, you must use plenty of specific evidence to support each
claim that you present.

Again, for more information about organization and the
support and development of ideas, see Effective
Argumentation with Claims, Evidence, and Warrants .

  • Insight into Subject

If you organize your essay well, and if you use plenty of
specific evidence to support your thesis and the individual claims that comprise that
thesis, then there is a good possibility that your essay will be insightful.

Because you can assume your audience has already read
King’s letter or Seattle’s’ speech, your paper will not be very insightful, nor
will it address the assignment, if it simply summarizes the content of the letter or

Making sure that your analysis is well supported with
specific evidence is important in terms of the insightfulness of your essay. In fact, the
same thing might be said about "Insight into Subject" that is said about
"Support and Development of Ideas": to make your analysis of King’s letter
or Seattle’s speech insightful, you must use plenty of specific evidence to support each
claim that you present.

  • Clarity

Clarity is always important: if your writing is not clear,
your meaning will not reach readers the way you would like it to. And remember, according
to IVCC’s Grading Standards for
Student Essays , "A," "B," and "C" essays are clear
throughout, meaning that problems with clarity can have a substantial effect on the grade
of an essay.

  • Style

As explained on the Essay
1 and Essay 2 assignment pages, "style"
includes many different aspects of your writing. The information on the earlier essay
assignment pages is not repeated here, but refer to those pages if you would like to
review what "style" encompasses.

Important: For this essay, you will need to adopt a formal
writing voice, meaning that you should avoid use of the first person ("I,"
"me," "my," etc.), should avoid the use of contractions
("won’t," "he’s," "they’re," etc.), and
should avoid slang or other informal diction. A formal writing voice will make you sound
more convincing and more authoritative as you analyze and explain either King’s letter of
Seattle’s speech.

Remember that integrating quotations smoothly and logically
into your essay will also be important.

  • Mechanics

Again, "mechanics" refers to the correctness of
the paper. Everything you write should be free or at least almost free from errors. See
the Identifying and Correcting Errors web handout and
Chapter 29 of the textbook (H-53 to H-99) for help with identifying and eliminating
errors, and use WebBoard to ask any
questions about errors that you might have.

Remember, according to IVCC’s Grading Standards for
Student Essays , "A," "B," and "C" essays contain
"almost no errors." Significant or numerous errors are a characteristic of a
"D" or "F" essay.

In WebBoard ,
you will find a conference area titled "Questions." Please send any questions
that you have about this essay assignment, and I will be happy to respond.

Back to Assignments |
Back to Unit 3: Writing to Analyze | Top
of this Page

This page last updated on
June 06, 2013 . Copyright Randy Rambo ,

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      A Rhetorical Analysis of Chief Seattle’s letter to President Pierce


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  • A Rhetorical Analysis Essay on Chief Seattle’s letter

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A Rhetorical Analysis Essay on Chief Seattle’s letter

  • by
    February 2, 2018


Rhetorical Analysis Essay 1

Thesis Statement: Chief Seattle’s attempt to emphasize the importance of nature and persuade the audience to respect it.

Claim Sentence 1: The author significantly uses ethos, pathos,  and logos to persuade the audience’s behavior towards nature.

Claim Sentence 2: The use of rhetorical devices such as erotema, repetition, comparisons and tone shifting and its impact on the audience’s perspective.

Claim Sentence 3: Lastly, the diction, syntax and letter structure of presenting the points to the audience has been effectively utilized by the author.


Chief Seattle is the speaker to this letter addressing President Pierce. The occasion leading him to speak up is to make the white men guilty of treating the nature in such an inhuman manner and instead offers that instead of buying lands they should reserve it. Chief Seattle emphasizes the importance of nature and its protection. As progressing, we will observe the use of different tones at different occasion within the letter such as censorious, disappointed, blunt and authoritative tone to represent his point of view.


The author significantly uses ethos, pathos, and logos to persuade the audience’s behavior towards nature. As the excerpt begins with the modification of the Chief by the adjective “great” brings some credibility of about how his words and pieces of advice can be trusted. Proceeding with it, at the end of the first paragraph we observe the claim, ” Seattle says you can count on as truly as our white brothers can count on the return of the seasons. My words are like the stars-they do not set.” This claims established a trustworthy, credible personality in the eye of the audience which will help in the persuasion of the audience to agree with the perspective of Seattle towards nature as you tend to give more importance to a credible person in comparison to a weak source. Next, the speaker uses quite a lot of pathos to win the attention of a larger audience by addressing how these white men treat the nature and land and do not realize the blessing that God has blessed them all with. This is the use of pathos as the author plays the card of emotions to gain immense support from the audience on the fact about how just for more development and money, white men forget that all this nature is a blessing by God and loved by the redman who they share their God with as the author questions, “How can you buy or sell the sky-the warmth of the land? The idea is strange to us.” Lastly, the author can be observed augmenting his perspective by logos-the logical reasoning to his standing in order to strengthen his perspective on the topic so no loose strand in left in the persuasion of the audience. The author attempts to claim about how their treatment towards the nature and the redman who respect them is the treatment that they want with themselves as they all are connected as the words acknowledge, “If all beasts were gone, men would die from great loneliness of spirit, for whatever happens to the beast also happens to the man.”


The use of rhetorical devices such as erotema, repetition, comparisons and tone shifting and its impact on the audience’s perspective. Next, the author uses the device of erotema to make the audience brainstorm about his perspective and see the flaws in the actions of white men as at different occasions. The speaker questions, ” How can you buy them from us? We will decide on our time. Every part of this earth is sacred to my people.”. With the use of that device, we see the use of the device repetition to create emphasis on a certain point that the author is trying to bring the spotlight on as the speaker analyzes,  “where is the thicket? Gone. Where is the eagle? Gone.” Then the author plays with the device of comparison to highlight the differences between the white men’s behavior towards nature and the redman behavior towards it to compare the humanity and gratitude of the two communities. As in the third paragraph of the letter the author highlights his purpose by sharing, ” The earth is not his brother, but his enemy, and when he has conquered it, he moves on. He leaves his father’s graves and his children’s birthright is forgotten. The sight of your cities pains the eyes of the redman. But perhaps it is because the redman is a savage and does not understand.” These wordings are to immensely affect the readers and develop a soft corner of the redman who care about the treatment towards nature whilst the inhuman behavior of the white men. Last but the not least, we can observe the tone shifting of the speaker throughout the letter while presenting his points as the speaker begins with a censorious tone by questioning their actions. Then, we see the development of a disappointed tone about their behavior towards the land and how all these actions are to return back to their own self as a karma. As a response, Seattle uses an authoritative tone to address the white men as he clarifies, ” If I decide to accept, I will make one condition. The white man must treat the beasts of this land as his brothers.” The use of ‘must’ shows the emphasis on the order. Lastly, he shifts to a blunt tone to hold the white men guilty of their doings by pointing out their flaws. This tone shift played an important role in connecting with the audience to clarify each and every point presented by author and build a good structure to the letter.


Lastly, the diction, syntax and letter structure of presenting the points to an audience has been effectively utilized by the author. Seattle has made an effective choice of diction such as ‘survival’. ‘Gone’, ‘no place to listen to the leaves’, ‘brother’, ‘connected’ and etc to emphasize on the beauty of nature and how the white men are wasting it, knowing that they are connected to it and their actions are to return back to their own self. Not only this but the author repeats the word ‘brother’ to create an image of how the redman considers them as their brothers but on the other side, the white men do not even respect their intentions and relation with land. “One thing we know-our God is the same. This earth is precious to him. Even the white man cannot escape the common destiny”.  This creates an impact on the audience about how everyone is connected and belong to the same God and cannot escape the judgment while persuading about how the white should treat the blessing of land granted by God righteously as emphasized by Seattle. With that, the speaker has utilized the rhetorical devices in the best manner which strengthens the perspective presented by Seattle as it is supported by shreds of evidence and presented with emotions. Lastly, the arc of the letter as Seattle structures his points is commendable as he begins with criticizing the lack of human behavior towards the land that the white men have ended up developing in greed of money and development. Then Seattle progresses in the attempt to make the whites guilty of their actions and the consequences they have caused and wraps it up with a request and advice to love the land the way redman love it as in the end they all have to go back to the common destination where every person would be accountable of their doings. This structure grants the audience with a complete and strengthened perspective by highlighting the opponent’s flaws, the consequence it could cause and then a wrap up with a humble request, developing a persuasive effect over the audience.


Seattle’s goal is clearly to hold the white men accountable for their actions and gain sympathy for redman and their intentions. He attempts to achieve his purpose by contrasting several rhetorical devices, whether it be the ‘comparison’ between the white and red man’s action or it be ‘repetition’ to emphasize over his perspective, the author tends to create an influential spell to win the audience’s support.


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