Chief Seattle

The famous words of Chief Seattle

Chief Seattle was the Native American leader of the Suquamish and Duwamish tribes of Washington. It is believed he was born in 1786 near Blake Island, Washington. His father was the leader of the Suquamish while his mother was of the Duwamish tribe.

Chief Seattle earned a reputation early on as a fierce warrior and great leader. He was large in stature, almost six feet tall, and he was known as a great speaker. Legend has it that his voice could carry almost a mile in distance.

As his tribe was being driven from their land by other tribes, Chief Seattle met and became friends with David Swinson "Doc" Maynard. Maynard was a pioneer and doctor who helped establish support in the area for Chief Seattle and his tribe, so much so that the town they all lived in was renamed Seattle in Chief Seattle's honor.

Chief Seattle gave a speech in Seattle on March 11, 1854, that has been seen as controversial by many. He spoke in the Lushootseed language, which was then translated into Chinook, then into English. The English translation, by Dr. Henry A. Smith, would not be written for almost 30 years after the original speech was made. In the speech, Chief Seattle reportedly thanked the white man for his generosity in letting them keep their land, but demanded access to Native American burial grounds, and noted the difference between the God of the white man and those of his own.

Chief Seattle had been baptized a Roman Catholic in 1848, so there was some question about Smith's interpretation of the speech. Smith later admitted to only translating part of Chief Seattle's speech. Despite the flawed translation, what seems to be taken away from the speech is that it is regarded as a plea for respect of both the rights of Native Americans and their value of their environment. However, what Chief Seattle actually said and the meaning behind it has been lost forever.

Chief Seattle died on June 7, 1866. He is buried in the Suquamish Tribal Cemetery. The third week of each August is Chief Seattle Days, hosted by the Suquamish Tribe.

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