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Ed.
When our children were little, Barb and took them to visit the grave site of Chief Seattle, a trip I recommend for every child growing up in this city named for an amazing man of peace.
Despite the name of this city, monuments to our history or all quite sad.  The totem pole in Pioneer Square denotes a pole stolen by Seattle’s white folks from the Kwakiutl people.  Collections of local art at the SAM sit in a back room getting less eye time than the fluff and candy in the opening galleries.  Chief Seattle’s statue sits in a dreary traffic triangle while the city fathers argue about selling glass chotskies in the “Seattle Center.” A long house being built to honor Seattle’s people is being built … very quietly on campus.
Part of the problem may be the peaceful origins of this city.  Seattle, the chief, saw the inevitable and worked with Doc Maynard to help the “Boston” men replace the Duwamish, Nusqually and Samish people who were here first.
Such peace does not lend itself well to history books or lessons in our schools.
Still there was one, brief but fierce war fought in 1855–1856 between the Nisqually tribe and the territory’s militia and army. (from Publisher’s Weekly and Amazon) With vivid detail, Kluger (Simple Justice) examines the encounter, beginning with the benchmark 1853 treaty of Medicine Creek and its ambitious architect, Gov. Isaac Stevens, who “bloodlessly wrested formal title to 100,000 square miles.” Despite scant source materials, the author sketches a portrait of Leschi, the Nisqually chief, whose resistance to the treaty placed him in direct confrontation with Stevens.
After Leschi’s arrest for allegedly killing a militiaman, Stevens engineered the chief’s 1856 prosecution–and ultimate conviction and execution. (Leschi’s final statement is heartrending: “I do not know anything about your laws, I have supposed that the killing of armed men in war time was not murder. If it was, then soldiers who killed Indians were guilty of murder too.”) The conclusion, the 2004 exoneration of Leschi’s actions by an unofficial historical court, followed by the launch of the tribe’s Red Wind casino, winds up being a redemptive postscript to an affecting chapter of regional history.

 


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