Chief Seattle Bibliography

It's always fashionable to dispute the authenticity of the Chief Seattle speech. Skeptics gleefully brandish some apocryphal 'source'; and then go hack down a couple of rain forests...Seattle devotees feverishly clutch their versions and champion them with the wildeyed passion of Bible Defenders.

It undermines one of the many 'credos' of the environmental movement.

Much of history has to be taken with a grain of salt. Ultimately, it's all hearsay. The first gospel wasn't written until 75 years after the crucifixion of Christ.

What is important is the underlying metaphor that empowers the text. We must always be tolerant of a certain degree of 'dithering' in history.

Here are some of the original source materials:

An article in the Seattle Sunday Star, of October 29, 1887, by Dr. Henry A. Smith describes Seattle in detail and talks about his influence over the Skokomish tribe. He describes the indians' welcoming reception for Governor Stevens (the new Appointee for the Commissioner of Indian Affairs for Washington Territory). It was held in front of Dr. Maynard's office (Seattle's friend and liason) near the waterfront on Main Street. He says: "The bay swarmed with canoes and the shore was lined with a living mass of swaying, writhing, dusky humanity, until Old Chief Seattle's trumpet-toned voice rolled over the immense multitude like the reveille of a bass drum, when silence became as instantaneous and perfect as that which follows a clap of thunder from a clear sky."

He then describes a speech made by Seattle. Parts of it are different than the speech quoted in the High Country News, August, 1971 that is posted currently in these pages. There are parts that have been left out of recent versions that are actually more moving. There are extended passages, though, that are identical. The Star article is posted in its entirety at Per-Olof's in Denmark.

The Washington Historical Quarterly, Vol 22, #4, October, 1931. published by the Washington University State Historical Society, University Station, Seattle, Washington.
An Article by Clarence B. Bagley: "Chief Seattle and Angeline".
This is a detailed look at Seattle's life, mention of his father, Schweabe, his two wives and several concubines, and his daughter, Angeline, by his first wife. Pioneers erecting a monument to him in 1892, after his death, estimated the year of his birth to be 1786.

There is a description of his friendship with Doctor David S. Maynard, who crossed the plains in 1850. The Dr.'s first business venture was cutting a hundred cords of wood in Olympia, which he sent to San Francisco on the brig Franklin Adams and sold at a good profit. He was then able to set up a small store in Olympia.

He became friends with Seattle, who told him of a better place than Olympia, with a good harbor. "Maynard took Seattle at his word, sold off as far as he could his stock of merchandise, put the remainder on a scow, and with an Indian crew and Chief Seattle as pilot, came to the promised land. This was in the last days of March, 1852...Undoubtedly the friendship of Doctor Maynard for Chief Seattle led to the bestowment of his name upon the newly born city."

There is a description then by Samuel F. Coombs of the 'intelligent looking indian who could speak English'. He tells of stories he was told about Seattle becoming the leader of the six tribes after raids on the saltwater indians by the White Rivers indians around 1800, before the white men came.

Then there are details of the arriving of Comissioner Stevens and Seattle's speech quoting the Sunday Seattle Star article.

Then:"Through the efforts of the French missionaries Seattle became a Catholic and inaugurated regular morning and evening prayers in his tribe, which were continued by his people after his death. He died June 7, 1866, at the Old Man House from a fever or ague. His funeral was attended by hundreds of whites from all parts of the sound, and G.A. Meigs, of the Port Madison mill, closed down the establishment in his honor. He was buried according to the rites of the Catholic Church with Indian customs added."

Chief Seattle (Skokomish)
From Life, by James A. Wehn

From "Chief Seattle's Unanswered Challenge", by John M. Rich, private printing, 1947.

A Danish gentleman has kindly posted the entire Sunday Star Article. He also presents information about the disagreement surrounding Seattle's Speech here.

Seattle's Speech.... Shortcuts...Fundamentalist's Flat Earth...