Chief Seattle Days

Chief Seattle Days

Third weekend in August
A three-day inter-tribal festival to honor Chief Seattle (1786-1866), for whom Seattle, Washington, is named. He was head of the Suquamish and Duwamish Indian tribes in the Puget Sound area of Washington. His name in the Lushootseed language was See-ahth. The festival is held at the Port Madison Indian Reservation in Suquamish, 40 miles south of Seattle. Besides featuring traditional Indian dances and drumming and dancing contests, it has a distinctive northwestern flavor, with salmon and clam bakes and canoe races. Other highlights are a horseshoe tournament, storytelling, and the election of a Chief Seattle Days Queen. The festival closes with the blessing of Chief Seattle's grave.
Chief Seattle and his father were both friendly to white settlers and helped them. He was the first to sign the Port Elliott Treaty in 1855, which set aside reservations for the Suquamish and other Washington tribes.
In a moving speech made in 1854 to a large group of Indians gathered to greet Isaac Stevens, the new United States Indian superintendent, Chief Seattle spoke of the passing away of the Indian tribes, fleeing at the approach of the white man. "Let him be just and deal kindly with my people," he said, "for the dead are not powerless. There is no death, only a change of worlds."
It is uncertain whether Chief Seattle actually uttered these words. The only known translation of Seattle's speech was made from the recollection of Dr. Harvy Smith 33 years later. The waters were made even muddier when, in 1971, Ted Perry, a screenwriter who now teaches at Middlebury College in Vermont, wrote a speech for the Chief that was included in a film on ecology. Mr. Perry knew the script was fiction, but others did not. Perry's apocryphal speech has been attributed to Chief Seattle ever since.
In 1992 a children's book based on an embellished version of Perry's script, Brother Eagle, Sister Sky by Susan Jeffers, made the New York Times Best Seller list and the great Chief Seattle slipped further into the mists of legend.
CONTACTS:
Suquamish Tribal Council
Port Madison Indian Reservation
P.O. Box 498
Suquamish, WA 98392
360-598-3311; fax: 360-598-3135
www.suquamish.nsn.us/csd.html
SOURCES:
IndianAmer-1989, p. 215