2/16/2010

02-16-10 - Chief Sealth

Who the fuck is Chief Sealth? It's popping up all over recently, with Chief Sealth Bike Trail and Chief Sealth High School. Apparently it's just the new popular anglicization of Seattle (which Wikipedia likes to call Si'ahl). Stupid, once you pick a screwed up anglicization, just stick with the same one. Ten years from now they'll decide Sealth isn't good enough and we'll get some new weird name.

Anyway, it got me to thinking - who really was this Seattle character that we're named after?

Seattle is much liked by hippies because of his famous speech which is full of wisdom and environmentalism and shit like "the land does not belong to us, we belong to the land". Apparently this speech are similar quotes are entirely apocryphal.

If you read between the lines of the official history a little bit, I think we can see who Seattle really was : an Uncle Tom, a conciliator, and a traitor. He was chief of the Duwamish, which was one of the weaker tribes in the area (weaker than the Snohomish or Nisqually). The various tribes often fought, and Seattle was wise enough to see that the way to strengthen his tribe was to do a deal with the devil and make friends with the white settlers who were moving in to the area in increasing numbers. So Seattle befriended Maynard and they used each other as allies to increase their personal powers. In the brief "Battle of Seattle", Chief Seattle held out his tribes and the other natives were easily defeated.

A better hero is Leschi , chief of the Nisqually, who was initially accomodating to settlers, but when it became clear that his tribe would be forced onto unlivable land, he tried to foment a rebellion from all the tribes. He was captured and killed by the whites of course.

Of course the whites wrote the history, and with very little first hand information or accounts from natives, Seattle was made the hero and the prominent native leader. So the next time you see a statue of Chief Seattle (or Sealth or Si'ahl or Seaillhth) , spit on it.

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