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Chief Seattle

Chief Seattle was an ancestral leader of the Suquamish Tribe. He witnessed the transition of his people from their ancient aboriginal lifeways to a new one brought by the arrival of non-natives and imposed on Tribes by the United States Government. The Suquamish had to adapt their culture based on fishing, hunting, berry and root gathering and traveling by canoe to accept a new economy and lifestyle forced upon them by new and foreign religious, social and political institutions.  Missionaries, fur traders and finally, permanent settlers brought disease, new technology, a currency system, and the concept of private property to the Puget Sound.

The change was immediately destructive and disruptive. The United States had already freed land up for settlers by allowing non-natives to claim Indian lands under the Donation Land Claim Act of 1850, angering many of the Tribes. The United States wanted to clear the land of Indian title to allow for settlement via a new transcontinental railroad. The federal government accomplished this by signing Treaties with the Indian Tribes. Fearing a military conflict that could not be won in the long term,Chief Seattle signed the 1855 Treaty of Point Elliott with the United States, agreeing to live on the Port Madison Indian Reservation and give up title to the remainder of Suquamish lands. The United States, led by Governor Isaac Stevens, agreed to provide health care, education and recognized and affirmed their fishing, hunting and gathering rights.

Chief Seattle created long friendships with early Seattle settlers and was kind to them. For his many gracious actions towards the settlers, founders of the city named the settlement after him. Later, some of the Tribes, such as the Puyallup and Muckleshoot who signed the Treaty of Medicine Creek, were angered by the Treaty and their reservations, and took up arms against the settlers and the military. The Indian forces eventually attacked the settlement on Elliott Bay. Chief Seattle kept his forces out of the battle and remained at Suquamish, further solidifying his position as a friend to the founders of the city named for him.

Thereafter,Chief Seattle remained on the reservation but continued to travel to the City named for him in order to attend intertribal meetings and complete other business. It was in Seattle that he had his only known picture taken and he gave his famous speech. Chief Seattle died in 1866 in Suquamish.

How Can One Sell the Air?
Format: Paperback

Chief Seattle’s impassioned plea to respect “the sacred web of life” has become an inspiration to many. This thoroughly researched collection includes two popular 20th-century adaptations as well as a version of the speech that has been passed via the oral tradition among Suquamish elders from Chief Seattle’s tribe.

"A valuable reference for Native American history and for those interested in the ecological efforts to preserve harmony with the earth." —Kliatt magazine

Authentic Indigenous Text