Chief Seattle Arts logo 

Totem Pole by James Bender at Pike Place Market (#72: 15046 bytes) 

Click to read more about Chief Seattle!Noah Seattle

(Catholic baptismal name)







To the left is the most famous photo of Chief Seattle. (A less-well-known photo of Chief Seattle shows him wearing a hat, with a cross around his neck, standing in a group of Indian leaders at the signing of the Point Elliott Treaty.)


Click to see a statue of Chief Seattle in downtown Seattle.
Statue of Chief Seattle near the Space Needle in Seattle.

Chief Seattle's name in Lushotseed

Click above to hear Skagit elder Vi Hilbert pronounce Chief Seattle's name in Lushootseed.


(Anglicized pronunciation of Chief Seattle’s name)

Although we call him “Chief” Seattle, there were no hereditary chiefs among the Puget Sound Indians. Strong leaders arose in each village from time to time who, distinguishing themselves by the actions or particular skills, were respected and followed. For instance, there were fishing leaders, peacetime leaders, and leaders in times of crisis. Chief Seattle was one of those. In addition to his leadership skills and his ability to understand what the white settler's intentions were, he was also a noted orator in his native language. At the presentation of the treaty proposals in 1854, Chief Seattle delivered a magnificent speech, which is widely remembered today. It is the speech of a man who has seen his world turned upside down in his own lifetime: as a boy, he had seen Vancouver’s ships, and when he died the treaty protests were still going on....From his grave on the Kitsap Peninsula the modern city of Seattle is visible across Puget Sound. Knowing some of the settlers as well as he did, the fact that the small village bearing his name survived and flourished would not surprise him. That his people have survived the challenges of this century would please him.
-From The Eyes of Chief Seattle, published by the Suquamish Tribe.
Chief Seattle’s father, Schweabe, was a Suquamish chief from Bainbridge Island, across Puget Sound from the present city of Seattle. But Chief Seattle was considered a member of the Duwamish tribe, who lived on a river in southwest Seattle, across Puget Sound from the present-day reservation of the Suquamish tribe on the Kitsap Peninsula. His mother, Scholitza, was the daughter of a Duwamish chief, and the line of descent among the Duwamish traditionally runs through the mother.
Early Seattle historian Clarence Bagley wrote that Chief Seattle as a young warrior was known for his courage, daring, and leadership in battle. He gained control of six local tribes and continued the friendly relations with local Europeans that his father began.
Chief Seattle gave a famous speech in December 1854 in what is now downtown Seattle, when he was in his late fifties or early sixties. The only known version of it comes from the pen of Dr. Henry A. Smith, a settler and amateur poet who was present and detailed notes at the time. But Smith didn’t speak Lushootseed, the language in which Chief Seattle gave the speech, and he waited 30 years before he transcribed his notes about the speech. Smith’s “Chief Seattle” speech, as he rendered it from his notes, contains 19th-century rhetorical flourishes that make it sound like he invented some of it. (Smith admitted in his introduction to the speech that his version of it was “a fragment of [Chief Seattle’s] speech, and lacks all the charm lent by the grace and earnestness of the sable old orator, and the occasion.”
Chief Seattle has had a worldwide influence in another way. His daughter, called “Princess Angeline” by local European-Americans, lived out her old age in a waterfront shack in present-day downtown Seattle. A young photographer, Edward S. Curtis, who often saw her in Seattle, became intrigued by her and often photographed her and talked with her. Curtis’s interest in Princess Angeline led to an interest in other American Indians, and Curtis went on to become the most famous photographer of them. He devoted most of his life to taking pictures of Indians all over America, with the financial backing of industrialist/art collector J. P. Morgan and the encouragement of President Theodore Roosevelt. His monumental work in documenting the lives of the first Americans ranks him among the greatest photographers of all time.
Chief Seattle as a young boy probably saw the first Europeans who visited the Puget Sound region area: Captain George Vancouver and his sailors, when they anchored their ships the Discovery and the Chatham near the southeast corner of Bainbridge Island, across from the present-day city of Seattle, in 1792. Chief Seattle was always intrigued by Europeans and their culture, and he later became good friends with Doc Maynard, the adventurous, hard-drinking entrepreneur who more than anyone helped establish the city of Seattle. Chief Seattle saved Doc Maynard from an assassination attempt by another Indian. Chief Seattle also helped protect the small band of European-American settlers in what is now Seattle from attacks by other Indians. Because of his friendship and help, at the urging of Doc Maynard, the settlers named their city after him.

Unless otherwise noted, all images and text are:
Chief Seattle Arts
Last modified: July 01, 2015