“Every part of this country is sacred to my people.”
The only known photograph of Chief Seattle. Courtesy of the Suquamish Museum Archives, cir. 1865.
siʔał (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, siʔał 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.
siʔał 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. siʔał 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, siʔał 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. siʔał died in 1866 in Suquamish.
A group of Seattle pioneers placed a marble headstone on his grave site in 1890 in recognition of his legacy. The headstone has both of the popular spellings of siʔał names; Seattle and Sealth- an approximation of the native pronunciation of siʔał. The Treaty of Point Elliott, recorded 35 years earlier, shows his name as Seattle. The Suquamish Tribe does not object to the use of either name.
siʔał descended from Suquamish leader šwa bay (Schweabe) and šo litsə (Sho’leet`sah), a woman from a White River village south of present day Seattle. He told an early American settler he was born at his father’s village on Blake Island. Based on his recollections of events associated with Captain George Vancouver at Bainbridge Island in 1792, early American settlers estimated siʔał was born around 1786. siʔał always self-identified as Suquamish in over 30 years of historic records, beginning in 1833, when he was first mentioned in an Hudson’s Bay Company daily log for Fort Nisqually. His family controlled the central and southern portion of the Kitsap Peninsula, Blake Island, northern Vashon Island, Bainbridge Island, and saltwater embayments and marine shorelines on the east side of Admiralty Inlet, from Edmonds, south through Elliott Bay. This hegemony was documented by the United States Exploring Expedition in 1841, and by early ethnographer George Gibbs in 1855.
siʔał told early American settlers that he had been at the Suquamish camp on Restoration Point in May, 1792 and recalled seeing the Vancouver Expedition ships. His early years were a time of dramatic changes among tribal groups in Western Washington. Puget Sound Tribes were decimated by diseases introduced by European and American traders. As a result, inter-Tribal raiding and conflict increased, and economic and social networks changed. Traditional family and status networks were altered as entrepreneurial leaders achieved higher social, political, and economic status through trade and interactions with native and European trading partners.
Although siʔał’s father was a Suquamish leader, his leadership status among Suquamish families was not conferred automatically. He had to demonstrate that he was worthy. In a newspaper article published in 1893, early settler Samuel Coombs recounts a story of siʔał’s exploits when he was in his early 20s, about 1810. Coombs spoke with elders at a gathering in 1860 and through an interpreter learned that siʔał led a group of Suquamish and other salt water villagers on a pre-emptive raid to stop an attack by interior and upper White and Green River groups. The salt water people had received information that the raiders would travel down the White River at night and take slaves from salt water villages. The day before the impending attack, siʔał led his party to a bend in the White River where the river channel was narrow and the current swift. They cut a large tree that fell across the river channel, leaving only a few inches of clearance, and waited for the raiders. In the evening, five canoes rounded the river bend and the first three rammed the tree and swamped. Some raiders drowned, others were killed, and still others were captured by the Suquamish. Occupants in the last two canoes were spared and ran off to warn their upriver comrades against further forays. siʔał later led attacks on various S’Klallam villages, raids on river people in the upper Snoqualmie River basin, and reprisals on villages up the White River to avenge a murder. In the late 1840s, siʔał led a Suquamish attack on the Chemakum at Hadlock Bay, near Port Townsend. Suquamish elders said siʔał obtained “thunderbird” guardian spirit power during vision quests in his youth and that he could cause thunder. Accounts of siʔał arriving from a trip to Victoria note that thunder began as his canoe appeared in the distance.
Suquamish leaders began trading with European and American enterprises soon after George Vancouver’s initial foray into Puget Sound in 1792. Peter Skene Ogden, originally from the North West Company and later a trader for the Hudson’s Bay Company, traveled from Fort George at the mouth of the Columbia River through Puget Sound and Admiralty Inlet prior to 1821. In 1824, a Hudson’s Bay Company expedition came from the Columbia to Puget Sound and sought out a Suquamish chief at the village at Suquamish Bay, probably Old Man House. John Work noted: “Our object in stopping here was to get the chief to accompany us as an interpreter, but he was not at home.” The Suquamish leader was to guide them through northern Puget Sound to the Fraser River and select a site for a new trading post. The fact that the expedition members knew of the village and the Suquamish leader indicates they had traded previously with the Suquamish. Subsequent expeditions in 1827 and 1828 stopped at Suquamish villages. siʔał is not named in the Hudson’s Bay Expedition accounts but most likely was present.
siʔał is first identified by name in William Fraser Tolmie’s diary entry of July 4, 1833, when siʔał traded at Hudson’s Bay Company Fort Nisqually. Tolmie described him as: “Sialah ( a brawny Soquamish with a roman countenance & black curley hair, the handsomest Indian I have seen).” This was the first of more than 20 specific references to siʔał at Fort Nisqually between 1833 and 1846; five of the notations identify him as Suquamish.
siʔał had a rocky relationship with Hudson’s Bay Company traders and members of other Tribal groups. He fought with Nisqually leader Lachalet in September 1833 and French-Canadian employee Jean Baptiste Ouvre in September 1835. The December 6, 1837 daily log for Fort Nisqually notes: “The Chief See-yat has murdered an Indian Doctor, much talk about this affair amongst the So-aua-mish tribe. I wish they would determine on shooting the villain.” In spite of these problems, siʔał continued to be identified as a trading partner through 1846.
Fur trade waned at Fort Nisqually in the late 1840s as the Hudson’s Bay Company establishment focused on agriculture and supplying American settlers with basic goods. After the Treaty of Washington in 1846, the company also had to move operations north of the 49th Parallel. siʔał saw the influx of American pioneers as an opportunity to increase his economic and political status by encouraging newcomers to settle on lands he controlled at Elliott Bay. He had participated in the Hudson’s Bay Company trading system for nearly two decades and also dealt with American trading ships. The new population of land-hungry Americans allowed siʔał to control his own economic fate, unfettered by the problems he previously had with the Hudson’s Bay Company.
In the early 1850s, siʔał actively recruited American settlers at the burgeoning settlement of New Market, now Olympia, offering his native fishermen at Elliott Bay as labor in joint ventures to catch, pack, and ship salmon to San Francisco, a market fueled by the gold rush. Thus, siʔał used his entrepreneurial acumen to foster American settlement at Elliott Bay and create an economic engine that he could control and benefit from.
Thereafter siʔał traveled between Olympia, the City of Seattle, and Old Man House in the early 1850s, tending his business enterprises, incorporating his people into the developing economy of central and southern Puget Sound, and helping American settlers.
In January 1854, Territorial Governor Isaac Stevens toured Puget Sound to prepare for upcoming negotiations for Indian treaties and addressed a gathering of native people in the City of Seattle. siʔał spoke to the crowd after Stevens, and Henry Smith published a recollection of the speech in the Seattle Star in 1887. Smith was a young man in 1854, newly arrived in the city. He took notes at the time and later used the notes to reconstruct the speech. siʔał did not speak English or the Chinook Jargon trade language. Thus, he spoke in suq̓ʷabšucid, the Suquamish dialect of the Southern Coast Salish Lushootseed language. His speech has been analyzed, quoted, and used countless times in various contexts.
Smith’s recounting of siʔał’s 1854 speech has poetic elements, images, and flourishes that were not part of the world of a Puget Sound Indian. However, the general tenor and themes covered in the published speech appear to reflect siʔał’s intent and phrasing. Records of siʔał speaking at the Treaty of Point Elliott and to Indian Agents in later years have similar themes and phrasing. The Suquamish Tribe suggests that the exact wording of the speech may not be the prose actually spoken by siʔał but that many of the important themes and concepts accurately reflect his observations and warnings to Isaac Stevens regarding expectations during the coming treaty negotiations: a goal of peace and a desire to live in harmony; reverence for ancestors and the land of their ancestors, who return to visit the living; and, siʔał’s belief that Indian people will be on this land forever.
Some of the most memorable lines include:
Read the text of the speech published in the Seattle Star in 1887- Click Here
As the eldest and perhaps best known leader of the native groups assembled at Point Elliott, siʔał was accorded the status of chief signatory of Point Elliott in January 1855. George Gibbs, who drew up the treaty, identified siʔał as chief of the Duwamish and Suquamish. This appellation subsequently caused problems between Suquamish and Duwamish families. siʔał did not read or write English and always self-identified as a Suquamish person. Gibbs took the liberty of the Duwamish assignment based on conversations with early City of Seattle settlers who at the time called any Indian person in the city Duwamish. Pioneer Thomas Prosch later criticized Gibbs: “Whether he knew it or not he was then and there placed upon the treaty paper as chief of the Suquamish and Duwamish tribes, probably so placed by George Gibbs himself.”
Because of siʔał’s status and economic importance to the American settlers, the Suquamish People were assigned one of four reservations identified in the treaty, encompassing their ancestral heartland around their mother village of Old Man House. Initially called Fort Kitsap, the reservation was renamed the Port Madison Indian Reservation, reflecting the nearest post office at the Port Madison lumber mill on Bainbridge Island.
After Indian uprisings in 1854 and 1855, siʔał spent most of his time at Old Man House on the Port Madison Indian Reservation, the reservation to which Suquamish People were assigned in the Treaty of Point Elliott. He died at Old Man House on June 7, 1866. siʔał was buried in the Suquamish Cemetery after a funeral attended by over 400 Indians and settlers and Catholic services led by Jacob Wahalchu.
Other historic leaders of the Suquamish
čaləqəm was a trader, ambassador, and religious figure who led the Suquamish People between approximately 1830 and the late 1840s. Suquamish elders recounted that čaləqəm was the leader after q́sap (Kitsap), before siʔał (Seattle). Although not especially well known among some Suquamish elders, čaləqəm has many more references in Hudson’s Bay Company, Catholic Church, and other historic documents than Kitsap and Seattle combined. His name was spelled many ways in historic records, depending on who was recording. English-speaking traders of the Hudson’s Bay Company recorded Chihalucum, Shallicum, Shallicom, Chalicum, Challacum, T Zallicum, Tsallicum, Challicoom, Sallacum, Challicum, and Challan. French-Canadian Catholic priests called him Tsalakam, Tsla-lakum, Tslalakom, and Tslalakum. Based on the predominance of a ch sound (as in the ch in church) and a ts sound (as in the ts in cats) as the first letters of his name, we can infer his name as čaləqəm or čaləqum in suq̓ʷabšucid, the Suquamish dialect of Southern Coast Salish Lushootseed language. He was younger than q́sap, who was probably born around 1760, and older than siʔał, who was born in the 1780s, which suggests čaləqəm was born in the 1770s. The last written historic reference to čaləqəm was in 1849.
Suquamish elder Sam Wilson noted that čaləqəm was Suquamish and one-half Skagit, related to an important Skagit family, “grew smart and that’s why they had him for chief here. No fighter, gentleman always good man, lots of wives. Good friend to everybody just like common man but at the same time he’s big.” Hudson’s Bay Company records indicate he had at least one Skagit wife. čaləqəm had a summer village on Ebey’s Prairie on the west side of Whidbey Island described by Catholic priests, a winter village at Point No Point at the north end of the Kitsap Peninsula described by Hudson’s Bay Company traders and members of the United States Exploring Expedition, and a house adjacent to the walls of Fort Nisqually.
The first description of čaləqəm by name appears in the written historic Hudson’s Bay Company records for June 8, 1833, when Archibald McDonald, who established Hudson’s Bay Company Fort Nisqually, and William Fraser Tolmie, a doctor newly-arrived at Fort Nisqually, sought out čaləqəm at his Point No Point village. čaləqəm was not at his village, but was camping at Bywater Bay near Hood Head in Hood Canal, after traveling from Protection Island on the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Port Townsend Harbor. William Fraser Tolmie described čaləqəm’s group: “one large canoe loaded with hampers containing their stores of kamass, dried clams & cockles lay moored near the beach, & several smaller ones were yet to be filled with about 18 men, women & children who were seated around.” The Hudson’s Bay Company traders asked čaləqəm to travel north to S’Klallam villages and invite the S’Klallams to trade at newly-established Fort Nisqually.
Because Hudson’s Bay Company traders specifically sought out čaləqəm in 1833, he probably had been trading prior to 1833 at Hudson’s Bay Company Fort Langley on the Fraser River, which was established in 1827, or at Fort George at the mouth of the Columbia River. Hudson’s Bay Company traders passing through Puget Sound in 1824, 1825, 1826, and 1832 may have stopped at čaləqəm’s village.
The Journal of Occurrences at Fort Nisqually, a daily log of events at Fort Nisqually kept by Hudson’s Bay Company clerks and traders, has 53 references to čaləqəm between 1833 and 1839 and an additional 19 references to his brother, sons, and wife. Surviving account books listing items traded at Fort Nisqually have 8 transactions by čaləqəm between 1844 and 1848, when he brought various furs, mats, bladders of dogfish oil, dried salmon, fresh salmon, shellfish, and other food to obtain blankets, ammunition, files, fabric, and buttons. Twelve of the references specifically identify čaləqəm as Suquamish. He also served as a courier for the Hudson’s Bay Company, carrying letters and ledgers between Fort Nisqually and Fort Langley on the Fraser River. This required traveling through areas controlled by Cowichan and other hostile groups from southern Vancouver Island who plundered southern Coast Salish groups as they left Fort Langley. That čaləqəm was able to traverse this dangerous political landscape for over 15 years attests to his skill as a mediator and his affinal ties to high status families throughout the region.
He was a favored trading partner and ambassador for the Hudson’s Bay traders, was given his own plot of land at Fort Nisqually, and allowed to build a longhouse adjacent to the fort. The daily log for November 1, 1838 notes: “Challacum is away to his lands, previous to his going he gave me forty potatoes of his own garden, the weight of each on average one pound, one of them the largest weigh 2 1/2 lbs.”
čaləqəm tried to mediate disputes and minimize tensions among Indian groups and between Indians and the Hudson’s Bay Company traders. In October 1833, the daily log at Fort Nisqually describes how čaləqəm informed the Hudson’s Bay Company traders of a planned attack by disgruntled S’Klallams, who wanted a higher return on their furs: “Challicoom my informant offered to remain here with his people as a protector.” In January 1838, čaləqəm “left us for a visit to the Saw-aue-waw-mlsh to beg some articles for the death of a So-qua-mish.” From whom he “got several articles as a peace offering.”
Suquamish elder Jack Adams recounted how the S’Klallams attacked a Suquamish group after q́sap (Kitsap) died. čaləqəm was chief then. Some warriors were ready to fight. čaləqəm found out and asked them where they were going. They said they were going to get even with the S’Klallam. čaləqəm told them they were not going “Not that I am afraid of them but I don’t want any trouble.” The warriors obeyed.
čaləqəm, or Tslalakom in Catholic church histories, was instrumental in spreading the Catholic faith among Indian people in Puget Sound. In April 1839, čaləqəm and a party of Suquamish walked from Fort Nisqually 58 miles south to the Cowlitz River to meet Father Frances Norbert Blanchet at the new Catholic Mission on Cowlitz Prairie. He received religious instruction from Father Blanchet in September 1839, when Blanchet held mass at Fort Nisqually.
In May 1840, at čaləqəm’s invitation, Father Blanchet traveled from Fort Nisqually to his spring-summer village at Ebey’s Prairie on the west side of Whidbey Island. “The priest, in his black gown, was received with the greatest demonstrations of joy by Tslalakom and his tribe, and his baggage seized and carried to the village, on the high land, 50 feet above the level of the bay.” čaləqəm sent messages to Skagit and Snohomish groups on Whidbey Island, and all gathered at his prairie village, which is now part of Ebey’s Landing National Historic Reserve. čaləqəm had taught his people Catholic rites and songs he had learned at his visit to the Cowlitz Mission and during religious services conducted by Father Blanchet at Fort Nisqually. Blanchet noted: “I admired the success Tslalakom had in teaching his people.” When United States Exploring Expedition survey parties visited the Suquamish Old Man House village in 1841, there was a large cross on the beach in front of the structure, likely erected by čaləqəm.
čaləqəm traveled with Catholic priests throughout Puget Sound and the Gulf of Georgia at various times between 1840 and 1843, serving as an emissary and protector of the priests. Father August Demers returned to čaləqəm’s village at Point No Point in August 1841 and “spent a few days in evangelizing them. Mr. Blanchet had lately visited that nation, whose chief Tslalakum is so noted for his intellect, his generosity, and his sincerity.” In spite of rumors that northern tribes were raiding villages on Whidbey Island, “the valiant Tslalakum wanted to accompany me and conduct me himself in his large wooden canoe. We therefore crossed the bay to visit the Snehomish.”
In 1843, Father Jean Baptiste Bolduc was directed to spend the summer with čaləqəm in order to “learn the idiom.” Bolduc also was sent by the Catholic Church to establish a mission at čaləqəm’s village on Whidbey Island, but soon abandoned the mission due to raids from Northern Indians. Father Jean Baptiste Bolduc noted in June 1843:
“The first Chief of the Sokwamishs immediately ordered his slaves (he actually had fifteen of them, two were women, formerly he had forty of them, and six were women) to cut wood to construct a house for us. Before sunset he came to tell us that more than fifty logs were ready.”
Even as the church was being constructed, raiding parties from northern groups were in the vicinity, as described by Bolduc:
“About ten o’clock in the evening of June 1st a Skadjat Chief raised an alarm that three canoes of Yougletats had been seen at dusk across the bay and that the camp of Skadjets, frightened, had escaped to the neighboring forests. Persuaded that they harbored evil intentions toward our lives as well as those of the Indians we were at first alarmed. We at once went to the lodge of Tsalekom, Chief of the Sokwamish, camped near our dwelling. On hearing the name of the Yougletats, he arose and said there was nothing to worry about “Tonight, ” he said, “I saw, quite late, a big smoke on the other side of the bay; some of my people are there. If they had any knowledge of the presence of the enemies, they would not light a fire.
The Suquamish remained at the mission to protect Father Bolduc and Father Demers until June 19, 1843, then moved south to their villages on the Kitsap Peninsula. The priests abandoned the mission on June 22, and returned south to Cowlitz.
Two descriptions of čaləqəm’s village at Point No Point provide information on the kinds of structures found there. William Fraser Tolmie’s diary entry for June 6, 1833 noted: “After tea visited two of the lodges & one of them (Shallicum’s) presented a greater appearance of plenty than any yet seen – he is a chief of some note and well disposed toward the whites.”
Lieutenant Augustus Case of the United States Exploring Expedition stopped at čaləqəm’s Point No Point village five times between May and July 1841. On July 24, 1841, Case described plank long houses, canoes, fishing practices, and general characteristics of the Suquamish people.
“Before leaving went to Chalcums house to look at it & some canoes he was building. This was my fifth visit to this place & I always found a large party of Indians in the neighborhood…..Their winter quarters are built of logs fitted with grooves & roofed with boards split out for the purpose. As soon as I landed at my station, the Chief came down. He had three buldings & was putting up more. They are situated on a clear space of about twenty across one have of which was planted with potatoes.”
The United States Exploring Expedition map of Admiralty Inlet published in 1845 shows six longhouse structures at the village. Commandant Charles Wilkes, leader of the expedition, named Suquamish Head at the north end of the Kitsap Peninsula in part because of čaləqəm’s hospitality.
Hudson’s Bay Company account books indicate čaləqəm was an active trader through at least June of 1848. He was widely recognized as the paramount Suquamish leader of the day as evidenced by a May 1849 letter from Joseph Lane, Governor and Superintendent of Indian Affairs, Oregon Territory, to Indian leaders in Western Washington, that included Salcom Chief of the Snoquamish. siʔał (Seattle) also was a leader in the 1840s, however the Hudson’s Bay Company traders recognized čaləqəm as the paramount Suquamish trader.
Sam Wilson stated that čaləqəm had two daughters, including huxubai, the oldest, who married a Caucasian man named Mitchell, and dzatu, who married a Caucasian man named Pratt. The Pratt marriage produced Joseph, Wallace, and Johnny Pratt. We have been able to track Samuel Pratt, the father, who was a logger at Port Blakely and Port Orchard, and his sons in early territorial and United States censuses. The Pratt brothers later appeared on census records for the Port Madison Indian Reservation, and the Pratt family has an extensive membership in the contemporary Suquamish Tribe.
The historic record documents the ascendancy of siʔał (Seattle) around 1850, coinciding with the expansion of foreign groups into areas once controlled by čaləqəm, such as Port Ludlow and the northern part of Hood Canal. This suggests that čaləqəm was gone by 1850. American settlers who established land claims at Port Townsend, on Whidbey Island, in Kitsap County, and at Seattle in the 1850s do not reference čaləqəm, nor do records of sawmills at Port Ludlow, Port Gamble, or Port Madison. Catholic Church records from the 1850s do not mention čaləqəm. We would expect that such an important leader, especially one who was baptized by Father Blanchet and who figured so prominently in the development of the Catholic Church among the Indians of Puget Sound would have some reference in the Catholic records of the 1850s. But, we have not found any indication of exactly when he died or where he is buried. If čaləqəm died in 1850, he would have been around 70 or so years old.
q́sap (Kitsap) was a Suquamish leader, warrior, and medicine man who led the Suquamish people between the 1790s and 1830s. His name derives from groups east of the Cascade Mountains, where Kitsap is a family name among the Yakama. Suquamish elder Sam Wilson noted that Yakama people would visit q́sap at Old Man House and his village on the south end of Bainbridge Island, and that he “belonged here at Suquamish.” Hudson’s Bay Company trader William Fraser Tolmie said q́sap was the most powerful leader in Puget Sound after 1790. He probably was described by George Vancouver in May 1792 as one of the two Indian leaders who came aboard the HMS Discovery when it anchored off the Suquamish spring village at Restoration Point on Bainbridge Island. Young males had to demonstrate wisdom, spirit power, economic power, and warrior skills to become a respected high status honorable person and leader, or siʔab, among the Suquamish. Thus, if q́sap was one of the leaders described by Vancouver in 1792 he probably was born at least to 25 to 30 years earlier, around 1760 or 1765, in order to earn his leadership position by 1792.
q́sap reportedly oversaw the construction of the most recent dwelling at Old Man House, and is one of the first Native Americans in the region to be referenced in Hudson’s Bay Company records. He is thought to have died around 1841. The Kitsap Peninsula derives its name from this famous Suquamish leader. Kitsap Peninsula is located in the Central Puget Sound Region, directly across the sound from the city named for Seattle, also deriving its name from Suquamish.
Most of what is known about q́sap comes from oral histories passed down through Suquamish elders. His spirit power was a two-headed thunderbird. Kitsap County was also named after q́sap, yet William Fraser Tolmie’s account is the only written document dating to the historic period that actually describes q́sap by name. References to “an old Suquamish chief” in Hudson’s Bay Company records of expeditions in 1824 and 1827 and traders at Fort Nisqually may in fact be describing q́sap. Most of the favored Indian traders at Hudson’s Bay Company forts were recorded by name. If q́sap did trade often at Fort Nisqually, we would expect at least one mention in the fort records of such a high status, respected individual. There also is some confusion in the historic record about when q́sap lived and what he did. There are at least three leaders in Puget Sound named Kitsap in the records of the middle 1800s, including the Suquamish Kitsap and a Muckleshoot Kitsap. The latter participated in attacks against American settlers in the Indian Wars of 1854 and 1855 and was killed in 1860. q́sap was not a signatory of the Treaty of Point Elliott in 1855, was not mentioned by Indian agents who surveyed tribes in 1847 and 1848, nor was he mentioned by the United States Exploring expedition surveyors in 1841. Therefore, he probably passed away before 1841. If so, he was probably in his seventies when he died, given an estimated birth date around 1760.
Suquamish elders recall q́sap as a strong, gruff, and not particularly friendly leader who led raids against other groups and who oversaw construction of the most recent dwelling at Old Man House, the largest documented long house site in Western Washington. Suquamish elders Sam Wilson and Jack Adams provided Suquamish accounts of how Old Man House was built. q́sap had a vision in which he would build a great longhouse behind the spit on Agate Passage. He directed Suquamish to dig out the marsh behind the spit and to transport logs to serve as support poles. q́sap invited all tribes in Puget Sound to help raise support timbers. Suquamish leaders had apartments in the central portion of the great structure. q́sap had an apartment painted in red and black, with two carved story poles. One pole was a soldier carrying a musket, a second was a gentleman wearing a silk hat and a frock coat, leading a small Indian child. Other living areas had story posts carved with the supernatural power of the family leader, including lizards, snakes, fish, sea mammals, and human figures.
Historians have speculated that the most recent form of Old Man House was built around 1815. George Vancouver did not describe Old Man House in the notes of his 1792 voyage, however his expedition also failed to map Agate Passage. Radiocarbon dating and projectile points from the archaeological site at Old Man House document occupations at the site going back over 2,000 years.
q́sap also is famous as a leader of Puget Sound groups who banded together to attack groups from Vancouver Island that had been raiding south into Southern Coast Salish territory, to take slaves, food stores, and other goods. There are two sets of accounts describing q́sap as a war leader. Suquamish elders Jack Adams and Sam Wilson recounted stories about a battle against the Cowichan people of Southern Vancouver Island on a sand spit near Victoria that q́sap led before 1840. William Fraser Tolmie indicated the attack occurred in 1825. If he was born around 1760, q́sap would have been 65 when he led the raid.
q́sap led 10 Suquamish canoes, each with 30 to 40 men, and met the Cowichan on a sand spit near Victoria as a Cowichan war party was heading south to attack the Skagit. Puget Sound Indians shot arrows at the Cowichan canoes as they tried to ram the Puget Sound canoes. q́sap took spears and rammed them into the Cowichan canoes, tipping them over, and then speared the warriors like fish. His warrior power let him catch arrows in his full, braided hair. He would reach up and grab the arrows from his hair and fire them back at the enemy. q́sap feinted retreat after retreat to lure Cowichan canoes after him. The Suquamish had bowmen in the stern and bow, while the rest of the men in the canoe pulled. The Cowichans only had a stern puller as all the men in the canoe dropped their paddles and used spears. q́sap would shoot the sternman in the Cowichan canoes and then attack.
Suquamish elder Sam Wilson recounted that q́sap became jealous of his uncle, who had accompanied him everywhere. He felt that his uncle was “feeling bigger than him” so he stabbed him to death. The Suquamish did not admire q́sap after he killed his uncle. q́sap was thus wary in his old age, fearful that people would desecrate his body after he died. When he became ill, he was protected by a small group at Port Madison, and when he died, he was secretly buried, probably in the Port Madison vicinity.
Without written historic accounts of q́sap, we can only estimate the year of his death. Based on William Fraser Tolmie’s recollections and evidence of a younger Suquamish leader, čaləqəm, taking the forefront in Hudson’s Bay Company records of the 1830s, q́sap probably died around 1830 or 1835, at the age of 70 or 75.
čiku (William Chico) was a leader of the šaktabš (Shaktabsh) Suquamish bands living along Dyes Inlet between the 1850s and 1910. The 1883 Washington Territorial Census for the Port Orchard District indicates William Chico was 40 years old and his occupation was woodsman, meaning logger. In 1883, he and his wife Mary had three children. American settlers were homesteading ancestral Indian lands around Dyes Inlet and forcing Indians off traditional camping, hunting, fishing, and clamming areas at that time. He took an English name when he renounced his tribal ties in the 1860s to become an American citizen, so he could purchase a portion of his ancestral lands. čiku was a large man, over six feet tall, thus his last name of Chico, which means small in Spanish, does not seem appropriate. Some have speculated that the Chico appellation is a phonetic spelling of the Chinook Jargon term “Chako Boston,” or becoming a citizen. Perhaps the best explanation is that Chico approximates his name in suq̓ʷabšucid, the Suquamish dialect of Southern Coast Salish Lushootseed language. Thus, his native name probably would have been čiku. The community of Chico and Chico Creek in Dyes Inlet are named after this Suquamish leader.
čiku’s land holding encompassed the mouth of Chico Creek and Erland’s Point, on the west side of Dyes Inlet. He and Steve Wilson, another native who took an English name to obtain a homestead on Erlands Point, led a group of 200 Indian People, including Suquamish and other local Puget Sound groups, who lived in the area after 1860. The Dyes Inlet people worked as loggers, as laborers in lumber mills, as fishermen, and as clammers.
čiku and Steve Wilson raised funds to construct a Catholic Church on Erland’s Point and in 1884 čiku donated land for the church and adjacent cemetery. The Erland’s Point Indian groups also built a longhouse that served as one of the last buildings associated with traditional smokehouse spiritual gatherings in the region.
Needing money for subsistence and to pay taxes, čiku and other Indian homesteaders took loans using their property as collateral or sold their land outright. When older Indian homesteaders died, the holder of the loans took over the properties. Through sales and foreclosures, most of the Indian lands in the area gradually passed to non-Indians in the early 1900s. čiku and other native people were respected members of the growing Dyes Inlet communities. čiku passed away in 1910. His death certificate lists Old Chico as his father, which supports the notion that čiku was a family name in suq̓ʷabšucid.
wahalču (Jacob Wahalchu) was an important Suquamish leader who helped the Tribe transition from pre-Treaty of Point Elliott times to the early 1900s.After obtaining his spirit power as a young man, wahalču married and became an important tribal personage. He was a signatory of the Treaty of Point Elliott in 1855 as a designated Suquamish Sub-Chief and assumed leadership of the Suquamish Tribe after siʔał’s death in 1866. wahalču replaced James Seattle, siʔał’s son, and he served as the last hereditary Suquamish chief. The wahalču lineage has been passed down to contemporary Suquamish families today through Julia Jacobs.
He provided important ethnographic information to Edward Curtis in the 1890s, helped build and maintain St. Peters Catholic Church in Suquamish, and was active in the Catholic Church. His descendants have served important roles in keeping Suquamish culture alive, in revitalizing the culture, and in Tribal government.