Talk:Chief Seattle's Speech

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Edition: H. A. Smith, "Early Reminiscences. Number Ten. Scraps From a Diary. Chief Seattle – A Gentleman by Instinct – His Native Eloquence. Etc., Etc." Seattle Sunday Star, October 29, 1887, p. 3. [UW Microforms Newspapers, Uncat. no. 212 reel 1.] Lacunae filled in from Frederic James Grant, History of Seattle, Washington; With Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Some of Its Prominent Men and Pioneers, (NY: American Publishing and Engraving Co, Publishers, 1891): 433-436. [UW Special Collections Reference 979.743 G76]
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From, published 1881/1897 Linked to from wikipedia:Chief Seattle on Wikipedia. -- 00:33, 12 November 2007 (UTC)Reply



Technically, this speak is attributed to Sealth, but Sealth never spoke it. This text was created by Henry A. Smith many years later, from Smith's notes, as a translation of a speech Sealth gave in his native language. Rewinn 04:31, 19 July 2008 (UTC)Reply

Thanks. We normally record Smith's role as a translator. From the Wikipedia article, it looks like the original speech uttered in Lushootseed is lost; Wikipedia says it was translated into Chinook Indian trade language -- is that also lost? John Vandenberg (chat) 06:17, 19 July 2008 (UTC)Reply
Not even a translator, but a fabricator who was not listed among those present at the event, and who evidently created the alleged "speech" out of whole cloth.
  • From “Chief Seattle’s” famous speech?:
    The tiny newspaper that published Smith’s “Chief Seattle” was the first place that ever mentioned it. As Jerry Clark of the National Archives and Records Administration and other experts point out, other than this newspaper article, we have no evidence that Chief Seattle ever gave this speech. Smith was an amateur poet and his “Chief Seattle” speech sounds suspiciously like his own poetry. Also, his speech emphasizes a theme that was popular among European Americans in the late 19th century—the inevitable disappearance of American Indians.
  • From Thus Spoke Chief Seattle: The Story of An Undocumented Speech, U.S. National Archives Prologue Magazine, Spring 1985, Vol. 18, No. 1 (the Jerry Clark citation above):
    There apparently were only three occasions between 1853 and 1856 when Isaac Stevens visited the Seattle area and could have witnessed the speech of Seattle reported by Dr. Smith.  Nothing much is known about Stevens's initial visit in January 1854; it is listed, as a brief stop during a sailing tour of Puget Sound.  Two months later, Stevens rushed to the area at the head of a detachment of troops in search of Indians who had murdered a settler.  During a tense meeting with Seattle and Chief Patkanan of the Snoqualmies, Stevens introduced himself and explained the purpose of his visit.  Surveyor George Gibbs later recalled that "Seattle made a great speech declaring his good disposition toward the whites."  Was this the oration recorded by Dr. Smith?  Apparently not, because another local citizen, Luther Collins, served as a translator into Chinook, the trade language of the Puget Sound tribes, and an Indian in turn translated into the local tongue.  Obviously, Dr. Smith and his language skills could not have been available to Stevens during this important confrontation.  In fact, Dr. Smith is not listed among those present at this council. [This last sentence is sourced to "Records of the Washington Superintencency, 1853-74, NARA Microfilm Publication M5, roll 23".]
Though popular along with the other, unquestionably fabricated texts attributed to Seathl, this is certainly equally imaginary. It should not be presented here as historical, or even as a flowery version of anything Seathl might have said. --Thnidu
The matter is discussed is a fair amount of detail here at the National Archives, where - for the reasons stated there - it is regarded as not being historical at all.