Framing Chief Leschi
Narratives and the Politics of Historical Justice
Publication Year: 2014
Published by: The University of North Carolina Press
Title Page, Copyright Page
I was a graduate student in Minnesota in 2005 when the story in the New York Times caught my eye. A Nisqually Indian leader had been symbolically exonerated of the charge of murder nearly 150 years after his execution. The full name of the event—the Historical Court of Inquiry and Justice— suggested that a group of people sought out the truth and, through...
My research in South Puget Sound was greatly aided by the generosity of scholars, archivists, tribal members, and others who were inspired by Chief Leschi and loved to talk about his story. At the University of Minnesota, Karissa White shared her research on Leschi when I was in the...
On a gray and rainy Christmas day in 1854, U.S. officials received several Native headmen and hundreds of Indian spectators at the treaty council grounds on the bank of She-Nah-Nam Creek, known to the Americans as Medicine Creek. The council brought together settlers, territorial officials, and Nisqually, Puyallup, Squaxin Island, and other Native peoples...
Chapter 1: Colonialism
Mary Robnett, a lawyer for the respondents in the Historical Court, began her opening statement by reflecting on the role of law in society: “[The rule of law] is really the core of our democracy, it’s the core of our civilization, our self-rule.” Although social mores and political imperatives may...
Chapter 2: Law and War
As the petitioners in the Historical Court of Justice well understood, legality is the basis for legitimacy. The best way to present their case for Leschi’s exoneration was not to question the fairness of the legal system that produced Leschi’s conviction. Rather, the petitioners’ lawyers would...
Chapter 3: Leschi Stories
Cynthia Iyall, the first Native American representative to take the stand in the Historical Court of Justice, talked about the importance of the exoneration process to the descendants of Chief Leschi. Iyall first named her ancestors back to Leschi’s half sister and then pointedly said: “After hearing this story told by our elders with great anger and frustration, we...
Chapter 4: The Leschi Message
On the witness stand in the Historical Court of Justice, Billy Frank Jr. drew a direct connection between Leschi’s actions in the 1850s and the work of Nisqually leaders and elders in 2004. “If Leschi was alive today,” he told the judges and audience, “he’d be doing what we do as Indian people— teaching our language, our culture and way of life, praying and doing...
Chapter 5: Performing Justice
On December 10, 2004, the basement auditorium of the Washington State Historical Society took on the theatrical accoutrements of a courtroom. The judges, witnesses, and lawyers played their parts in appropriate dress. A panel of seven robed judges sat at the makeshift bench, and the legal teams for the petitioners and the respondents sat at tables. Some witnesses...
Chapter 6: Haunting
“You know how certain things go on in life and you kind of know that they happened, but it’s still sort of untouched?” asked Peggy McCloud, a teacher and cultural programs coordinator at Chief Leschi Elementary School, when I interviewed her in 2007. “It’s kind of like the unspoken...
Courts of law (even symbolic ones) offer participants the possibility of vindication: the sense that one’s stories can be endorsed as truth, that one’s conception of fairness can be affirmed as just. Courts draw upon principles and rules that reflect society’s ideals and can therefore act as a...
Illustrations: 13 halftones, 1 map
Publication Year: 2014
OCLC Number: 875124103
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Framing Chief Leschi