1. The Legendary Tableau
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CHAPTER 1 TheLegendaryTableau CHIBF SBATTLB has become world famous in this century for a long and moving speech he made in the 1850s. just before his lands were taken from him and his people. According to a printed account that appeared many years later, Governor Isaac A. Stevens spoke first, outlining the general terms of a proposed treaty. Then Seattle towered over the little governor and spoke extensively . seeing prophetically into the future of his region and even into the global dilemmas in which we now live. Ayoung doctor , HenryA. Smith. took notes as the speech was being translated on the spot; it was his version that appeared in the late 1880s. Since then. the speech has circulated more widely in official and popular histories of the city of Seattle and its region. More recently . it has been reprinted and widely broadcastas a challenging admonition against modern industrialization, pollution, imperialism , and civilized folly. In various versions its language has been quoted. excerpted. and repeated in speeches. broadcasts, films. pamphlets, and children's books. It has become known worldwide as a treasure of indigenous American wisdom. Again and again the speech has been presented as a symbolic encounter between indigenous America, represented by Chief Seattle. and industrialized or imperialist America, represented by Governor Stevens. The speech has seemed to record the voice ofan Indian ofthe far wilderness protesting against the claims of westward-marching power and usurpation. It seems to pit truth against injustice and wisdom against willful blindness. and to resonate througlt the decades with ever-more-evident depths of 3 "--'" THB SPBBCH AND ITS SBTTING ~ prophetic accuracy. It also seems to promise that ancient ways will persist and prevail despite the temporary and illusory victories ofnineteenth-century invasion and development. Many readers are aware that the drama ofthe speech has been heightened and amplified in recent years. Encounters ofthe 1850S and printed records of the 1880s and 1890S have been altered to fit modem circumstances. In 1987. a German scholar named Rudolph Kaiser was able to trace several versions of the speech that lay behind its great modem vogue in Europe and around the world. He presented four different, loosely related versions: Smith's original publication, which first appeared in 1887: a 1969 translation made by William Arrowsmith, from Smith's "Victorian " language into modem English; a new speech. based on Arrowsmith's. but freely composed by Ted Perry in 1970-71 for an ecological filmscript: and an adaptation of Perry's speech. made into an inscription at the Spokane World's Fair in 1974. Out of these sources, the speech had become a token ofthe modem ecology movement. Later articles have revealed that even Kaiser's carefully printed versions are not quite accurate or complete. In 1989 Ted Perry reprinted his own version ofthe speech. with a briefexplanation of how itwas taken over and revised for a television film. Around the same time an extensive review of the whole problem was undertaken for a documentaryradio broadcast in California. The resulting script, by Daniel J. Miller and Patricia R. Miller, includes an annotated bibliography ofeighty-six items. This study brings out a complicated history of textual transmission, with subtle and puzzling variations between the time of Smith's first publication in 1887 and the widespread Arrowsmith-Perry-television versions ofthe 19708. Furthermore. some perplexing questions haunt the seemingly 4 ~ 1: THB LEGENDARY TABLEAU t.--J "authentic" version, too - the one published in 1887 by Henry A. Smith. based on his records and recollections. No manuscripts or notes of this speech have ever come to light. No witnesses or records corroborate his account. Smith directly states that his version is an imperfect rendering of a speech he heard through translation. some thirty-three years or more before he put it into print. What any current reader can study therefore is at best an echo of Chief Seattle's words and ideas. or. at worst. an account woven from faulty memory. imperfect notes. or pure fabulation. Nevertheless. the legend ofSeattle and his speech remains irrepressible . It appears in dozens of publications. including widely respected histories. collections of American documents. and anthologies ofAmerican literature.To be sure. many recent anthologies have deleted it or reprinted it with notes ofcaution. but to the historian it still presents an intriguing example of how a story or an idea can persist in the face of overwhelming evidence that should demolish it. To the student of literature it presents a no less sobering instance of the...


Subject Headings

  • Puget Sound Region (Wash.) -- History.
  • Suquamish Indians -- History.
  • Speeches, addresses, etc., Suquamish.
  • Seattle, -- Chief, 1790-1866 -- Oratory.
  • Human ecology.
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