My First Reception in Seattle
B. F. Shaw Tells an Exciting Story of Indian Days on the Sand Spit. Transcribed verbatim from an undated [1904*] newspaper clipping in the Clarence Bagley papers, Box 17, Folder 8, ACC. 36, University of Washington Libraries.
Chief Sealth's Great Speech: Wondered That the White Men were Not Afraid of the Warriors:
It was in the latter part of the summer of 1850, that Col. Ebey, Mr. Kinsey and myself loaded a ship's long boat with provisions and a few other articles for exchange with the Indians, and started out from Olympia with the intention of exploring Whidbey's island and the bays and rivers on the east shore of what was then called the Puget Sound country, down as far as the British line. The first day we were fortunate to have a good wind, and so in the evening of that day we rounded Alki point and crossed to the east shore of Elliott bay.
On seeing an Indian village located on a large sand spit, which was alive with moving Indians, we ran in and landed. In less than a minute after our boat touched the sand, out they all came and rushed down to the beach, and such a whooping, such a jumping stiff-legged, such a shaking of knives and blankets and shooting off of guns, I had never seen before. Then a large, middle-aged Indian, with a very wide head, came out and stood on a log that was partly buried in the sand. He had with him a young Indian for an interpreter, as he could not speak the Chinook language. He spoke to us as follows:
So when his fine speech was ended, he applauded with a great whoor-r-r-r-r -, and indicated to us that we were to speak in return.
As neither of the other gentlemen could speak Chinook it fell to my lot to answer him. So mounting upon the bow of the boat, and after feeling to see if my scalp was still there, I proceeded to make my maiden speech, which was as follows:
So I ended my first speech, and if their chief had received great applause, I certainly received an ovation.
After this we alighted on the beach and built a fire and made ready to prepare our supper. We finished our meal, and then one of the minor chiefs of one of the inferior tribes came down and invited us to come up to the chief's house and witness a great war dance which was to be given in honor of our arrival.
We walked up the beach to the high ground where a long, low shed of a house stood. It was built of split cedar boards and was about 200 feet long, by 40 feet wide. In the interior of this house were long rows of bunks, which lined each side of the building, and a large space was left open in the middle, in which fires were built by the different families for cooking. When we entered these fires were being cleared away in order that the space might be left open for the ceremony. We were ushered by a young chief to the center of the building and were invited to sit upon a raised platform - which was covered with clean mats - by the side of the great Sealt and his sub chiefs.
We had just become comfortably seated, when the orchestra, which consisted of five naked Indians, who beat upon large, flat deerskin drums, and who were painted with the insignia of their profession, came in and took their positions just opposite us on the ground. They beat their drums wildly and began to sing in their weird and excited way.
They filed in a grand body, a procession of four or five hundred Indians, painted in war costume. Some were painted with representations of the bear, the cougar, the deer, the otter, the beaver, the eagle, the gray wolf and various other animals, while others had such as the canoe builder, the arrow maker and all of their other occupations.
The drums struck up more furiously than ever, and this great throng, dressed only in breechclouts, commenced moving in time to the beating of the drums and singing their weird song, which was: Ha-ha-we-ah - ha-ha-ha we-ah - ena-ena-ha - Wena-wena-ha - wiena-ha - whoop-whoop-whoo-o-o-o. On they came carrying knives, guns, bows and arrows, spears and paddles, rattles and strings of little bells. Some were bending low in imitation of the bear and other four-footed animals, while others jumped in the air and waved their arms in imitation of the wild goose and the eagle. Such contortions and movements would lay in the shade all modern contortionists. Up and around they came, keeping time to the beating of the drums, and only stopping for a moment now and then to allow some brave to relate his great exploits of how he had killed the bear or the enemy, when again the din would begin louder than ever and the dancing faster and more furious, until they were fairly wet with perspiration. Then they ended with a great war whoop, and when the curtain fell, the odor of dirty Indians and smoked salmon was so strong that we were glad to get outside and breathe the untainted air again.
After we were outside we were informed by the interpreter that they had another surprise in store for us, which was the initiation of a new Tamanewas man. Fires were built in two lines running down to the water and Indians took their positions on each side. This Tamanewas man was supposed to have gone out in the woods and there met the great Tamanewas, who had inspired him with the halk-sko-lala-toot Tamanewas (big luck medicine man). Here he came, tearing down the line, rolling and tumbling, snapping and biting and frothing at the mouth and emitting a sound that resembled the howl of the sea lion. The lines of Indians fell back, as his bite was supposed to be deadly. Away he went down the line and finally brought up in the bay, where he stood biting pieces of flesh out of his own body and swallowing them. There he remained until he seemed to be entirely exhausted. Then his friends carried him up to his medicine house and laying him on his medicine mat left him to dream of the many battles he was to have with the disease, in all of which he was to be the conqueror. Thus ended my first reception in Seattle.
- (QUAITLITCH) B. F. SHAW
*Clipping includes a photograph of the California Building at the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair.