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Medicine Creek
Credit: Mark Lembersky, Seattle, WA

The Treaty was signed at this spot on the Nisqually Delta.

The Story of the First Treaty Signed in Washington

Maria Pascualy and Cecelia Carpenter

In 1998 the Medicine Creek Treaty, which is housed at the National Archives in Washington D.C., came home for the first time since it was signed in 1854. It was the key artifact of the exhibit REMEMBERING MEDICINE CREEK, curated by us with great assistance from historian Clifford Trafzer. The exhibit opened at the Washington State History Museum in Tacoma with a full house of South Sound peoples coming to see their treaty. Non-Indian people also came and it was apparent that the entire community had a great hunger to know more about our shared Indian past. This booklet is an outgrowth of that exhibit. It may be the first of a series of booklets. Our intent is to tell some stories about the treaty council and invite readers to dig deeper into those areas that speak to them personally. We are honored that you have taken the time to read our words.

Maria Pascualy, Seattle, WA ( Cecelia Carpenter, Tacoma, WA (

Copyright ©2005 by Fireweed Press. All Rights Reserved. ISBN 0-9772528-0-9

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Nisqually, Puyallup and Squaxin people believe they were created where they live and that they have always lived where they were created. The pioneer traces his roots in Washington back a hundred years, Indian people trace back thousands of years. Indian people survived for thousands of years because they had a deeply intimate and encyclopedic understanding of their environment. Most important of all was the spiritual connection, which tied people to the specific rivers and prairies that emerged at the time of creation. Their ancestors’ bones rest in these lands.

Nettle: Leaves, stems, rootseach plant part had a use. Processed nettle bark, for example, was woven into fish nets. Indian plant knowledge encompassed the entire life cycle of the plant, and the environment in which it thrived. Plants and creatures also bestowed power on humans.

Spring Salmon and Steelhead
Long ago both the steelheads and spring salmon used to run in the South Fork of the Puyallup River, but they fell into a dispute and a fight over which should have the river to himself in the future. In the outcome Spring Salmon was victor and he took from Steelhead all his possessions: his canoe, his paddles, his pole and even his clothes. Steelhead was left without anything at all with which to make his way back to his home in the Sound. Spring Salmon had even taken his bones. So Steelhead turned to and made for himself bones of yew wood. From yew he also made his clothes. This is why the skin of the steelhead is so tough. Then from the same wood he made a canoe and paddles, and started back to the bay. But before going he thus addresses Spring Salmon, “You have vanquished me and you may now toss your big head all you please as you make your way up the river.” Related by Jack Jonah (Puyallup)

Puyallup people called what became the Tacoma waterway Towadsham or “fording place.” White ownership meant the destruction of wetlands where Puyallups hunted duck and gathered clams. “Improvements” created the city skyline, and an industrial zone that sits on fill. Improvements also created bottom fish with liver tumors.
Image: Postcard of Tacoma waterfront, circa 1930s.


There were many different tribes or bands of Indian people living in the South Sound prior to treaty times. Today three groups are recognized as the descendants of the original people who signed the treaty. These people are the Nisqually, the Puyallup and the Squaxin Nations.
The Nisqually (People of the Squally River) lived in thirteen villages located along fresh water streams and salt-water beaches. Nisqually were fishermen and horsemen. The white cities of Olympia, Dupont, Yelm and Elbe stand on the site of Nisqually villages. The usual and accustomed gathering places of the Nisqually extended throughout the drainage system of the Nisqually River and reached from the Cowlitz on the south to the Puyallup on the north. They extended far into the foothills of Mt. Rainier on the eastern flanks, and the salt-water beaches of the Lower Puget Sound and its adjacent islands on the western side. The Puyallup People lived along the Puyallup and White River, including the present site of Tacoma.They also occupied Vashon Island. The main village was situated on the north bank of the Puyallup River. There was a continuous line of settlement from the present day headquarters of the Frank Russell Company to Stadium High School overlooking Commencement Bay. On the banks of the Foss Waterway in Tacoma stood a great plank house. There were also village sites at Brown’s Point and Point Defiance. Numerous villages were scattered over the prairie north of Puyallup. The Squaxin Island People are “People of the Water”-- the water or inlets from which they sustain their life. The treaty reserved the island of Klah-Che-Min as homelands for the Inlet people who today are known as the Squaxin Island Tribe.

Yelm Jim’s Fish Weir: Traditional Indian fishing practices insured that the salmon would thrive and return. Fish traps or weirs were removed to allow the salmon to continue to the spawning grounds once enough was harvested for the entire group. Fish was a vital source of protein for Indian people, as well as for the first white arrivals who were dependent on Indian food supplies. Yelm Jim, had use rights to this fishing site, and was one of the men who signed the Medicine Creek treaty. Credit: Washington State Archives, Olympia, WA. 5

On December 26, 1854, Ancestors of present day Puyallup, Nisqually, and Squaxin people, signed the Medicine Creek Treaty On December 26, 1854,but officially ceded and reluctantly Puyallup, 2,500,000 acres of Nisqually homelands in and Squaxin people, Western Washington.
signed the Medicine Creek Treaty and reluctantly but officially ceded 2, 500,000 acres of homelands in Western Washing-

Today, the Medicine Creek Treaty is a symbol of Indian history, identity and power.


l This is the treaty tree.

MEDICINE CREEK COUNCIL GROUNDS. This is where the treaty was signed, on the traditional gathering place of the Nisqually people. The treaty tree, now a snag, marks the location where a grove of Douglas Fir once stood. Indian men, women and children camped here, met with the Americans and learned about the treaty.
Photo Credit: Mark Lembersky, 1994

This Washington Department of Transportation photo shows the construction of Interstate highway I-5 bisecting the Council Grounds.

Today you can catch a glimpse of the Council Grounds from your car. The red dot marks the spot where the treaty was held on the south side of the Nisqually delta in Thurston County. It takes about 30 minutes from downtown Tacoma. Look for a green highway marker.


Treaty Tree Visit, 1930: Pioneer Ezra Meeker

first saw the tree in 1894, guided by Chief Steilacoom. Meeker described the visit in a letter to historian Clarence Bagley(left) in 1919. A new found sentimental interest in the Indian past resulted in the erection of markers and plaques, such as the one on the treaty tree.
Map: ©1996 by Jan Halliday and Gail Chehak. All rights reserved. By permission of Sasquatch Books.
Credit: University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections, UW24657z.

What a Treaty Council Looks Like
Between 1778 and 1868, three hundred sixty-seven treaties between Indians and the United States were signed and ratified. The first was with the Delaware and the last with the Nez Perce. The Nisqually, Puyallup, and Squaxin people signed the Medicine Creek Treaty and became part of a general pattern of land acquisition by the United States through treaties.
Hazard Stevens (right), the son of the chief treaty negotiator for the United States, Isaac Stevens, was thirteen when he attended the treaty council. Hazard, a white child, was allowed to sign the treaty alongside adult Indian leaders. Below is an excerpt of Hazard’s reconstruction of the treaty council.

December 24…Seven hundred Indians of the tribes dwelling upon the upper Sound as far down as the Puyallup River, including the Nisqually, Puyallup and Squaxon tribes, were encamped near by. It rained nearly all day. In the afternoon the Indians drove a large band of ponies across the creek, forcing them to swim. .. December 25…On the following day the Indians assembled, taking seats on the ground in front of the council tent in semi-circular rows, and the objects and point of the proposed treaty were explained to them, the governor would utter a sentence in simple and clear language, and Colonel Shaw would interpret it in the Chinook jargon which nearly all the Indians understood. December 26..The treaty was then read, section by section and explained to the Indians, and every opportunity given them to discuss it…The Indians had some discussion and Governor Stevens then asked the question: “Are you ready? if so I will sign it.”…

Treaty Councils were held outside and lasted several days. There are no drawings of the Medicine Creek Treaty Council but it probably looked like this one held on the Chehalis River. Credit: James Swan, The Northwest Coast, 1857.

The Donation Land Claim Act, passed in 1850, guaranteed tracts of land in the Oregon Country (which included present day Washington) to all male citizens of the United States. Indians could not become citizens so they did not qualify for tracts of their own land.


All Property is Theft
The “ritual” of treaty making was repeated through out North America until indigenous people gave up all legal title to their lands. The Medicine Creek Treaty, signed in 1854, came at the end of a centuries old national treaty making process in the United States. It was the first treaty signed in what is now Washington State.
William Penn’s treaty with the Delaware in 1686 was commonly depicted in schoolbooks (left) soon after the event. In 1737 Penn’s descendants apparently misplaced the treaty and were not able to convince young Delawares that a treaty was indeed ever signed. Anthropologist Nancy Shoemaker describes elderly white men testifying as to what happened in 1686 and Indians refusing to believe without paperwork in hand. Finally, after actions considered deceitful by the Delaware, the Penn relations commissioned America’s most famous painter at the time, Benjamin West, to document the Penn family’s oral account of the treaty. The treaty document was never found.

Indian Property
Indian notions of property were different than those of Americans. Land was not property. Land was not bought and sold--it was the source of life. However families or villages did possess use rights to discrete locations and could grant use rights to others. American had a difficult time understanding that the Indian relationship with the land went beyond possession and sustenance to spirituality. The idea of property did exist, but not in terms of land. Inheritable property, for example, canoes, slaves, horses, shell money and plank houses were never destroyed, not even in raids. The destruction of inheritable property triggered generations-long blood feuds. During the treaty wars the militia and the army both purposely destroyed Indian horses. Anthropologist Jay Miller is researching incidents of settlers purposely burning inhabited Indian plank houses on desirable land. Miller identifies the community of Minter, (across the water from Tacoma), as the location of one especially tragic case resulting in the death of Indian people.

Right: Nisqually Giveaway at Alderton, WA , 1910. Alice James, seated at table with kerchief, traditionally honors the memory of her deceased father by giving away gifts (money, cloth) to others and hosting a communal meal. Wealth was still measured in what could be distributed out into the community.


The Oral Treaty
Treaty Councils followed Indian protocol and usually lasted several days. Food was eaten, presents distributed and relationships renewed. Men, women and children were in attendance, as well as visitors and honored guests from other areas. Councils were ceremonial events. Isaac Stevens, the chief negotiator for the United States disappointed the Indians with his informal dress- he arrived in a red flannel shirt, pants tucked in his boots, and a pipe shoved in his hat band. His men, also informally dressed, distributed poor giftsjew’s harps and molasses. Stevens seemed rushed. Two days of “talking” was more than enough to a man from a culture where the written word trumped the spoken word. Indian people did not have a written language. Indian culture was oral. It was essential that everything to be included in the written treaty document first get voiced and heard by everyone in attendance. For Indians everything that was discussed and agreed upon at the Council became part of the oral treaty and only what was discussed was remembered as part of the treaty. For the Americans only what was written down and documented mattered. The different weight placed on the spoken word led to deep disagreements, that last up to today, regarding what was originally discussed and agreed upon at the treaty council.

John Hiaton, Nisqually, one of the signers of the Medicine Creek Treaty. Hiaton lived on the Puyallup

Reservation. Despite the creation of reservations, Indians in the South Sound continued to move freely, working as laborers, housekeepers and field hands. Later on many became professionals- businessmen and teachers. Indian people had always been flexible and enterprising. It was the settler population that had a limited view of Indian people. Credit:
Myron Eells Collection, Whitman College, Walla Walla, WA.

Reserved rights refer to rights Indian people never gave up. They are rights reserved by them.

The Medicine Creek Treaty was modelled after

the treaty with the Omaha, but included three unique provisions. The first prohibited trade on Vancouver Island; the second required that all Indian slaves be freed; and the third reserved the right of the treaty signers to fish at their “usual and accustomed places”. Some consider article three of the treaty a shrewd concession by Stevens to the Indians, who considered fishing the heart of their economy. Correspondence from Stevens suggests this may have been a strategy used by the governor to keep costs down as Indians could continue to feed themselves rather than be fed by the American government. Still others suggest the local members of the Treaty Commission may have pointed out that Indians were important suppliers of salmon and shellfish to the whites. Moreover if the U.S. allowed Indians off reservation, their labor would still be available to the white minority. Hazard Stevens, who attended the Council with his father, indicated it was George Gibbs, another member of the Treaty Commission, who suggested the clause. Although Gibbs may indeed have championed this cost saving idea it seems logical that the request would have come from Indian people. British and American accounts attest to Indian skill at negotiating, and who else would most strongly agitate to maintain resources upon which they depended for survival than the Indians themselves?

As land ownership passed from one nation to another, a trust relationship was created. It is this trust relationship, this ‘honor between nations’ that Indian people see as a sacred pact in which the U.S. government promised to protect their reserved rights and their identity as a “dependent nation” in exchange for their homelands.


It is estimated that over half of the indigenous peoples of Puget Sound died between 1780 and 1840 due to diseases unintentionally transmitted by British and American traders, explorers, and settlers. In 1854, at the time of the Medicine Creek treaty, there were approximately 4,000 Outsiders and 12,000 Indians living in Washington Territory. The psychological effects of the unexplained deaths of grandparents, much beloved children, and entire villages was devastating. In cultures dependant on oral tradition, the death of elders, (the historians of the tribe) as well as the spiritual leaders and healers, meant the decline of Indian society. For indigenous people who did not have a scientific understanding of disease, large numbers of death appeared to be the work of powerful and uncontrollable forces. At the time of the treaty Indian people had already experienced devastating losses.

1848 Monday, Feb 5- Brought home three cows to give milk to the Indian babies, their mothers, ill with the measles, having none and the poor children almost starving. Made a bottle with a cow’s horn to feed them with. Sunday Feb 6- Visited and gave provision to the sick [Indians], the number of which is daily increasing. Great difficulty preventing them from going into the cold water... Tuesday 8th-Made biscuits and visited the sick.... Received note [from Dr. Tolmie] saying the typhus fever was raging at Vancouver causing many deaths.
From the journal of Joseph Heath, an Englishman, who farmed at Nisqually from 1844 to 1849. He died of an undiagnosed heart ailment on his farm.


The Family Tree of a Native Washingtonian: Cecelia Carpenter

Descendants of the original owners this land, W-gton, are stillCecelia here. They have deep roots and great-great-grandfresh family grandmother great-grandmother mother, of Edna Svinth. . member, Nisqually Nation memories of a time before the treaty, before Americans colonized Sound. It’s only been 150 years since the Ross Binder. the South mother Quaton. Catherine Tumalt Medicine Creek treaty was signed. Ross. Cecelia Carpenter, Nisqually, (far left) at age 17, just before she married Marvin, a cowboy from Wyoming. Mrs. Carpenter became active in tribal politics in 1946, after attending a meeting to discuss the writing of the Nisqually Constitution. Mrs. Carpenter is the first Nisqually to write a history of her people. The second photograph is of Mrs. Carpenter’s mother, Edna Svinth (1887-1963). She married a Danish Lutheran minister in Tacoma and was mother to thirteen children. Edna grew up on the Pierce County side of the Nisqually Reservation. This part of the reservation, including the family home, was appropriated by the government in 1917 to create Ft. Lewis. Mrs. Carpenter’s grandmother, Cecelia Ross Binder (1857-1888) is in the oval photo. She attended Cushman Indian School in Puyallup and married a German by the name of John L. Binder. She lived in Spanaway until she died at age 31 in childbirth. Mrs. Carpenter’s great-grandmother, Catherine Tumalt Ross (1834-1917) stands for her portrait. Catherine worked as a day laborer at Fort Nisqually. She married Charlie Ross, a half-blood employee of the Puget Sound Agricultural Company. She and her husband chose to move to the Nisqually Reservation. Charlie Ross farmed and worked for the Indian Agency. Quaton, Cecelia’s great-great-grandmother was probably born n 1820. She was a day laborer at Ft. Nisqually and was married to “Louis the Iroquois.” Quaton’s descendants have always lived in what we now call Washington state.

Cecelia Carpenter, enrolled

Cecelia Carpenter’s

Cecelia Carpenter’s

Cecelia Carpenter’s

Cecelia Carpenter’s


SQUATTER DAYS on Puget Sound
The first squatters in the South Sound were the employees of the British Hudson Bay Company. They came to trade in 1833. Some were English,
Scottish, others were Métis from the Red River settlements in Canada, and still others were Hawaiians. Many of these men allied themselves with the local Indian people through marriage. In England squatting was against the law. However, squatting, occupying a plot of land for a long period without legal title, became a popular and extra-legal strategy in the vast Indian lands of America. After the American Revolution the federal government unsuccessfully attempted to control squatting, often using the military to keep settlers out of Indian country. In 1830 Congress placated western interests and passed the first preemption statute that in effect rewarded squatting. The squatter could now legally claim and purchase land before it was publicly offered. By 1841 a preemption act was passed that permitted settlers to stake a claim of 160 acres and after about 14 months of residence to purchase it from the government for as little as $1.25 an acre. Promotional material and guide books were written encouraging migration to Oregon, (which encompassed present day Washington), where “free land” was available. “Free land” which legally still belonged to the Indians. The influx of squatters put more pressure on the United States to legally acquire title to the land from the tribes through treaty making.

Americans arrived over a decade later, interested in land rather than trade. Their government wanted to colonize the South Sound. The Americans selected the best Indian land and waited for a treaty to be signed so they could acquire legal title to their claims. The British had a tense relationship with the Americans who squatted on what they considered Company land. The Americans resented British-Indian ties and accused the British of plotting against them with the Indians. On this map you see the names of some of those squatters- McAllister, Packwood, Shazer, Balance and the British owned Puget Sound Agricultural Company. James McAllister signed the Medicine Creek Treaty. Map Credit: Delbert McBride

Dr. William Fraser Tolmie, HBC physician and company officer lived at Ft. Nisqually. Like many HBC men, he married locally-a mixed blood woman- and settled in Canada. Their youngest son, Simon Fraser, became Premier of Canada in 1928.
Credit: University of Washington, Special Collections, neg. Curtis 59953.

SQUATTER A person who occupies property without a claim of right or title

English soldiers in Ireland carrying the heads of decapitated Irish Catholics. Credit: John Derricke, The Image of Ireland, originally published in 1581.

Some historians suggest troubled settlerIndian relations in North America can be traced to the brutal colonization of Ireland by the English in the 16th century. All subsequent English “discoveries” and colonial encounters mirror this story of coercion and conquest. Americans are considered heirs of the English system of rule. Others point out that the British and the Americans in the 1800s were both “invaders” but Indian relations with Hudson Bay Company men seemed better than those with Americans. The Company encouraged marriage alliances with Indian trading partners and the Company was willing to work within the Indian legal system. However, even the “openminded” British seemed to generally view most Indian people, at best, as a potential servant class. White prejudice, (American or English) meant little to Indian people until whites militarily overwhelmed Indian country and whites outnumbered Indians. After the treaty, white “superiority” meant settlers in territorial Washington felt safe applying their own forms of justice by beating or lynching Indians for perceived wrong-doings. The official American legal system also treated Indians and whites differently, thus sanctioning prejudice against Indian people.
An Act to Regulate the Practice and Proceedings in Civil Actions, Article XXXI, Section 293, passed April 28, 1854, Washington Territory. The following persons shall not be competent to testify: 1. Those who are of unsound mind, or intoxicated at the time of their production for examination. 2. Children under ten years of age, who appear incapable of receiving just impressions of the facts, respecting which they are examined, or of relating them truly. 3. Indians or person having more than on-half Indian blood, in an action or proceeding to which a white man is a party.

In 1863 the act was amended to include : Negroes or Chinamen in actions or proceedings to which a white person is a party. In 1873 this act was finally reversed.



Areas Ceded by Western Washington Indian Treaties. Map Courtesy of Native American Solidarity Committee.

This map shows the series of treaties negotiated with Indian Nations in what is now Washington State. The dotted lines show the land the Indians ceded and the dark areas show the land reserved by Indian nations. Reserved land is land that was never ceded to the United States. It is land that has been in Indian hands for thousands of years.
Isaac Stevens held six treaty councils across the Pacific Northwest to the Missouri River and terminated Indians rights to over 64 million acres of land.


Map Credit: Ellen Hicks, Columbia River Reader, 1992, Editor, William L. Lang.

American settlement in Puget Sound was facilitated by the development of military roads and the construction of garrisons and forts. Military roads were usually laid over traditional Indian paths. Fort and garrisons were constructed in the middle of Indian villages or close to Indian settlements. The militarization of the South Sound area was preparatory to the expected influx of large numbers of American settlers after the treaty. Quantification and tabulation of the natural environment by men like treaty negotiator Isaac Stevens in his comprehensive Pacific Railroad Survey Report included quantification of the Indian people. Stevens wanted to know how many Indians were in the area and where they lived. The land was described and assessed as to its extractive potential in terms of mining, logging or fishing. Many of the American treaty negotiators, including Isaac Stevens, Gibbs, Shaw, and Simmons, had speculative real estate investments in Washington. Stevens wrote that he had bought “a fine tract of half a section, 320 acres, six miles SW of Olympia in the northwestern corner of Bush Prairie.”

Fort Lewis: 2/3 of Nisqually reservation lands were appropriated by the government in 1917 and turned into Fort Lewis, aptly named after the white culture hero, Meriwether Lewis. Today, the land, (part of which is a firing range), represents the largest tract of relatively undisturbed wetland, forest and prairie in the Puget Sound lowlands.
Image: Postcard, 1940, Entrance to Ft. Lewis.


The Daily Record of the Treaty Commission
James Doty, Secretary to the Treaty Commission, Olympia, kept this record of the Medicine Creek Treaty.

Dec. 24th Governor Stevens left Olympia and proceeded to the Treaty Ground on the She-nah-num or Medicine Creek. Dec.25th The programme of the Treaty was fully explained to the Indians present. At the evening session of the Commission, the draft of the proposed Treaty was read, and after a full discussion of the provisions by the gentleman present, viz: Messrs. Simmons, Gibbs and Doty it was ordered to be endorsed and is as follows:
Here comes in the treaty, in the Records, but the original document having been forwarded to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs it is omitted in this copy of the minutes. Dec 26th. Treaty Ground. Present Gov. I.I. Stevens, Commissioner, Hon. C. H. Mason, Secretary of the Territory; Mr. Doty, Secretary of the Commission, Mr. George Gibbs, Surveyor, Lieutenant. WA Slaughter, USA Colonel, MT Simmons, Special agent and Frank Shaw, Interpreter. About 9 o’clock the Indians assembled to the number of 638 and Gov. Stevens addressed them as follows: This is a great day for you and for us. A day of peace and Friendship for you and for the whites for all time to come. You are about to be paid for your lands, and the Great Father has sent me today to treat with you regarding the payment.

The Great Father lives far off. He has many children; some of them came here when he knew but little of them or the Indians, and he has sent me to inquire into these things. We went through this country last year, learned your numbers and saw your wants. We felt much for you and went to the Great father to tell him what we had seen. The Great Father felt for his children- he pitied them, and he has sent me here today, to express those feelings, and to make a treaty for your benefit. --The treaty was then read section by section and explained by the Interpreter, and every opportunity given them to discuss it…. The Indians had some discussion & Gov. Stevens then put the question. Are you ready, if so I will sign it? There were no objections made and the treaty was then signed….

The Chief Treaty Negotiator for the United States
Territorial Governor Isaac Stevens was the chief treaty negotiator for the United States. Educated at West Point, Stevens was an experienced military officer and enthusiastic advocate of western expansion. During the Mexican-American war, in the Siege of Vera Cruz, Stevens participated in the month long bombing of a civilian population. The attack and eventual surrender facilitated the appropriation of vast areas of land for the United States. Indian leaders in the Northwest negotiated with a formidable foe and went to war with a man who truly believed in the rightness of American policy. Stevens died on the battlefield in the Civil War.
Isaac Stevens, circa 1850s. Credit: Pioneer Reminiscences of Puget Sound, Ezra Meeker, 1905.

During the Indian Wars Stevens dismissed Doty for inebriation and failing to ascertain whether Indian women were receiving information on militia movements from their white husbands. On June 27, 1857, at age 28, Doty committed suicide.


A Report of the Treaty in the Local Newspaper

Pioneer and Democrat. Olympia, Washington Territory; Saturday, December 30, 1854 J.W. Wiley, Editor “ Truth crush’d to earth will rise again, The eternal years of God are hers.” Indian Treaty
On Tuesday the 26th of this month, a treaty was made with the several Indian tribes at the head of the Sound, whereby they relinquished all their lands, three small tracts being reserved to them for present use and occupation, to wit: An island opposite Skookum bay, a tract of 1,280 acres on the Sound west of the meridian line, and 1280 acres on the Puyallup River near its mouth.

Under this treaty the Indian allowed the privilege of cat fish, pasturing animals on unclaimed land, of gatherin and berries, and of living in cinity of the settlements at t ferance of the whites. Provi made for an agricultural an trial school, with suitable te a blacksmith, farmer, carpe physician at the agency. Ne every member of the severa was present. Six hundred an three actually ratified, and t their chiefs and delegates si the treaty; 99 came afterwa and 20 more were on their Great pains were taken to e the provision of the treaty, a Indians were entirely satisfi

The-Remaining-Indians-onSound will be treated with i January.

Olympia, W.T. : Even three years after the treaty, Olympia (left) did not compare architecturally to the majestic Indian villages of Vancouver Island and beyond. Meg Stevens, (wife of the territorial governor), wrote that her heart “sank with bitter disappointment” at the sight 19 of the ramshackle settlement.
Olympia, 1857, James Madison Alden, pencil and wash. Credit: Washington State Historical Society.

saw themselves as different from the settlers, the different tribes did not share a pan-Indian identity, political organization or culture. Nisqually, for example, had close ties with many white employees of the Hudson Bay Company and deep animosity toward the Snoqualmie Indians. The Snoqualmie Chief, Patkanim (photo below), served as a scout for Isaac Stevens and was paid for Nisqually “heads” by the American government during the Indian wars that followed the treaties. Indian people, before contact with whites, identified themselves primarily in terms of blood and kin relationships. The western legal system made tribal affiliation key to Indian identity. Indians were required to sign treaties as part of a tribe, accept reservation land as part of a tribe and reserve rights as part of a tribe. Indian people negotiated these demands to suit their needs.

What we now call Washington was home to diverse Indian people with distinct identities, languages, dialects and histories. Although Indians

Making Chiefs On Paper

Example of a Chief Certificate. Credit: University of Washington, Special Collections, NA 588.

Isaac Stevens, chief treaty negotiator for the United States, hired American settlers who could hand-select the right Indian “chiefs” for the Council. Naming “chiefs” helped the United States facilitate the appropriation of Indian land by attempting to control who would be part of the negotiation process. “Friendly” Indians selected by Americans were given certificates (above), officially designated “chiefs” and invited to the treaty council. Despite this strategy, treaty negotiations did not go as smoothly as desired by the Americans. Designated chiefs did not behave as expected and hereditary leaders, male and female, still influenced the outcome of the treaty proceedings.
South Sound tribes had no central authority akin to the President of the United States. However during famine or war or times of trouble, a headman would be selected by the people to lead.

Snoqualmie Chief, Patkanim, was an enemy of the Nisqually. His descendant, Joseph Kanim, worked with anthropologist Marian Smith on her book “ The Puyallup-Nisqually.”


The words “treaty” and “nation” are words of our own language, selected in our diplomatic and legislative proceedings, by ourselves, having each a definite and well-understood meaning. We have applied them to Indians as we have applied them to other nations of the earth. They are applied to all in the same sense.
Chief Justice John Marshall in Worcester v. Georgia (1832)

Treaties Are Contracts
...Native governments and peoples were not given rights or land by the United States but instead, through political and contract-like negotiations, tribes arranged a trade of rights with the United States...
The United States Supreme Court has referred to Indian treaties as contracts between sovereign nations, and in one case, the Court referred to “the contracting Indians.” Furthermore, in 1905, the Court stated that treaties were not a grant of rights to Indians but were instead a reservation by the tribes of rights that they already owned. Thus, through treaty-making, tribes gave up certain rights to land and assets in exchange for payments, promises, and protection from the United States. These treaties, then, were not gifts from the United States to Indians but were a trade of certain rights from tribes to the United States to preserve other rights the tribes already possessed and wanted to retain..
Excerpt from Treaties as Contracts, the plenary address delivered by Robert Miller at the Annual Conference of the Pacific Northwest Historians Guild in Seattle, March 5, 2005.

Robert Miller is an Associate Professor of Law at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon. He is the Chief Justice of the Court of Appeals for the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde and is an enrolled member of the Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma.



The Indian Men who Signed the Treaty
Chief Leschi Nisqually say Leschi did not draw an “X” next to his name on the treaty. Yet we see his mark on the treaty. Leschi, who lived comfortably with the British before the treaty, and whose daughter Kalakala was married to settler Charles Eaton, most likely knew the reservation lands were inadequate. Edward Huggins, an employee of the HBC owned Puget Sound Agricultural Company, described Leschi as a farmer, who also owned horses. It makes sense that Leschi would oppose the terms of a treaty that kept the best land for the settlers. His subsequent acts of resistance resulted in his death by hanging after the events of the Indian Wars. Ft. Steilacoom, where Leschi was imprisoned, is now a series of strip malls. Amid fast food stops and stores at Oakbrook Shopping Center a marker identifies the spot, just outside the fort, where Leschi was hung. Qui-ee-metl, his x mark. (L.S.) Sno-ho-dumset, his x mark. (L.S.) Lesh-high, his x mark. (L.S.) Slip-o-elm, his x mark. (L.S.) Kwi-ats, his x mark. (L.S.) Stee-high, his x mark. (L.S.) Di-a-keh, his x mark. (L.S.) Hi-ten, his x mark. (L.S.) Squa-ta-hun, his x mark. (L.S.) Kahk-tse-min, his x mark. (L.S.) Sonan-o-yutl, his x mark. (L.S.) Kl-tehp, his x mark. (L.S.) Sahl-ko-min, his x mark. (L.S.) T’bet-ste-heh-bit, his x mark. (L.S.) Tcha-hoos-tan, his x mark. (L.S.) Ke-cha-hat, his x mark. (L.S.) Spee-peh, his x mark. (L.S.) Swe-yah-tum, his x mark. (L.S.) Cha-achsh, his x mark. (L.S.) Pich-kehd, his x mark. (L.S.) S’Klah-o-sum, his x mark. (L.S.) Sah-le-tatl, his x mark. (L.S.) See-lup, his x mark. (L.S.) E-la-kah-ka, his x mark. (L.S.) Slug-yeh, his x mark. (L.S.) Hi-nuk, his x mark. (L.S.) Ma-mo-nish, his x mark. (L.S.) Cheels, his x mark. (L.S.) Knutcanu, his x mark. (L.S.) Bats-ta-kobe, his x mark. (L.S.) Win-ne-ya, his x mark. (L.S.) Klo-out, his x mark. (L.S.) Se-uch-ka-nam, his x mark. (L.S.) Ske-mah-han, his x mark. (L.S.) Wuts-un-a-pum, his x mark. (L.S.) Quuts-a-tadm, his x mark. (L.S.) Quut-a-heh-mtsn, his x mark. (L.S.) Yah-leh-chn, his x mark. (L.S.) To-lahl-kut, his x mark. (L.S.) Yul-lout, his x mark. (L.S.) See-ahts-oot-soot, his x mark. (L.S.) Ye-takho, his x mark. (L.S.) We-po-it-ee, his x mark. (L.S.) Kah-sld, his x mark. (L.S.) La’h-hom-kan, his x mark. (L.S.) Pah-how-at-ish, his x mark. (L.S.) Swe-yehm, his x mark. (L.S.) Sah-hwill, his x mark. (L.S.) Se-kwaht, his x mark. (L.S.) Kah-hum-klt, his x mark. (L.S.) Yah-kwo-bah, his x mark. (L.S.) Wut-sah-le-wun, his x mark. (L.S.) Sah-ba-hat, his x mark. (L.S.) Tel-e-kish, his x mark. (L.S.) Swe-keh-nam, his x mark. (L.S.) Sit-oo-ah, his x mark. (L.S.) Ko-quel-a-cut, his x mark. (L.S.) Jack, his x mark. (L.S.) Keh-kise-bel-lo, his x mark. (L.S.) Go-yeh-hn, his x mark. (L.S.) Sah-putsh, his x mark. (L.S.) William, his x mark. (L.S.)

“Wah-hee-lut” (Yul-lout) or “Yelm Jim,” Leschi’s good friend. Probably a posed photograph meant for sale to the tourist tradethe skull meant to symbolize Sluggia, whom he killed to avenge Leschi. A Salish Indian blanket serves as a back drop for the vignette. Yelm Jim’s mark is on the treaty. Credit: Washington State Historical Society

Quiemuth (Qui--ee-metl) was murdered during the Indian resistance that followed the treatysigning. He was Leschi’s brother. His mark is on the treaty. Credit: Private Collection.

John Hiaton, (Hi-ten), Nisqually, signed the treaty. In later life he was often consulted by settlers on Indian traditions and history. His mark is on the treaty. Hiaton wears ceremonial garb over his everday western clothes.


1. spwiyalaphabc : Puyallup house sites were located at 15th Street and Pacific Avenue, Tacoma. 2. twadebcab: located where a creek once emptied into Commencement Bay, Puyallup house sites were at 24th and Pacific Avenue, Tacoma. 3. catcqad4. 4. kal kalaq 5. shaxtl’abc 6. tsaqweqwabc 7. sq’ wadabc 8. staxabc 9. ts’uwadiabc 10. tuwhaq habc 11. do’liq 12. sqwapabc or sqop abc 13. sxwlotsid 14. tsugwalel 15. sxotlbabc 16. q’lbalt 17. tleaqle

18. tct’eleqbabc 19.? 20. elosedabc 21. tdadab: located at the mouth of McAllister or Medicine Creek, the spot at which the treaty was signed. 22. sigwaletacabc 23. yicaxtcabc 24. yo’xwalscabc 25. sakwiabc 26. bacalabc 27. tuts’ etcaxl 28. statcasabc 29. sqwayai thabc 30. taqpigsdabc 31 sahewabc 32.-33. sqwaksdabc


34. --

people. It emphasizes the importance of the Puget Sound drainage system to Indian notions of identity and history. The map is reproduced from Smith’s book, The Puyallup-Nisqually which includes many more details about each village. Smith explained the Indian name Medicine Creek...The name is evidently derived from the word for shaman and shaman power, tudab, a fact to which the informants always refer when speaking of the ill effects of white occupation...

Each number on this map shows where Indian men, women and children lived at the time of the treaty. Site 21 is where the Medicine Creek treaty was signed. Anthropologist Marian W. Smith, drew this map around 1936 after consulting with local Indian

Anthropologist Jay Miller, Lenape, suggests the metaphorical meanings encapsulated in Indian words for the land offer a glimpse into the pre-contact world view. “The word for a headland jutting into the water derives from “nose,” as does one of the terms for a leader, “the one who ‘noses’ ahead.” Puget Sound Geography (2001), edited by Miller, explores language and Indian geography, including village sites.


How Much Did the Indians Know?
We don’t know much about South Sound Indian people before contact because we lack written accounts. Indian culture was oral so most of what we do know was recorded after contact, and is told from the point of view of non-Indian observers. The Indian oral traditions and histories that survive were, for the most part, gathered after Indian people had lived closely with settlers.
The British, (known as King George Men) arrived in 1833. By 1854 Indian people had been interacting with whites for two decades. At the time of the treaty many Indians in the South Sound wore some western clothes and enjoyed white foods. Whites were a welcome source of exotic goods. Alliances with whites also offered protection from attacks by Northern tribes. Records suggest Indian people were well aware a big change was coming once the Americans (known as Bostons), boldly squatted on Indian land, built fences and set about imposing their rules. Kin relations created an ever extending chain of obligation, reciprocity and information. Indian women in the South Sound married trappers, Métis, Hudson Bay Company employees and then Americans. These “tender ties” brought news about the future of Indian Country. Prior to the treaties Indian men worked on ships taking logs to San Francisco. We know Leschi’s cousin was one of these men, as was a brother of the Snoqualmie Chief Patkanim. These men brought back information too about the white world. Indian women kept house for the British and the Americans, Indians supplied food and provided the labor that built the forts and tilled the fields. Information about American intentions regarding Indian land was not hidden by the outsiders. The changes to the land offered tangible and immediate information to Indian people of the road ahead, of what signing the treaty meant. Did Indian people understand every detail of the treaty? Most probably not, as even Isaac Stevens needed specialists to explain the details to him. But Indian people understood the big picture- their homelands were at stake at the Council.
Scotsman John McLeod, left, a Ft. Nisqually employee, married 15 year old Mary Sca-dah-wah, Cowlitz, in 1845. Her brother, “Tyee Dick,” signed the treaty. John and Mary’s daughter, Catherine (center), married the American Indian Agent, Daniel Mounts. She is remembered for her basket collection. A direct descendent, Del McBride (right), was Curator Emeritus at the State Capitol Museum in Olympia. His particular area of interest was the Medicine Creek Treaty Council. Photo Credit: Bud McBride

John McLeod

Catherine Mounts

Del McBride


Indian labor built and maintained British forts and American farms. In the early years there were only 12 Hudson’s Bay employees at Ft. Nisqually, a scattering of other people, including Americans and Métis. Records detail British and American reliance on Indian labor to build structures, plant fields, harvest crops, and tend oxen and sheep.

There are many descriptions of Indian workers in the diary of Joseph Heath, who farmed near Steilacoom Creek from 1844 to 1849. His home is now the site of Western State Hospital.
…Klapat went in search of prele [horsetail] for the oxen…he is a most valuable servant, a good plough man, carpenter, in fact, everything. Don’t know what I would do without him. A lucky thing for me he has two wives, the reason for his being turned away from Cowlitz Farm… …the house is full of Indian women sorting peas, a most tedious job… …three Indian ladies at work at the fire all morning, one mending my trousers of blue pilot cloth… …a woman has been ironing clothes nearly all day…

Fort Nisqually Indian Blotters, 1844-58
June 2, 1845 to a boy for two days at hay and a woman 3 days weeding 10 kirbies [hair combs] 1 file 54 charges ammunition 2 needles August 19, 1845 To grass woman for 2 months work at grass harvest 4 yds Blue baize 20 strings green beads 2 yds Grey Cotton October 29, 1845 To 39 women for 8 days work taking up potatoes 60 cod hooks #19 3 #’s gunpowder 14 pn Trading ball

Excerpt, George Gibbs, (a member of the Medicine Creek Treaty Commission), to Captain McClelland, Olympia, WA Territory, March 4, 1854:

...but even the more distant tribes now frequent the towns, attracted partly by novelty, and perhaps by the opportunities afforded for earning money by labor...


Nisqually Charlie Testifies, 1917
At the Medicine Creek Treaty Council, Mr. Chambers interpreted for the Bostons. Simmons talked to individual Indians. That was the only time I saw him.The Indians were from various groups. There were people from Puyallup and also from

the Skokomish. Other people came from Port Madison and elsewhere to listen and learn what might be expected from a treaty with the Bostons. Skhanewa (Tyee Dick) was from Puyallup; he was part Squally and part Cowlitz. He was not in favor of the treaty. John Hiten favored the treaty, Governor Stevens tried to get us Indians to agree to be moved. We understood we were to be moved if the treaty were adopted. I and the other Indians came out and said that if we were to be moved we would become citizens and take up land where we were born and raised. I was born at the mouth of Muck Creek. As part of his plan, Governor Stevens first said to certain of the older men, “ you shall be Chief,” and he gave them papers to that effect. That was to get their help in bringing over the people to support he treaty.

Leschi did not agitate at that time. When our parley with the Bostons was seen to be fruitless and it was made plain that there could be no agreement between the Bostons and ourselves, Leschi and his brothers and the other chiefs, I with them, got up and left. Leschi did not sign the treaty and Quiemuth did not. Neither did the others. After we went down to the bay we heard that presents were distributed among the people. There was no trouble with the Bostons before the treaty making. The reason we fought was that we did not want to be moved from our homes down to the bluff by the bay...


Charlie Martin and his wife, after their home was taken to create Ft. Lewis. In the early months of 1917 I learned that there still survived one member of the band of Nisqually Indians who fought along with Leschi in 1855-56 in protest against the provisions of the Medicine Creek Treaty... Charlie Martin, otherwise known as Nisqually Charlie. We came to a rude shelter with 1 X 12 boards to shed the rain and a sheet of tarpaulin to afford some protection against the wind that was unusually penetrating that day....I hereby certify that this is a true and correctly enlarged copy of the original photograph which is in my possession and that the explanation typed there on as made by me, Arthur Ballard,1917. Credit: National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian, neg.NAA INV 00022200.

Wapato John Testifies, 1927
..deposed and said that his name is Wapato John; that his occupation is that of farmer, that his place of residence is Nisqually Reservation; that he does not know his age, but thinks he is somewhat over 80 years of age; that he has an interest in the claim which is the subject of inquiry in said cause, being a member of the Puyallup Tribe... excerpted from Duwamish et al Indians vs. The United States, 1927... How long did you stay there? In the neighborhood of a week. Was the treaty signed while you were there? Yes sir they were there, and he, the one they call the head chief—Leschi, didn’t sign the treaty. Did Governor Stevens leave the treaty grounds and go away while you were there? Yes sir, he went away, that is he issued out his black molasses to all the people that were there and then he left. Was this treaty meeting before or after the war between the white people and the Indians? Before. How long before? Somewhere nearly a year, then the trouble arose. Do you remember what time of the year it was that the treaty councils held? That was in the winter- salmon time, he calls it winter salmon.

...Where was the treaty held? They were around on the beach at what is known as Medicine Creek. Indian name is Shwa-da-dub--McAllister Creek. Is that in the Puyallup Country? Nisqually. Who interpreted the treaty for the Indians? He said John Wyab, and he said there was a white man, but he didn’t know the name. Did Wyab have another name? He didn’t know of any other name. Did he ever hear him called, Tolk-du-way? He said there was another man by that name, Tolk-du-way. Then Tolk-du-way and Wyab were not the same person? Yes, there were two persons. Did Tolk-du-ay help interpret the treaty to the Indians? He didn’t know. His said John Hiton used to help once in a while. Who was John Hiton. He as half Puyallup and half Chehalis. Could he speak Chinook/ He was one of the tribe to learn it. You went to the treaty meeting with your father, did you? Yes, sir. When you got to the treaty grounds was governor Stevens and his party there? Yes sir, Simmons was one of them, he said.

Washington Libraries, Special Collections, NA 1316.

Wapato John and his wife. He attended the treaty council with his father Hinuk, and watched him sign. Credit: University of


Articles of agreement and convention made and concluded on the She-nah-nam, or Medicine Creek, in the Territory of Washington, this twenty-sixth day of December, in the year one thousand eight hundred and fifty-four, by Isaac I. Stevens, governor and superintendent of Indian affairs of the said Territory, on the part of the United States, and the undersigned chiefs, head-men, and delegates of the Nisqually, Puyallup, Steilacoom, Squawskin, S’Homamish, Stehchass, T’Peeksin, Squi-aitl, and Sa-heh-wamish tribes and bands of Indians, occupying the lands lying round the head of Puget’s Sound and the adjacent inlets, who, for the purpose of this treaty, are to be regarded as one nation, on behalf of said tribes and bands, and duly authorized by them. ARTICLE 1. The said tribes and bands of Indians hereby cede, relinquish, and convey to the United States, all their right, title, and interest in and to the lands and country occupied by them, bounded and described as follows, to wit: Commencing at the point on the eastern side of Admiralty Inlet, known as Point Pully, about midway between Commencement and Elliott Bays; thence running in a southeasterly direction, following the divide between the waters of the Puyallup and Dwamish, or White Rivers, to the summit of the Cascade Mountains; thence southerly, along the summit of said range, to a point opposite the main source of the Skookum Chuck Creek; thence to and down said creek, to the coal mine; thence northwesterly, to the summit of the Black Hills; thence northerly, to the upper forks of the Satsop River; thence northeasterly, through the portage known as Wilkes’s Portage, to Point Southworth, on the western side of Admiralty Inlet; thence around the foot of Vashon’s Island, easterly and southeasterly, to the place of beginning. ARTICLE 2. There is, however, reserved for the present use and occupation of the said tribes and bands, the following tracts of land, viz: The small island called Klah-che-min, situated opposite the mouths of Hammerslev’s and Totten’s Inlets, and separated from Hartstene Island by Peale’s Passage, containing about two sections of land by estimation; a square tract containing two sections, or twelve hundred and eighty acres, on Puget’s Sound, near the mouth of the She-nah-nam Creek, one mile west of the meridian line of the United States land survey, and a square tract containing two sections, or twelve hundred and eighty acres, lying on the south side of Commencement Bay; all which tracts shall be set apart, and, so far as necessary, surveyed and marked out for their exclusive use; nor shall any white man be permitted to reside upon the same without permission of the tribe and the superintendent or agent. And the said tribes and bands agree to remove to and settle upon the same within one year after the ratification of this treaty, or sooner if the means are furnished them. In the mean time, it shall be lawful for them to reside upon any ground not in the actual claim and occupation of citizens of the United States, and upon any ground claimed or occupied, if with the permission of the owner or claimant. If necessary for the public convenience, roads may be run through their reserves, and, on the other hand, the right of way with free access from the same to the nearest public highway is secured to them. ARTICLE 3. The right of taking fish, at all usual and accustomed grounds and stations, is further secured to said Indians in common with all citizens of the Territory, and of erecting temporary houses for the purpose of curing, together with the privilege of hunting, gathering roots and berries, and pasturing their horses on open and unclaimed lands: Provided, however, That they shall not take shellfish from any beds staked or cultivated by citizens, and that they shall alter all stallions not intended for breeding-horses, and shall keep up and confine the latter. ARTICLE 4. In consideration of the above session, the United States agree to pay to the said tribes and bands the sum of thirty-two thousand five hundred dollars, in the following manner, that is to say: For the first year after the ratification hereof, three thousand two hundred and fifty dollars; for the next two years, three thousand dollars each year; for the next three years, two thousand dollars each year; for the next four years fifteen hundred dollars each year; for the next five years twelve hundred dollars each year; and for the next five years one thousand dollars each year; all which said sums of money shall be applied to the use and benefit of the said Indians, under the direction of the President of the United States, who may from time to time determine, at his discretion, upon what beneficial objects to expend the same. And the superintendent of Indian affairs, or other proper officer, shall each year inform the President of the wishes of said Indians in respect thereto. ARTICLE 5. To enable the said Indians to remove to and settle upon their aforesaid reservations, and to clear, fence, and break up a sufficient quantity of land for cultivation, the United States further agree to pay the sum of three thousand two hundred and fifty dollars, to be laid out and expended under the direction of the President, and in such manner as he shall approve. ARTICLE 6. The President may hereafter, when in his opinion the interests of the Territory may require, and the welfare of the said Indians be promoted, remove them from either or all of said reservations to such other suitable place or places within said Territory as he may deem fit,


on remunerating them for their improvements and the expenses of their removal, or may consolidate them with other friendly tribes or bands. And he may further, at his discretion, cause the whole or any portion of the lands hereby reserved, or of such other land as may be selected in lieu thereof, to be surveyed into lots, and assign the same to such individuals or families as are willing to avail themselves of the privilege, and will locate on the same as a permanent home, on the same terms and subject to the same regulations as are provided in the sixth article of the treaty with the Omahas, so far as the same may be applicable. Any substantial improvements heretofore made by any Indian, and which he shall be compelled to abandon in consequence of this treaty, shall be valued under the direction of the President, and payment to be made accordingly thereof. ARTICLE 7. The annuities of the aforesaid tribes and bands shall not be taken to pay the debts of individuals. ARTICLE 8. The aforesaid tribes and bands acknowledge their dependence on the Government of the United States, and promise to be friendly with all citizens thereof, and pledge themselves to commit no depredations on the property of such citizens. And should any one or more of them violate this pledge, and the fact be satisfactorily proved before the agent, the property taken shall be returned, or in default thereof, or if injured or destroyed, compensation may be made by the Government out of their annuities. Nor will they make war on any other tribe except in self-defense, but will submit all matters of difference between them and other Indians to the Government of the United States, or its agent, for decision, and abide thereby. And if any of the said Indians commit any depredations on any other Indians within the Territory, the same rule shall prevail as that prescribed in this article, in cases of depredations against citizens. And the said tribes agree not to shelter or conceal offenders against the laws of the United States, but to deliver them up to the authorities for trail. ARTICLE 9. The above tribes and bands are desirous to exclude from their reservations the use of ardent spirits, and to prevent their people from drinking the same; and therefore it is provided, that any Indian belonging to said tribes, who is guilty of bringing liquor into said reservations, or who drinks liquor, may have his or her proportion of the annuities withheld from him or her for such time as the President may determine. ARTICLE 10. The United States further agree to establish at the general agency for the district of Puget’s Sound, within one year from the ratification hereof, and to support, for a period of twenty years, an agricultural and industrial school, to be free to children of the said tribes and bands, in common with those of the other tribes of said district, and to provide the said school with a suitable instructor or instructors, and also to provide a smithy and carpenter’s shop, and furnish them with the necessary tools, and employ a blacksmith, carpenter, and farmer, for the term of twenty years, to instruct the Indians in their respective occupations. And the

John Hote or Xot, Puyallup, and his wife Mary. Hote’s father, Chief Chee-Chap-Witch, attended the Medicine Creek Treaty Council and was said to have taken some of his people to Henderson Bay for safety during the treaty wars. Hote’s stories,(excerpt below), were recorded by historian Arthur Ballard. In this photograph Mr. Xot, elderly and blind, sits at home with his wife, a niece of Chief Seattle. He died in 1917. Credit: University of Washington Libraries,
Special Collections, neg. 24656

“...At the west end of Fox Island (bati’l merman), waves wash the pebbles up in the shape of birds, fishes and animals.”...”


United States further agree to employ a physician to reside at the said central agency, who shall furnish medicine and advice to their sick, and shall vaccinate them; the expenses of the said school, shops, employees, and medical attendance, to be defrayed by the United States, and not deducted from the annuities. ARTICLE 11. The said tribes and bands agree to free all slaves now held by them, and not to purchase or acquire others hereafter. ARTICLE 12. The said tribes and bands finally agree not to trade at Vancouver’s Island, or elsewhere out of the dominions of the United States; nor shall foreign Indians be permitted to reside in their reservations without consent of the superintendent or agent. ARTICLE 13. This treaty shall be obligatory on the contracting parties as soon as the same shall be ratified by the President and Senate of the United States. In testimony whereof, the said Isaac I. Stevens, governor and superintendent of Indian Affairs, and the undersigned chiefs, headmen, and delegates of the aforesaid tribes and bands, have hereunto set their hands and seals at the place and on the day and year hereinbefore written. Isaac I. Stevens, (L.S) Governor and Superintendent Territory of Washington

W. A. Slaughter, first lieutenant, Fourth Infantry. James McAlister, E. Giddings, Jr. George Shazer, Henry D. Cock, S. S. Ford, Jr., John W. McAlister, Clovington Cushman, Peter Anderson, Samuel Klady, W. H. Pullen, P. O. Hough, E. R. Tyerall, George Gibbs, Benj. F. Shaw, interpreter, Hazard Stevens, Ratified Mar. 3, 1855. Proclaimed Apr. 10, 1855.

Qui-ee-metl, his x mark. (L.S.) Sno-ho-dumset, his x mark. (L.S.) Lesh-high, his x mark. (L.S.) Slip-o-elm, his x mark. (L.S.) Kwi-ats, his x mark. (L.S.) Stee-high, his x mark. (L.S.) Di-a-keh, his x mark. (L.S.) Hi-ten, his x mark. (L.S.) Squa-ta-hun, his x mark. (L.S.) Kahk-tse-min, his x mark. (L.S.) Sonan-o-yutl, his x mark. (L.S.) Kl-tehp, his x mark. (L.S.) Sahl-ko-min, his x mark. (L.S.) T’bet-ste-heh-bit, his x mark. (L.S.) Tcha-hoos-tan, his x mark. (L.S.) Ke-cha-hat, his x mark. (L.S.) Spee-peh, his x mark. (L.S.) Swe-yah-tum, his x mark. (L.S.) Executed in the presence of us - M. T. Simmons, Indian agent. James Doty, secretary of the commission. C. H. Mason, secretary Washington Territory.

Benjamin Franklin Shaw, costumed in Indian inspired trapper garb, was a translator at the treaty. He was said to be fluent in the Chinook jargon, a four hundred word trade language used to barter for furs or salmon. Two years later, in 1856, Shaw led the Militia in a massacre of 60 Indian women and children in Oregon. A well known businessman, he expressed the sentiments of many settlers when he wrote: “as we are nearing our last sleep we pray that this American civilization may not stop until it penetrates every nook and corner of this continent.”
Credit: Washington State Historical Society


Treaty Wars
Indian reservation lands were paid for in blood. A generation of Indian leaders were killed in battle or executed after the series of Indian wars throughout Washington territory. We will never know the details of the struggle from the Indian side- we have no written Indian accounts. What we know is cobbled together from white accounts and Indian family histories that were passed down through the years. The day after the treaty Leschi argued for better reserves but was told it was too late. The treaty had been sent to Washington for ratification. Leschi then visited family east and west of the mountains for the next few months. His cousin Chief Kamiakin, made it plain that the Yakama were unhappy with white encroachment on their land. There would soon be war in Yakima. After a failed final meeting with white representatives requesting better reserves, war began. The Puget Sound Indian wars lasted from the fall of 1855 into the spring of 1856. In May of 1856, on Steven’s orders, Hamilton Maxon, a Captain in the Militia, swept through Leschi’s Mashel home village surprising and killing a group of 17 women and children gathering food. At the end Leschi was executed; Quiemuth his brother, upon his surrender in Governor Steven’s custody, was murdered; Owhi, Leschi’s Yakama cousin was shot; Qualchan, Owhi’s son was hanged; Walla Walla Chief Yellow Bird, was shot and skinned, his remains taken as souvenirs by the Oregon militia. A Council held at the Indian internment camp, Fox Island, on August 4 and 5, 1856, formally ended the war. The Council also resulted in better and larger reserves for the Puyallup and Nisqually under Article Six of the Treaty which gave the President of the United States the authority to assign tribes to different areas.

Others Who Died 1855 • October 27: James McAllister, a settler, shot and killed while attempting to apprehend Leschi. • October 28: Indians attack three families on the White River (near present day Kent and Auburn) and kill nine family members. • October 31: Two soldiers, Benton Moses and Joseph Miles, killed in a skirmish. • November 25: A band of warriors surround Lieutenant Slaughter and his men near the White River. Slaughter is killed.

Indian Campaign Medal Indian people across America resisted the invasion of their land. Resistance took many forms, sometimes even war. The United States Army was involved in several campaigns against Indian people after the treaty wars in the Northwest. The Indian Campaign Medal (right) was awarded to soldiers who participated in military action against Indian people between 1865 to 1891. 31

The conflict between Americans and Indians was a conflict over land. Land was the most important commodity in early nineteenth century America and land speculation was a profitable business. Even homesteaders, those that planned to make a go of it, wanted the best land, land that was already cleared. Often this was Indian horse grazing land or areas where plank houses stood. Like countless tribes before them, Puyallup, Nisqually and Squaxin people would be forced to give up their valuable homelands. It was federal policy to support and promote white settlement from coast to coast.
Around 1890, almost 40 years after the treaty, a handful of Indian businessmen partnered with a white syndicate to buy and sell Indian land. One of these men, Jerry Meeker, Puyallup, became a local celebrity and sponsored an annual July salmon bake at Browns Point. Meeker helped transfer most of Browns Point from Indian to white hands.

Western commodification of the land hinged on a grid system of measuring and recording that facilitated the buying and selling of land. This map, published in Herbert Hunt’s 1916 history of Tacoma, documents the claims of Tacoma’s earliest settlers.

In 1887 reservation lands were allotted into individual holdings and any “leftover” land was termed surplus and sold. Between 1887 and 1934 an estimated 100 million acres, or two thirds of communal Indian land holdings across the United States, passed into white hands.


I know what the misfortune of the tribes is. Their misfortune is not...that they are a dwindling race; nor that they are a weak race. Their misfortune is that they hold great bodies of rich land.
Senator Eugene Casserly, California, 1871


...What is now Tacoma’s wholesale district on lower Pacific Avenue was a swamp, with the yellow flowers of the skunk cabbage proclaiming the fact... Herbert Hunt, 1916

I5th Street and Pacific Avenue, Tacoma, WA. The “caucasian invasion” and the Ice Age were the major catastrophic events in Washington wrote a noted Washington botanist in the 1930s. The “invasion” for Indian people meant traditional berry grounds, sacred sites, even rivers were destroyed by the newcomers. This Asahel Curtis photograph, taken in the late 1800s, documents what remained of an Indian camp that continued to exist at the site of at traditional Puyallup winter village. The plank house had long been gone as the commercial district of Tacoma absorbed it, but Indian people continued to meet at the spot. Finally Tacoma town fathers filled the inlet and razed the site, saying Indians were bad for business. Today the site is a freeway on ramp. Credit: Washington State Historical Society.

Lucy Gurand, 85, testifies in the Court of Claims Case, Duwamish et al Indians vs the United States, 1927.

...Question: Have you lived in the land of the Puyallup Indians all of your life? Answer: Yes sir, right down here at the mouth of the river... Question: Now, do you know of any other places where they had buildings, the Puyallup Tribe?…. Answer : About on Fifteenth Street, along the water front of Tacoma, there were large buildings belonging to the Puyallup tribe How many buildings? Answer: To her knowledge there must have been 10 there... .

The treaty officially commodified land. Rivers, hills and valleys could now be bought and sold.

15th Street and Pacific Today Location of Indian camp--see above. For settlers land had no value until it was “improved” through development by building houses, roads and fencing land.

The United States, 1927.


After he had changed everything, and before he entered upon his work of giving light, Moon created the various peoples and all the rivers as they are now. He made the Puyallup, the Nisqually and other rivers. A man and wife he placed upon one river , another couple he placed upon another river, a people on each. Each people had a name, as Skagit, Yakama,Lummi, Puyallup and others. Moon said. “ Fish shall run up these rivers; they shall belong to each people on its own river. You shall make your living from the fish, deer and other wild game.” These people increased until many people were on these rivers. This is why the Indians have multiplied . It is all the work of Moon, and no one else but Moon. I am an Indian today. Moon has given us fish and game. The white people have come and overwhelmed us. We may not kill a deer nor catch a fish forbidden by white men to be taken. I should like any of these lawmakers, to tell me if Moon or Sun has set him here to forbid our people to kill game given to us by Sun and Moon. Though white people overwhelm us, it is Moon that placed us here, and the laws we are bound to obey are those established by Moon in the ancient time. Myself and my people are related to the grandfather and grandmother of Moon and some are named for them. All peoples here are related to Moon and speak the same language.
An Origin story related by Snoqualmi Charlie to historian Arthur Ballard in 1916. Mr. Charlie was born on the Tolt River in 1850 and was a member of the Snoqualmie Tribe.


Indian fishing became a “problem” in Washington when Indians in the 1950s and 1960s exercised their treaty rights to fish off reservation and use nets. Janet McCloud, a Tulalip, and her Nisqually husband, Don McCloud, founded the activist group Survival of American Indians Association. The group, composed of Indian men, women and their children, staged “fish-ins” on the Puyallup and Nisqually Rivers, in which Indians exercised their treaty rights to fish, and faced shoves, beatings, the confiscation of their canoes and fishing gear and arrests. Maiselle Bridges, Valerie Bridges, Suzette Bridges, Norma Frank, Hank Adams, Al Bridges, Billy Frank, Don George, Dorien Sanchez, Harold Gleason, Joe Kautz, and Elaine Wright are just some of the many Indian people that fought for fishing rights in Washington. During one confrontation, according to McCloud, 9 Indian men and 19 women and children faced off against 100 game and fisheries wardens. ”Get’em, Get the dirty S.O.B.’s,” rang out, as three power boats came out of the brush and rammed the Indian canoes. ”Newsmen were kept away from the violent fight that ensued on the banks. One Indian woman, upon being released from jail said... “The way they were acting, we were afraid they were going to take us somewhere and kill us.” McCloud reported the Indian side of the story in her mimeographed newspaper Indian Survival News. Later,the national media was strategically used to put pressure on Governor Dan Evans and the Fish and Game Department.
Janet McCloud, 1934-2004 ...the Great Spirit and everyone else knows that America’s once poverty-stricken immigrants (who flocked over here from Europe with literally nothing), are the richest people in the world. No wonder-they are the executors of our estate. Janet McCloud and Robert Casey, mimeographed Bulletin No. 29 and 30 issued by The Seattle Group, circa 1960s.

Twenty seven tribes ultimately sued the federal Government stating their fishing rights had been denied. On February 12, 1974, U.S. District Judge George Boldt ruled in favor of 14 treaty tribes, using the words of the Medicine Creek Treaty in his interpretation, Boldt reserved half the salmon and steel head catch in Washington for Indians. The Medicine Creek treaty continues to be used in court cases to protect Indian reserved rights in Washington State.


Cecelia Carpenter Remembers the Treaty Tree

It was in the spring of 1975 that I first encountered the Medicine Creek treaty tree. I drove from my home in Tacoma towards Olympia. Eventually I saw the wide expanse of the Nisqually River delta before me, off to my left stood the treaty tree dominating its corner of the delta. I parked the car. The soil was wet and boggy because Medicine Creek had been rerouted to go under I-5 more to the north, which left a finger of water where the tree stood. From a distance it stood tall and erect, a reminder of where the Medicine Creek treaty had been signed on December 26, 1854. It withstood the ravishes of time and stood there telling the world that the Nisqually people still lived to tell their story. As I approached the tree I saw only its bottom most branches were green, yet it stood. Overwhelmed, I sat on the dirt bank that made up the approach to the highway above. I cannot fully express my feelings that day as I had finally seen my treaty tree up close. I took some pictures and went home.

Later on I received a letter from the Department of Transportation in Olympia asking what the tribal people thought if they removed the tree when it completely died. They said they could give us a small seedling tree that had come up next to the mother tree. I replied that we didn’t wish for them to cut down the tree for it stood as a symbol of the treaty which made Judge Boldt reinstate our off-reservation fishing rights. The tree was not cut down. Today the treaty tree continues to stand and the Treaty of Medicine Creek, held beneath its branches, is still in force.


Today the Treaty Tree continues to stand and the Treaty of Medicine Creek, held beneath its branches, is still in force.

Interested in learning more about the history of treaty making in Washington and about Indian history in general? Here are some suggested readings and activities.
A nice start is to use the guidebook Native Peoples of the Northwest by Jan Halliday (Sasquatch Press). The guide is a road book to visiting Indian country, even when it is hidden in museums or paved over by malls. Physically visiting places where history happened makes what you read stick. Other good starts on the South Sound would be books by Cecelia Carpenter-The Nisqually, My People and Fort Nisqually: A Documented History of British-Indian Interaction. Indians, Superintendents and Councils, edited by Cliff Trafzer, is one of the earliest in depth treatments of treaty making in the Northwest. The monograph is out of print but can be obtained at the library. Museums are another resource. The Washington State History Museum in Tacoma displays the chains used to survey and allot Puyallup lands as well as the actual allotment maps. The Indian Heritage area has news footage of fish war confrontations and a display on the effect of disease on Indian people and their world. Many tribes have wonderful web sites and museums of their own and sponsor events that include non-Indian participation. The Squaxin Tribe has their own museum with permanent and changing exhibits. The Nisqually Tribe can make special arrangements to visit the treaty tree. Many tribes have outreach services and make presentations to schools. Another resource is the Governor’s Office of Indian Affairs in Olympia. The best approach might be to investigate the Indian history of your neighborhood and work out from there to the city and the region. Children respond well to this approach. Good luck on your journey.


Cecelia Carpenter is the first Indian author of a history of the Nisqually people. Her book, Ft. Nisqually: A Documented History of Indian and British Interaction, was published in 1986. Carpenter, a life long school teacher, received her Masters from Pacific Lutheran University in 1971; her thesis explored PuyallupNisqually fishing rights. In 1993 Carpenter received an honorary PhD. from the University of Puget Sound. Maria Pascualy was born and raised in Bogotá, Colombia. She has an undergraduate degree in Education from Antioch College in Ohio, and a Masters in Socio-Cultural Anthropology from the University of Washington. Pascualy has worked as a Curator at the Burke Museum and Wing Luke Asian Museum in Seattle, and presently at the Washington State History Museum in Tacoma, WA. She’s curated over twenty exhibits, many on Indian history topics. Carpenter and Pascualy first collaborated on the permanent history exhibit project at the Washington State History Museum in Tacoma. Pascualy, Chief Curator of the exhibit, hired Carpenter as a consultant to the project. Other collaborations grew out of this first project, culminating in REMEMBERING MEDICINE CREEK, a 5,000 square foot comprehensive exhibit on the history of the Medicine Creek Treaty. Carpenter is presently working on an Indian history of Ft. Lewis. Pascualy is working on an illustrated history of Indian women in Washington.

ISBN 0-9772528-0-9