Thayer Watkins
Silicon Valley
& Tornado Alley

The Indian Wars
in the Puget Sound Region
in 1855-56

As more American settlers poured into the Puget Sound Region in the very early 1850's some frictions with the native population developed. Some of the settlers took over land that previously had been campgrounds. The impacts on the native population were not all negative. There was increased opportunities for trade to obtain useful items and novelties. There was even the opportunity of work cutting down trees and preparing the trunks for shipment on the trading ships. Friendships between the natives and the settlers developed.

But there were vast differences in culture between the two peoples. The European notions of individual property rights must have seemed very alien to the natives. Much of the differences boil down to the natives being tribal in mentality and behavior and their presumption that the Americans were likewise tribal.

When American leaders negotiated a treaty and immediately afterwards Americans out of the control of the leaders violated the treaty the native leaders felt betrayed. In tribal societies the members do not go off on their own doing things contrary to the dictates of the tribal chief. When the native tribal leaders found Americans violating treaty provision this would be presumed to be with the permission of the American leaders.

In tribal warfare all members of an enemy tribe are killed without distinction for gender or age. This is of course in violation for the mores of European societies. When European were subjected to such massacres they became enraged and began to think of the natives as subhuman. Soon there would be so many revenge and retalitory massacres that it would be impossible to distinguish between the two sides.

Time Line of the Seattle Indian Wars of 1854-56

A real hero of the time was Chief Seattle. He was able to discourage perhaps four thousand warriors among the tribes around Puget Sound not to join in the attack against settlements.

(To be continued.)

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