Pity the poor Stechass

May 3rd, 2022 by Ken

By Dale Cooper

 For untold centuries a group of American Indians called the Stechass lived in the Olympia area at the headwaters of what we call Budd Inlet and what the Stechass called Whulge (in Lushootseed).

The Stechass populated the southern waters of the Puget Sound Basin (Whulge) along with the Squaxin, the Nisqually and  dozens of other Southern Lushootseed speaking people from villages up and down the long fingers of the Sound.

Prior to the arrival of American settlers in the mid-nineteenth century, these Indians had no formal multi-cultural or tribal affiliations.  Of course they shared many things and there were certainly familial ties between villages, but among them they recognized no formal alliances, leaders or chiefs.

That all changed post-contact with the treaties of 1854 and 1855.  In order to establish legally acceptable signatories for his Treaty of Medicine Creek, Territorial Governor Isaac Stevens designated these native villages “tribes”.  The Stechass tribe was among those tribes, recognized as co-equal with the Nisqually, Puyalllup, Steilacoom, Squaxin, Samamish, T’Peeksin, Squiatl, and Sahehwamish tribes.

Looking back, we can now see the deal Stevens struck with the “tribes” didn’t turn-out well for them.  But for the Stechass that deal wasn’t the end of their misfortunes.  They ran into what we’d now call a cancel-culture, led by the then politically correct pioneer ladies of the early contact days.  They found the word Stechass (i.e. “ass”)  offensive and vulgar and excised it from their conversation, their histories and their lexicon.  In fact, the last known mention of the people known as Stechass is found in the Treaty of Medicine Creek.

But, that wasn’t the final offense against these ill-fated people.  A few days ago, in a fit of “wokeness” and nontheistic sensibility, the good citizens of the Olympia city council voted unanimously to change the name of its popular and spectacularly sited Priest Point Park to Squaxin Park.

This municipal manipulation not only exhibited a benighted historical illiteracy and a lack of due diligence, but delivered a final insult to the Stechass people.  For in the end, these people not only lost their land to the laws of the Americans, their remembrance to the territorial  aspirations of the Squaxins, but thy lost their name itself.

This is a tragedy and a pity, and the final nail in the coffin of the forgotten Stechass.

As a final note, we should remember that the treaty wasn’t all bad news for all the native people here.  In fact, it was great news for some  – – the slaves.  It was an Emancipation Proclamation for them.  As Article 11 of the Treaty of Medicine Creek reads that all signatories “agree to free all slaves now held by them, and not to purchase or acquire others hereafter”.

I assume the woke Olympia city council overlooked this aspect of native life when considering re-naming Priest Point Park.

Posted in The Real News


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