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Nisqually tribe walks for remembrance

An annual honor walk takes place on once tribal land that is now part of Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

May 17, 2016

For the sixth year in a row, the Nisqually tribe walked for miles on once-tribal land.

The Leschi-Quimuth Honor Walk is a yearly event undertaken by the Native American Nisqually tribe honoring Chief Leschi, a war chief who protested the unfair terms of a treaty designating reservation land, and his brother Quimuth who stood with him.  

When Leschi marched to Olympia in 1855 to protest the terms of the treaty, Acting Governor Charles H. Mason ordered that he and Quimuth be taken into “protective custody” and sent the militia after them, initiating the Puget Sound War of 1855-56.  

Leschi, in command of roughly 300 men, managed to evade the militia for almost a year, ending with his capture in 1856.  His brother turned himself in shortly after, but was murdered by an unknown assailant in Governor Isaac Stevens’ office in Olympia, where he was being held for the night while being transported to a jail at Fort Steilacoom.

Leschi, after a first trial that resulted in a hung jury, was convicted and sentenced to death in a second trial.  He was hanged on February 19, 1858, near Lake Steilacoom on land that is now a golf course and housing.

Larry Seaberg, a Nisqually tribe elder and fifth generation descendent of Leschi, said “We have this walk to honor Chief Leschi and Quimuth for sacrificing their lives in the treaty wars.”

Seaberg said that the land allotted for reservation, unlike the land many tribes in Washington previously lived on, was nigh uninhabitable.  Rocky and high in elevation, it was unsuitable for growing food and was cut off from access to the rivers that provided a main food source, fish.  “The mission from Washington D.C. at the time was to give all the best land to settlers, and they did a pretty good job of it, unfortunately.”  Said Seaberg.

“So we’re here to honor that and keep their memory alive, and to try and get in touch with their spirits.”

The reason the walk is had on land owned by Joint-Base Lewis McChord (JBLM) is because it used to be apart of the reservation land, but was acquired by the government in 1905.  Leschi was originally interred on the land, but was exhumed and moved afterwards to a private cemetery in Tacoma.  

However, the relationship between the Nisqually tribe and JBLM is not as strained as might initially seem.  

In a speech before the beginning of the walk, Colonel Daniel S. Morgan, commander of JBLM, said that “Without a doubt, our partnership with you [the Nisqually tribe] is going to be here forever, and we are not going to let it go.  We will continue to be open and transparent to protect the heritage and the culture and the history and the traditions and the families that have gone through so many sacrifices over the last centuries. That will not be forgotten.”

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