'What's in a Name: Seattle'


2 minutes

Ever wonder how certain places got their names? As we learned about New York, a place's name can reveal much about a location's history and origination.  Today we are turning to the city of Seattle, the largest city in the Northwestern United States. Four thousand years before the first foreign settlers arrived, Native American tribes inhabited the area of Seattle. After the city was settled, it was named after Chief Seattle of the Duwamish and Squamish tribes—Seattle being the English version of the name Si'ahl and also known as Sealth, Seathle, Seathl, or See-ahth.

Chief Seattle earned a reputation early on in his youth and was known to be tall and broad shouldered in stature.  He courageously led his troops into battle to defend his native land against enemy Native American tribes.  Chief Seattle was known for his accommodating approach to the white settlers that eventually took control of the Seattle area. He formed personal relationships with prominent members of the settlers, most notably, David Swinson "Doc" Maynard, a well-known advocate of Native American rights.  Chief Seattle was able to peacefully adapt his tribe to the changing policies of the European settlers and facilitated a peaceful transfer of rights to the land from the Native Americans to the Europeans.  Chief Seattle is well known for giving a well-publicized speech during a ceremony celebrating this land transfer, through which he was able to promote a peaceful relationship between the two groups and secure rights to access Native American burial grounds. Chief Seattle also chose to stay out of the Battle of Seattle in 1856, a daylong battle that was part of the Puget Sound War, the on-going conflict between Native American tribes in the region and the settlers that were overtaking the land.  The town of Seattle was thus named after this chief for his leadership and his close relationship with Doc Maynard, which protected Doc and European settlers from attacks by other hostile Native American tribes in the region.

The city's history is born out of the Native American tribes that inhabited the area long before modern-day Seattle was founded, and neighboring cities and counties bear the names of various native tribes to this day.  The name reflects a unique and interesting segment of American history, and if you do further research you may find that many other places were named after the Native Americans who lived there long ago.

Ani Kington Ani Kington

Originally from Columbus, Ohio, Ani is a fan of exploring new places through photography and the local cuisine. After earning her BFA in photography from NYU and gaining communications experience at International Planned Parenthood Federation, she joined InterExchange in 2012, and worked as the Marketing Producer until 2016.

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