[Regarding “Chief Sealth’s Speech Exposed as “Utter Fiction,” Letter to the Editor, Nov. 27:] Chief Sealth’s “speech” as written and published 30 some years later by Dr. Henry Smith is accepted by most local historical scholars as being, at least, in the spirit of Sealth’s own words, which were never recorded anywhere else.
The Smith version — while considered too flowery and poetic to be in any way verbatim — serves as the only written version of the speech by an actual eyewitness. My research did find that the last three sentences, “Dead did I say…there is no death — only a change of worlds,” was added to the Smith version by Clarence Bagley in a subsequent printed version of the speech.
Ted Perry rewrote the speech and substituted his words for Sealth’s and did not say so. It was in a documentary in 1971 for a Southern Baptist Convention and widely circulated as the words of Chief Sealth. This version of the speech became a well-known and often-used misquotation for the 1970s environmentalist movement.
Al Gore used the falsified speech, attributing it to Sealth in his book “Earth in the Balance” in 1992. That speech is not quoted in “Words that Haunt,” (Queen Anne & Magnolia News, Oct. 23.) This is the “utter fiction” exposed in studies of the text.
[It was] first brought up in 1975 by Seattle Times reporter Janice Krenmayr. Christian F. Feest, in his 1999 book “Indians and Europeans: An Interdisciplinary Collection of Essays,” goes into great depth researching the strange evolution of the Sealth speech from Smith’s version.
It is the Perry version of the text so roundly criticized in the July 1, 1991, Seattle Times article by Ross Anderson in “Myth-Quoted: The Words of Chief Sealth Were Elegant But Not His.” Anderson — while pointing out it is unlikely Smith wrote in any way exactly what Sealth said — goes on to say, “Still, Smith’s version is the authorized version accepted by local historians, from Clarence Bagley to Roger Sale.”
Monica Wooton, co-president, Magnolia Historical Society