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December 19, 2017

                Chief Seattle statue at Fifth and Denny, Downtown Seattle, 1936

One of the amazing holes in local history is a full-on biography of Chief Seattle, but now we have just such a book, in "Chief Seattle and the Town that Took his Name." The book is about 30 years in the making, for digging up sources on the elusive Chief and getting native cooperation has taken years of effort by Buerge, a fine local historian and teacher. One breakthrough on sources: letters that Catholic missionaries sent back home. The Chief who emerges is complex and ambiguous—warrior, economic-development specialist, sage, majestic orator, and advocate for multi-racial harmony. His great speech, pieced together years later from notes scribbled by a Seattle doctor, is also shrouded in mystery: what were the actual words, how does it fit with pioneers' experience? 

The book is rich in early Seattle history. It is also an overdue act of jus...

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