(reprinted courtesy of the
WA Secretary of State)
by Drew Crooks (reprinted with permission)
For thousands of years the Nisqually Indians have lived in the Nisqually River watershed, including the area that is now the City of DuPont. One great Nisqually leader that is remembered today is Leschi (1808-1858). Out of respect he has often been referred to as Chief Leschi.
Born at Me-schal, a village located near the junction of the Mashel and Nisqually Rivers, Leschi and his older brother Quiemuth were natural leaders of the Nisqually people. They worked well with the Hudson's Bay Company, the British-owned corporation that operated Fort Nisqually in the present-day DuPont area. Furthermore, the two Nisquallies helped the first American settlers who came to the region in the mid-19th century.
Washington Territorial Governor Isaac Stevens in negotiating lands settlements with the Native Americans designated Quiemuth as Chief of the Nisqually and Leschi as Sub-Chief. At the momentous Medicine Creek Council of 1854, Leschi rejected the small inadequate reservation that was assigned to the Nisquallies.
In the fall of 1855, the Puget Sound Indian–Settler War broke out. Leschi led the warriors of the Nisqually, Puyallup, and upper Duwamish tribes in the conflict. By the summer of 1856, the Native Americans were on the defensive and fighting west of the Cascades dwindled away. Governor Stevens in August 1856 changed the reservations of the Medicine Creek tribes. The Nisqually Reservation was moved to include Nisqually River bottom land and expanded in size from 1,200 to 4,700 acres.
There was no mercy, however, for the Native American war leaders. Quiemuth surrendered to American settlers in November 1856, and was taken to Olympia where he was killed. No one was ever brought to justice for the crime. Leschi fell into the hands of the Americans who accused him of murdering a militiaman. His first trial ended with a hung jury. Then he was retried, convicted and executed by hanging on February 19, 1858. Many people, including the U. S. Army officers at Fort Steilacoom, felt this was wrong.
In December 2004 a special state historical court retried Chief Leschi and exonerated him on the charge of murder. An annual Leschi-Quiemuth Honor Walk/Run sponsored by local Tribes continues to honor the two brothers.