Nisqually, 1906: Recalling the first 4th of July on the Pacific coast

slugamus koquilton

Slugamus Koquilton (image credit: Reddit)

The early settlers of the Nisqually area of south Puget Sound gathered to commemorate an event that occurred even before they arrived.

This was a 65th anniversary celebration of the first Fourth of July observance in recorded history west of the Cascades Mountains.

The original event was held in 1841 by Captain Wilkes’s US Exploring Expedition, which has been so important to the history of Chinuk Wawa.

Here I want to just pull out a short clipping from the longish article by Northwest historical luminary George H. Himes, as it identifies by name a Salish leader (some say Duwamish, the people of present-day Seattle) who was present in 1841 and gave a Chinook Jargon speech at the commemorative exercises:

4th of july

Talk in Chinook Jargon by Chief Slugamus Koquilton, the only known survivor of Wilkes’ celebration. This was translated for benefit of the audience by Frankln Lane, a pioneer of 1853. Those present who knew the old Indian believe him to be nearly if not quite ninety years old.

— from the Olympia (WA) Standard of July 20, 1906, page 1, column 5

That would have been a remarkable oration to listen to, I think…

What have you learned?