I must respectfully take exception with one of your readers’ opinion letter of several weeks ago extolling the virtues of our Northwest Territory’s first governor, Isaac Stevens. At a different place and time in our nation’s history, Isaac Steven’s record may very well have been worthy of such praise. However, here as governor, his primary accomplishment was the subordination of the Northwest Indian tribes along with the confiscation of their traditional lands, all under the guise of “fairly negotiated” treaties. His arrogant, deceptive and heavy-handed actions, in that regard, led directly to the Puget Sound Indian War of 1855-1856.
Unfortunately, that avoidable conflict resulted in the bloodshed of innocent pioneers and Indians alike, ultimately leading to the “judicial murder” of Nisqually Chief Leschi on Feb. 19, 1858. That dark chapter in our Pacific Northwest history strongly suggests that Isaac Steven’s actions here as governor were anything but heroic. Your reader’s wish for “a designated state holiday” in recognition of Stevens was surely well-intended. However, I feel that any such honor would be more appropriately directed toward Chief Leschi – a martyr to principle, liberty and the just treatment of his people.