[Marxism] Leschi -- for whose fine reputation Ralph Chaplin and many others fought -- is finally cleared!

Hunter Gray hunterbadbear at earthlink.net
Sat Dec 11 18:42:52 MST 2004

Note by Hunter Bear:

Leschi -- for whose fine reputation Ralph Chaplin and many others fought --
is finally cleared!

Leschi has now been exonerated, vindicated.  He was the honorable and
patriotic Nisqually chief hanged as a scapegoat by the United States
government in 1855 -- following Native resistance to United States troops
and Washington territorial volunteers.

But his own Indian people -- as with almost all Native people in the
Hemisphere -- remain in tough economic shape.

I heard of him first in early 1955, his tragic situation mentioned bitterly
by several Indians from various Pacific Northwest tribes with whom I
associated in the old Seattle Skid Road district.  Many years later, in late
'67 and early '68, while working with Indian people at Buckley, Washington
[near Tacoma], I heard his name again.  And still later, in 1985 and 1986,
while doing extensive research on Ralph Hosea Chaplin -- IWW poet and
songwriter [e.g., Solidarity Forever], life long labor activist and editor,
and a worthy historian [Wobbly: The Rough and Tumble Story of an American
Radical, 1948] -- I suddenly came across Chaplin's excellent and lengthy
epic work on Leschi:  Only the Drums Remembered: A Memento to Leschi
[Tacoma, 1960.] One of the last pieces of literary work produced by Chaplin
before his death at Tacoma early in 1961, it is self-published as a solid
and attractive booklet.

Chaplin, extremely complex [the precise and very friendly characterization
by the venerable Wobbly editor and a mentor of mine, Fred Thompson], spent
his final stretch on the Sunset Trail close to the Catholic Worker
movement -- a good and congenial friend of Catholic anarchist Ammon Hennacy;
and was also very actively involved on behalf of Native rights.  In time, I
accumulated two copies of his Leschi epic which are in my large collection
of radical labor material from the  United States and Canadian West.  Leschi
and Chaplin's epic are a part of my own long essay, Reflections on Ralph
Chaplin, the Wobblies, and Organizing in the Save the World Business -- Then
and Now.  I gave this as a paper at the Pacific Northwest Labor History
Association annual meeting, Eugene, Oregon, May 1986.  It was subsequently
published as the lead essay in the Voices of Western Labor edition, The
Pacific Historian, Summer, 1986.

Here is just a bit from Only the Drums Remembered:

"With Leschi's voice ancestral voices spoke,
Cursing the tyranny of smog and smoke,
Demanding still the right of free-born men
To hear their children's laughter once again --
To celebrate with drums and ritual dance
The freeman's right to take a fighting chance
And go down fighting if they have to die
Facing extinction larded with a lie.

Safeguarding freedom as we safeguard bread
Our graves we honor highly, Leschi said --
No tribe endures unmindful of its dead. . ."

December 10, 2004

Nisqually Indian chief cleared in slaying



TACOMA, Wash. -- Chief Leschi of the Nisqually Indian tribe was exonerated
by a historical court Friday, nearly a century and a half after he was
hanged for the death of a militia soldier in what is now Washington state.

The unanimous verdict by a seven-judge panel isn't binding legally, but it
drew cheers and tears from hundreds of people who gathered at the state
history museum to hear the decision.

Leschi (pronounced LESH-eye) was hanged in 1858 for killing Col. A. Benton
Moses of the territorial militia during the region's Indian war of 1855.

The historical court, led by state Supreme Court Chief Justice Gerry
Alexander, ruled that if Leschi did in fact kill Moses, they were lawful
combatants in a time of war, so a murder charge was not justified.

Cynthia Iyall, a descendant of Leschi's sister, led the effort to get the
historical trial. She cried at the verdict and said the proceeding was
important so that future generations know the truth.

Over the years, everyone from Leschi's executioner to respected historians
had questioned his guilt.

He had fought to preserve his tribe's way of life: The government had
consigned the Nisqually to a high forest, cut off from their homes by the
Nisqually River. The government later returned the tribe to a spot along the
river about 50 miles south of Seattle.

After Leschi's first trial ended with a hung jury, the judge in the second
trial refused to instruct jurors that killing an enemy soldier in war is not
considered murder. Leschi was convicted and sentenced to death. On appeal,
the territorial Supreme Court refused to consider new evidence showing
Leschi was miles away when Moses was killed.

The Army refused to execute Leschi, as military leaders believed the rules
of war should have prevented him from being charged with murder.

Instead, Pierce County authorities oversaw Leschi's execution Feb. 19, 1858.
His hangman, Charles Grainger, said later: "I felt then I was hanging an
innocent man, and I believe it yet."

Nisqually Indians have kept Leschi's legacy alive by telling his story to
their children and grandchildren, and his name appears on schools, monuments
and even a Seattle neighborhood.

Alexander proposed holding the historical court because he didn't think the
current state Supreme Court has the power to overturn a decision by its
territorial predecessor.

HUNTER GRAY  [HUNTER BEAR]   Micmac /St. Francis Abenaki/St. Regis Mohawk
Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´
and Ohkwari'

In our Gray Hole, the ghosts often dance in the junipers and sage, on the
game trails, in the tributary canyons with the thick red maples, and on the
high windy ridges -- and they dance from within the very essence of our own
inner being. They do this especially when the bright night moon shines down
on the clean white snow that covers the valley and its surroundings.  Then
it is as bright as day -- but in an always soft and mysterious and
remembering way. [Hunter Bear]

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