Chief Seattle’s Daughter

Kikisoblu_(Princess_Angeline of_the_Duwamish,_1896

Kikmisoblu(Princess_Angeline of_the_Duwamish,_1896

Attribution: Edward S. Curtis via Wikimedia Commons
Northwestern University Digital Library Collection

Everyone in Seattle knows the story of Princess Angeline, daughter of Chief Seattle of the Duwamish Tribe for whom the city was named. In her later years Princess Angeline limped along the city streets with the aid of a cane, covered by   a shawl and a red kerchief over her head. Near her waterfront shack by the Pike Place Market, she sold postcards that bore a photo of her grief-stricken face. She also sold her baskets and took in laundry.

The Danish author Olaf Linck  has written of several successful American Danes, including  my father, Hans Pederson, an early 20th century Seattle contractor. In one essay, Linck notes that in 1896, Pederson bought Princess Angeline’s entire supply of postcards  just before she shuffled back to her camp for her last remaining night on this earth.

Although Link’s story may contain some truth, the chronology conflicts with Seattle history. Perhaps Linck also wanted to honor Hans Christian Andersen,  Denmark’s most famous author.  Andersen’s sad tale of The Little Match Girl describes the plight of a child sent out to sell matches on New Year’s Eve. To keep warm, she lights the matches one by one, each time seeing visions of holiday treats spread beneath a brightly lit Christmas tree. After the last match burns out, the child slowly freezes to death.

I couldn’t help but remember the story of The Little Match Girl as I read of Princess Angeline. Chief Seattle gave the city his name and left his eldest daughter, Kikisoblu there. He  moved the rest of his family and his entire Duwamish tribe out to a reservation. Catherine Maynard, wife of a pioneer settler, changed Kikisoblu’s name to  Princess Angelina so that everyone would know that she was the daughter of a great Indian chief.

No wonder Princess Angeline looked so sad on her postcard.

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