Chief Seattle v. Botulph

Happy Wednesday! Today in the Saintly Smackdown it's an East Coast vs. West Coast kind of day as Chief Seattle (namesake of that hip city in the Pacific Northwest goes up against St. Botulph (namesake of that tough town in Eastern Massachusetts we call Boston). Or, if you'd prefer, it's coffee vs. tea -- Starbucks vs. the Boston Tea Party. Whatever, it's sure to be an intriguing matchup.

In yesterday's saintly action, Josephine Bakhita ran away from Eric Lidell 57% to 43% to advance to the Saintly Sixteen.

Sip your coffee and/or tea and go vote!

Chief Seattle

Chief Seattle, whose name in his own language was Sealth, was a chief, warrior, orator, and diplomat. He led the Suquamish and Duwamish people in the Northwest. Sealth was a large man, nicknamed “Le Gros” (the big guy) by French traders. His voice was strong, with reports that it could travel more than half of a mile. He worked closely with white settlers and colonizers, especially David “Doc” Maynard, as they arrived in Washington state. Against Sealth’s wishes, Maynard named the city of Seattle in his honor.

Around 1848 at the age of 62, Sealth was baptized by the Roman Catholic Church and given the name Noah. His relationship with the settlers and colonizers was complicated. He worked closely with them and benefitted from partnership with them, but he also refused to learn English, perhaps suggesting discomfort with their ever-growing presence.

That discomfort would prove to be warranted, when the territorial governor of Washington, Isaac Stevens, began seizing (with money and force) tribal lands and expelling the tribal members to reservations.

In 1854, Sealth gave a speech in his native tongue in protest of the governor’s actions. Published thirty years later in English, the speech became popular in the 1970s and has been influential in the modern environmental movement. There is quite a bit of debate about the authenticity of the speech as many of the ideas in it too easily apply to contemporary concerns.

In 1855, the Port Madison Treaty was formally signed, and Sealth and the Suquamish were settled on a reservation across the Puget Sound, south of the city that bears his name.

Three years later, old and poor, Sealth spoke one last time on record, asking the Congress of the United States to ratify the treaty. Their inaction had left him and his people poor and vulnerable. He lamented, “I have been very poor and hungry all winter and am very sick now. In a little while I will die. When I do, my people will be very poor; they will have no property, no chief and no one to talk for them.”

Sealth died in 1866. He is a saint commemorated by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. His feast day is June 7.

Collect for Chief Seattle
Grant, O God, that your holy and life-giving Spirit may so move every human heart, that barriers which divide us may crumble, suspicions disappear, and hatreds cease; that our divisions being healed, we may live in justice and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

David Creech


Botulph may never have parked a car in Harvard Yard, but he still left his mark on the city of Boston. Or, rather, his name.

Some sources say the city in Massachusetts takes its name from the town in Lincolnshire, a county in the East Midlands of England, which takes its name from Botulph (the thinking goes something like this: Botulph’s Town… Bo’s Town… Boston).

Botulph’s name, spelled in various ways, also pops up on St. Botolph Street, Boston College’s Botolph House, and the private St. Botolph Club in Boston. It appears in the names of five towns and villages and more than 70 churches in England, according to the Church of St. Botolph-without-Bishopsgate in London, where the poet John Keats was baptized.

For someone so popular, little is known about the details of Botulph’s life. He built a Benedictine monastery in about 654 in a place called Icanhoh, according to The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, which was compiled about two centuries later. The place has generally been identified with Boston, Lincolnshire, although its actual location is disputed. It also was rumored to be haunted.

The monastery later was destroyed by Danish invaders, and Botulph’s relics made their way to a number of churches, including Westminster Abbey. Their journeys may be the reason why Botulph is considered patron saint of travelers.

Another document from the Middle Ages, The Life of St. Ceolfrith, mentions an abbot named Botolphus who was “a man of remarkable life and learning, full of the grace of the Holy Spirit.”

Perhaps that’s enough to be remembered for.

That and his wicked awesome name.

Botulph is honored as a saint in several Christian traditions. In addition to travel, he is the patron saint of boundaries and trade. His feast day is celebrated on June 17 in the Church of England.

Collect for Botulph
O Lord Jesus Christ, you became poor for our sake, that we might be made rich through your poverty: Guide and sanctify, we pray, those whom you call to follow you under the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, that by their prayer and service they may enrich your Church, and by their life and worship may glorify your Name; for you reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

— Emily McFarlan Miller


Chief Seattle: E.M. Sammis, Public Domain,

Botulph: Public domain


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102 comments on “Chief Seattle v. Botulph”

    1. I felt exactly the same! Interesting people but not up to the quality of most Lent Madness candidates, and a shame they are appearing against each other.

  1. Chief Sealth today. What a shame that the wisdom and kindness he possessed are almost never found in tandem with actual power! How much better off would we be if it were?

  2. More appropriate would be Starbucks vs Dunkin' rathuh than a spawt of tea, I figyuh.

  3. I have to say, I can't see in this write-up why Seattle - interesting, impressive and hard done by as he clearly is - is a saint. (Botulph not particularly inspiring either!)

  4. Other than being baptized in his 60s how exactly did Chief Seattle become a contestant in this bracket? Obviously a great man among his people and deserving of praise for that, but finding it hard to find a connection with his faith here. At least the other guy was a Benedictine.

  5. Although I have both a son and a grandson with birthdays on June 17, I had to go with Chief Seattle today

  6. I too was not particularly inspired by either St. ‘Boston’ however had me question even more- what he did do? What did he do that was saint like????

    I am all about Chief Seattle! My heart breaks thinking how much he did or attempted to do for his tribe. His final words left me ashamed and filled with compassion and frustration…. I have been very poor and hungry all winter and am very sick now. In a little while I will die. When I do, my people will be very poor; they will have no property, no chief and no one to talk for them.”

    1. No kidding! As a Western Washington girl, I'm all about Chief Sealth, but this pairing seems to be more about setting up a gimmicky West Coast vs. East Coast city showdown than about honoring two inspirational saints. I'm getting a little tired of this "cute" approach to bracket building in recent years...

  7. Pity our poor Native Americans left to starve.
    So sad. May this one man be honored today

  8. I'm sure Stealth will take this round, so I'm voting for Botulph and his excellent blogger.

  9. "Starbucks vs. The Boston Tea Party." And here I thought it was going to be "Starbucks vs. Dunkin'." Botulph is a wicked awesome name and Boston is a wicked awesome city. But the write up on Chief Seattle captured my vote.

    1. The glorification of respected American Indian leaders was a practice in the 18th and 19th centuries. Tammany Hall in New York was named for Tamanend or Tammany, chief of the Lenape people, who signed an important treaty with Wm. Penn. He was revered as a great and holy man, and social and political clubs were named for him. In Louisiana, where many parishes (counties) are named for Catholic saints, one parish is named St. Tammany. The people of Washington State should prefix Seattle's name with "Saint."

  10. I did wonder whether it was a stretch for either person to be named a saint, but the fight for Justice by Chief Seattle won me over. That fight for treaty rights is far from over. He was brave to have initiated it. I am glad to vote for him.

  11. Although born in Baltimore and raised in Omaha, I've lived in Boston for almost fifty years. Since this is the Hub of the Universe, I must vote for St Botolph.

  12. Like others I wasn't particularly inspired by either bio. But I was moved by this collect: "may so move every human heart, that barriers which divide us may crumble, suspicions disappear, and hatreds cease; that our divisions being healed, we may live in justice and peace;" So the collect gets my vote this morning.

  13. I’m from Massachusetts (although not from Boston). Seems to me that this pairing is between a true spiritual warrior who fought for his people by trying to meet with colonizers and reason with them, and the name of a city that happens to come from the UK (in New England? Shocking!) and was derived from the name of an obscure saint about whom nothing is really known.

    No contest. Chief Seattle for me.

  14. It was the collect for Chief Seattle that did it for me. As for Botulph, yes, it is enough to be remembered as a person “of remarkable life and learning, full of the grace of the Holy Spirit.” And he did have a wicked awesome name.

  15. I lived in Boston on St. Botolph Street from 1983 to 1989 and voted for him out of loyalty to 6 wonderful years in that great city. Was a member of Old North Church where both of my kids were baptised.

  16. Though St. Botolph Street runs right through my alma mater, Northeastern U, I had to pass our buddy by.

  17. Sipping my Yorkshire Gold tea and voting for Chief Sealth. Timothy Egan's book The Good Rain gives an unforgettable description about what the Seattle area was like when the white settlers first arrived. It was a land running with salmon and game. The Native Americans were prosperous. It only took a few decades of "civilization" to destroy the watersheds and greatly reduce the salmon runs.

    1. There are some good glimpses of it too in Ken Kesey's Sometimes A Great Notion.

  18. Could the writers perhaps provide more information on each person? I feel they are holding back so they have more for later but there…isn't much there, there. So to speak. Hard to select either one today.

    1. I agree. I understand that they want to keep stuff if people make it to next rounds, but this way it will be hard for people to make it to next rounds. I wish they would maybe outline things and then give more details later on.

  19. Seattle today. Do we really know that the Botolphus mentioned in The Life of St. Ceolfrith was this Botolphus?

  20. Chief Seattle's story moves me to actual tears. Oh, that our nation would repent and make amends for the wrongs we have done to the First Peoples!!!

  21. I live in New York. I'm a Yankees fan, so I hate Boston (at least the Red Sox, anyway), and I was born and raised in the Seattle area. I have visited Chief Seattle's tomb. Good enough for me to vote for him!

  22. I am not an expert at bracket setting, but this seems to have been a set-up just to pit two towns, not really two saints. Happy for Chief Seattle, sad that someone more local from the East could not have been chosen.

  23. I have had much respect for Chief Sealth for many years, and his collect was awesome. It would do us all good to pray that collect on a daily basis. I am hoping that as he advances we will get more information about his life; this first biography seemed kind of sketchy.

    1. "His" Collect can be found on the bottom of page 823 of The Book of Common Prayer 1979 where it bares the title, 27. For Social justice.

      Whilst you in that part of The BCP, take some time to check out the other excellent Prayers and Thanksgivings that start on page 814 and go through page 841.

  24. Ms Miller devoted more space to musing on how Boston got connected with St. Botulph and barely any on why Botulph should get our votes. Mr. Finch, on the other hand, gave us multiple reasons to vote for Chief Seattle. My reasons for doing so? I am committed to the Anglican Church of Canada's work for reconciliation between Indigenous peoples and settlers/colonists (our slogan is "Practice #reconciliACTION. Do justice") and I suppport the aims of Canada's Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the UN declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. All those of us who are non-Indigenous living in North America need to remember that we are all treaty people. Besides, Chief Seattle's dying words give us an indication of his care for and commitment to his people and their welfare, and moved me greatly.

  25. Should be an easy victory in the next round for whoever is slated against today's winner.

  26. Not fair! My family is from Quincy, MA; and I settled with my husband and kids in West Seattle.

    Not fair!! My paternal family is from North Weymouth, MA; but I moved with my husband to Seattle, where we reared our family!

    1. Hello Nancy! Greetings from The City of Presidents!
      I grew up in South Boston (South Botolph's Town?) and have made my home here since 1986. I'm reading the comments before I vote. Leaning towards Chief Sealth...

  27. As a Lincolnshire lass and visitor many times church in Boston known as Boston Stump, St Botolph had to get my vote!

  28. Like many others, I find today's picks quite difficult.Not because of their saintly qualifications, but I personally found them less than inspiring with Godly attributes. However, having Native American relatives and knowing by history how awful our government treated and treats Native Americans, Seattle got my vote. He was a great man, but a saint? For that I will ask my ELC cousins!! Peace y'all!!!

    1. There used to be a St Botolph's in Boston's St. Paul's Cathedral, and no many knew the coincidence of our Bunker Hill Day, a holiday on June 17 in Suffolk County.