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. Having been born on Duwamish land, I will vote for the Duwamish. My understanding is that the oyster beds in Puget Sound are the most expensive agricultural land in the US. You eat them raw. Indigenous peoples in "american" continents have always gotten a raw deal. I don't normally quibble with collects, but suspicions won't disappear, hatreds won't cease, and divisions won't heal until after justice reigns. John Marshall, he of Marbury v. Madison fame, who succeeded in the power grab of "judicial review" of the Constitution, also wrote that if a nation is based on the seizure of land from others, that seizure stands. "Genocide decisis," we might say. If the US ever made "justice" a prime directive, we would have to strip this country down to the bolts.

    1. That Collect with which you quibble is taken directly from the bottom of page 823 of The Book of Common Prayer 1979. Not saying that your quibble is not justified, for it will probably take the Second Coming and the ushering of the New Heaven and New Earth for the lamb to lay down with the lion and that Collect to be realized.

      None the less, it cannot hurt to pray it once in a while.

  2. Talk about an uninspiring match-up! Too bad there isn’t a “neither” box to check.

  3. Hard ones to choose between - neither were particularly good choices.
    Despite becoming Christian late in life, and after reading more on Wiki about Chief Seattle and his committing some terrible killings before being baptized I could not vote for him.
    "In 1847, he helped lead a Suquamish attack upon the Chimakum people near Port Townsend, which effectively wiped out the Chimakum in what Queen Anne & Magnolia News described as "Puget Sound's only known genocide."

    1. Queen Anne & Magnolia News is owned by Pacific Publishing Company, founded by a Houston "media executive." It sounds as though Washington newspapers were an investment opportunity. I can remember Texas investors trying to buy Oregon utilities, as a quick investment. To call a 19th-century skirmish, or raid, or attack involving competing Indian tribes "genocide" seems to me an egregious falsehood. According to Wikipedia, there were 400 Chimakum in 1780. They were never a flourishing band even before the incident. That's not to minimize tragedy. But it is to suggest that a great deal of skepticism ought to be brought to bear on any modern account of history that applies contemporary terminology to past events. The white settlers systematically dispossessed 50 million indigenous peoples of their lands and hunting grounds and sought to extinguish their cultures. That's genocide. I deeply wonder at the motives of a present-day account of intertribal warfare that calls it "genocide"; that too much hints of smug denialism: "Oh, look, the Indians practiced genocide too. That lets us white people off the hook." Don't just accept "easy" answers to history. You can learn a lot if you do a minimal perusal of Wikipedia and ask questions.

    2. I do not think that this act, or any similar, necessarily prohibit Chief Seattle from sainthood. There are many male saints that were in the military and killed thousands of people, yet they turned to Christ and lived exemplary lives. There were several woman that ruled over tribes/clans or countries that went to war themselves, or simply ordered a war be fought, and are responsible for thousands of deaths as well.
      Just saying’.

  4. It’s coffee for me! Chief Seattle wins for several reasons, not the least of which is my son & rest of family want to move there (oh! no, too far from NC, but I’d go visit) & my father’s students called him Chief. I’d need a pronunciation guide to get the other name right, doesn’t sound like Baas-ton to me, more like Bo-tuff!

  5. Today’s introductions really do not give me enough real information to make an informed vote. This is especially true for Botulph whose blurb is merely a recitation of the places that were named for him.

    Not voting today.

  6. I am 4 sessions into the amazing (moving, heartbreaking, devastating, eye-opening) learning experience of being in a Sacred Ground dialogue group, studying the history and legacy of racism in the Americas over the past 400+ years.(

    What would North America be like today without the marks of the Big Lie of white supremacism? in a world where the wisdom and leadership of people like Chief Sealth was listened to and honored? in a world where the "othering" of darker members of the one human race by humans with lighter skin did not bring chattel slavery, forced removals and broken treaties, torture and genocide, and generations of inequities begetting continued inequities? The sin of racism has wounded us all; slashed and scorched every land and every soul.

    I voted for Chief Seattle. May he rest in peace and rise in strength and glory.

  7. After agonising over the vote yesterday, I arrived expecting to be equally challenged, but feel decidedly underwhelmed. Am I missing something about Chief Seattle? I know the words attributed to him and they are very moving, but I am not seeing a life of faith and witness. I voted for St Botolph who built a monastery even if the details are lost int he mists of time.

  8. I got a reminder from Facebook that last year I posted about the matchup of Teresa of Avila and Crispin. And how I voted for Teresa, particularly because March 8 is International Women's Day. Happy International Women's Day, everyone! Grateful for the women who have paved the way for others.

    Like others, I wasn't overly impressed by either bio, and it was Chief Seattle's collect that did it for me. #votedforthecollect

    1. Props to our wonderful Book of Common Prayer: Chief Seattle's Collect is Prayer #27, For Social Justice, BCP p. 823.

  9. I can’t say Seattle wasn’t a staunch and adept leader, but I do wonder how he turns up in this competition about folks whose faith found expression in valiant deeds of courage and sacrifice.
    The same is true of Botulph, whose most notable act seems to be his traveling bones postmortem.
    OF COURSE I’m voting for Chief Seattle and I’m pretty sure Bostonians will go with the other guy.
    And, while we’re here, there’s some awesome Seattle/Duwamish bling at their website:

  10. Chief Seattle, I suppose. (Shrug) Got to go with the home church since neither is, so far, that interesting.

  11. I was christened at St. Botolph's Church in Chevening, Kent, as were my brother and sister, my mother, and my grandfather. For a long time my employer's London offices were in the St. Botolph's Building near Tower Bridge. I'm pleased to learn a little more about Botolph/Botulph/Botulphus, even though it doesn't look like he's going to advance to the next round.

    Probably for the best. I can't imagine there's much kitsch for him if he made it to the Elate Eight!

  12. Given the way, Native Americans have been treated, including by the church, think of the doctrine of discovery, for instance. I think it’s time we showed some humility and repented of what we’ve done. I think one step in that direction would be acknowledging chief Seattle’s today. he’s got my vote.

  13. Since 1620 the majority of my ancestors lived in or near Boston (as I did briefly) so I knew of the English town and its patron, but nearly 60 years ago I had the opportunity to worship at St. Botolph's Aldgate (one of two London parishes bearing his name) and was impressed by their ministry to a down and out community. Some may remember the then-recent Profumo affair, and it was his work in that ministry that gave him the opportunity to atone. Though we know little about St. Botolph I suspect that his Benedictine work showed similar care for those in need. Botolph for me today.

    1. Were any of your Loring ancestors in Salem, about 20 miles north of Boston? I grew up there and one of the main drags is Loring Avenue. The school I attended (then run by French Catholic nuns, and now a part of Salem State Univ.)was located on an estate known as Loring Villa. And I lived and worked in Boston for several years, so you know who got my vote today.

  14. Chief Seattle may or may not have given the speech as recorded, but in honor of the Native Americans with whom my grandfather worked, I voted for him.

  15. This is what I was referring to the other day. Ancient people like Saint Botulph where the writer states that not too much is known about him does nothing for me. Soebody needs to read the many books published on MODERN SAINTS.

  16. Wow- The collect for Chief Seattle was amazing; his life, example and leadership were inspiring. The government treated him and his people terribly and tragically he died begging for the lands and money stolen from them so that they could survive. He fits the idea of saint in my book.

  17. Well, not onlyl must I, as a Californian, uphold the glory od the West Coast, but Chief Seattle's story touched me deeply.
    We have not been very nice to Native Americans over the years, at least he can move forth towards the Golden Halo!

  18. Hard to vote for either so I abstain. Chief Seattle’s letters/speeches are more than a bit suspect.

  19. FYI: The primary vow of Benedictines is stability. It's absence in the prayer almost led me to vote for the mysterious Chief Seattle; but loyalty to my favorite Alma Mater, St. John's University School of Theology, Collegeville, MN, run by the Benedictine monks of St. John's Abbey, held sway. Botulph got my vote, and once again I am on the losing side of the vote. 'Tis good as a Lutheran to practice a theology of the cross during this holy season.

  20. Good afternoon all this one was a no contest of course we were going for Seattle. The other fellow’s history was kinda sketchy there.

  21. I’m surprised that no one thinks Chief Seattle is worthy of inclusion in Lent Madness. It sounds as though he lived an ethical life, and worked for justice for his people. How is that not worthy? Isn’t living life the way Jesus taught enough? What, not enough praying? Not enough talking about Jesus? Didn’t start any monasteries? Get your priorities straight people!

  22. This was a hard one only because to me neither did anything to make me want to vote for him. I’m only going with Chiefs Seattle because he did his best to help his people get what was promised.

  23. Chief Seattle helped lead the Pacific NW’s only instance of genocide. My vote is for Botulph!

    1. Vigilantes massacred Wobblies in 1916 in Everett harbor. I would say "only instance" of mass violence against collective groups in order to exterminate them and erase their achievements from the historical record is a fantasy.

  24. Historical records seem to matter. St. Botulph, born 1200+ years prior to St. Chief Seattle, is practically unknown except for his interesting name and that he was a product of a monastic education and lifestyle. St. Chief Seattle's voice, body type, empathy, and advocacy for his poverty-stricken people, even until his death bed...all are well documented. Some "saints" simply cannot be easily dismissed. (perhaps more of a "contemplation v. action" choice?)

  25. Strange voting today. An admittedly wise native American who basically got baptized and wrote a document that is largely questioned as inauthentic even if useful for contemporary ecological advocacy (via a 1970s rewrite by a film-maker).. vs someone who built a monastery and was widely regarded widely enough as "a man of remarkable life and learning, full of the grace of the Holy Spirit,” that numerous churches were named for him... and Seattle is winning.
    Oh well.