Mar 15, 2019 - “Law Number 5” Ethnic Cleansing in Chief Seattle City by lakw’alás (Tom Speer)

In 1865, pástəds (“Bostons”, “White Men”, Euro-Americans) established a Euro-centric township on land stolen from the Chief Seattle’s Duwamish First Nation.

On January 14, 1865, the new Town of Seattle Corporation enacted the 5th Ordinance, the infamous “Law Number 5”, commencing ethnic cleansing in the Duwamish Ancestral Homeland.

“Law Number 5” prohibited any Duwamish Nation person from being inside the City Limits after dusk. The town marshal and deputies enforced this law. “Law Number 5” made criminals of the Duwamish Nation – as well as Euro-American friends who gave them shelter, food, or employment after sunset.

Ironically, many of the colonists – like Town of Seattle Corporation president Charles Terry – had been saved from death in 1851 by Chief Seattle and the Duwamish Nation, who sheltered them, fed them, and taught them where and how to hunt and gather food resources in the dxw’dəwɁábš ʔálʔaltəd (Duwamish Ancestral-Homeland).

Town of Seattle incorporated in January 14, 1865

On January 14, 1865, the Territory of Washington Legislature incorporated the Town of Seattle, adopting a city charter that put the municipal government in the hands of a board of five trustees, to be elected annually. The Washington Legislature defined the city limits as encompassing an area from Howell Street in the north to Atlantic Street in the south, and from Elliott Bay in the west to 24th Avenue South in the east.

The charter stipulated that the trustees were required to appoint a town clerk, a marshal, and a magistrate. Of these, the marshal was the only salaried official, receiving $300 per year.

The trustees met for the first time on January 28, 1865. One of the colonists who had arrived at Alki Point in 1855, Charles C. Terry (1829-1867), was elected president of the board. Other members were Henry L. Yesler (1810-1892), Hiram Burnett, David T. Denny (1832-1903), and Charles Plummer (d. 1866).

Over the next two years, the trustees adopted a total of 14 ordinances, beginning with one that implemented a municipal tax (possibly a source of resentment that led to the eventual dissolution of Seattle’s first municipal government).

The second ordinance, titled “Concerning Swine,” marked the beginning of police regulation in Seattle. A third provided for the “Prevention of Drunkenness and Disorderly Conduct.” Another law was aimed at preventing “Reckless and Fast Driving Through the Streets.”

The trustees also passed an ordinance, the infamous “Law Number 5”, calling for the removal of “Indians” to points outside the town limits and providing punishment of those who might harbor “Indians”.

A few pástəds (Euro-Americans), notably Henry Yesler, Doc Maynard, and David Denny, built out-buildings on their own property (much like a mother-in-law apartment) so that their Duwamish employees could continue working at the sawmill, the cannery, logging, and other businesses in the Euro-American cash economy. These pástəd allies, many of whom were personal friends with Chief Seattle and other Duwamish “High-Borns”, were exceptions to the rule.

Starting in 1865, pástəd vigilantes and Town of Seattle Corporation supporters burned down dozens of Duwamish Longhouses and Potlatch Houses inside the city limits. Even after “Law Number 5” was repealed in 1867, the Duwamish Nation had no homes to return to, and no canoes for transportation. No compensation was ever made to the Duwamish.

Ten years after the 1855 “Point Elliott” Treaty, the Duwamish did not have their reservation inside their Ancestral Homeland, contrary to the treaty promises. None of the treaty guarantees made to the Duwamish were ever honored by the War Department or the United States Government. Chief Seattle’s Duwamish were exiled from their Ancestral Homeland.

By 1865, Segregation by “Race” was a well-established policy of oppression throughout America. Town of Seattle Corporation was no exception. The Duwamish Nation’s community cohesion and political unity in the new city named for Chief Seattle was devastated by arsons, longhouse and property losses, and forced expulsions under “Law Number 5”.

After most of the town’s leading citizens filed a petition for dissolution, the Territorial Legislature disincorporated Seattle township on January 18, 1867. Chief Seattle City became a precinct of King County.

In the latter part of 1869, the citizens asked the Legislature for another municipal government, with a mayor and town council, instead of a board of trustees. On December 2, 1869, the Legislature re-incorporated Seattle, issuing a new town charter that provided for a “more pretentious” system of government (Bagley 1916:546).

For Chief Seattle and the Duwamish, elimination of Town of Seattle Corporation and its infamous “Law Number 5” came too late. Most Duwamish had been forced beyond the township’s city limits. Dozens of their traditional cedar Longhouses and canoes, and countless personal possessions, had been burned to cinders.

The influx of the pástəds (“Bostons”, “White Men”, Euro-Americans) in 1851 marked the beginning of the end for traditional Duwamish culture, Duwamish sovereignty in their Ancestral Homeland, and caused untold Duwamish deaths resulting from diseases, starvation, and suicide. The uninvited pástəd colonists signaled “the Coming of the Age of Pestilence.”

by lakw’alás (Tom Speer)


Clarence B. Bagley, History of Seattle From the Earliest Settlement to the Present Time Vol. 2 (Chicago: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1916), 546

Myra L. Phelps, Public Works in Seattle – A Narrative History: The Engineering Department, 1875-1975 (Seattle: Seattle Engineering Department, 1978), 225

tsi’siɁáb słádeyɁ (Honorable-Female-Person “The-Lady”, Mary Lou Slaughter), 4th generation great-granddaughter of siɁáb siɁáł (Chief Seattle), paramount leader of the Duwamish & Suquamish Confederacy, his First Wife Queen ładaila’, and their daughter, the famous Weaver qi’qay’s`әblu wi’wәq (Princess Angeline), personal conversations 2002 – present

Washington Territory House of Representatives, Journal of the House of Representatives of the Territory of Washington. Twelfth Session of the

Legislative Assembly, Begun and Held at Olympia … December 5th, 1864 … (Olympia: T. F. McElroy, Printer, 1864), 169

Copyright legal notice: This document, including the photos and text, is the Copyrighted intellectual property of lakw’alás (Thomas Raymond Speer) unless noted otherwise. All material herein is protected under United States and International Copyright © laws. No images or text may be used for any purpose without explicit written permission in advance from the author Tom Speer. Reproduction and modification in any form or by any means without permission is strictly prohibited.

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