Thousands of years ago, this land was first peopled. The first settlers, the ancestors of the Salish peoples, fished, harvested the forests, and established the grasslands. They and their descendants lived off the cycles of nature, upon which they depended. The beautiful lowland blessed them, and they were free to make art, song, and story.
The day came when these peoples were met by Westerners. Some, like [British explorer] George Vancouver, respected their culture. Others, like [Washington territorial governor] Isaac Stevens, sought to destroy it. The latter prevailed.
These first nations, members of a proud oral tradition, were given false promises and thus tricked into signing a treaty surrendering their lands. Our region’s Duwamish and Snohomish peoples, despite being named signatories of the deceitful agreement, were even denied recognition and reservations. Those natives who did gain reservations were stripped of their heritage by missionaries and teachers. They were cheated and betrayed by the American government for decades.
Despite this mistreatment, the Salish cultures were preserved to the extent possible by their brave members. Today, they are undergoing something of a renaissance. Their crafts fill shops and museums. Their stories are shared in schools. Even their endangered tongues are being revived. Their contribution to the modern Pacific Northwest culture is inestimable.
The great Northwest is not the only land with such a story. All over the Americas, the First Nations have shared in the struggle to maintain their identity. Every American people is different, and this diversity must be preserved, allowing our beautiful, individual cultures to bless our future children.
I am proud of my Kingdom’s efforts to recognize the rights and roles of the indigenous peoples in local society. I am proud that the city of my birth, Seattle, has given them a day of their own. I hope that all Americans throughout this hemisphere will join in this celebration.