Prayer for Tsus-sy-uch
Colored Pencil on Paper
13" x 18"
13" x 18"
In 1854, a young Tsimshian and Tlingit man of nobility, called Tsus-sy-uch, journeyed with his crew by canoe from his homeland up North to earn money in this area. They spent time around Fort Nisqually, and then were hired by Butler to clear his property. Tsus-sy-uch and his crew labored hard, but when payment was due, were denied what they had been promised. Tsus-sy-uch was shot during the dispute, in a killing ordered by Butler and committed by Butler’s overseer. Tsus-sy-uch’s crew made their case to various Washington Territory authorities, but neither guilty man was ever brought to justice – instead, the cove was eventually named after Butler.
The crime made it transparent to the indigenous people of this region that the settlers of this area did not see them as equals, but as expendable. It set off tensions which, alongside the many crimes by settlers against tribal people, led to the Indian Wars and further genocide. The hidden history of the killing of Tsus-sy-uch – which remains deliberately obscured by a name – is reflective of the violence used to settle this continent.
Names have power. The movement to reclaim Native spaces through re-naming has gained ground regionally – most notably through the former Puget Sound returning to its ancestral name, Salish Sea, and other instances such as Bushoowah-ahlee Point at Evergreen State College. The designation of the place known as Butler Cove could be changed to reflect and honor Tsus-sy-uch rather than reward his killer’s legacy.