Chow-its-hoot

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Chow-its-hoot or Chowitsuit is a Lummi name. Several Lummi individuals have carried this name. Commonly, the name refers to the man who signed the Point Elliott Treaty in 1855 on behalf of the southern band of Lummis. Chief Cho-its-hoot is also known as Cha-wit-zit. He had no offspring. His father was named Sa-hop-kan. He had one brother, named Chil-luk, who preceded him in death, and another brother Sub-Chief T'see-leeq. Chief T'see-leeq fathered Chief Henry Kwina and Clara wife of John Alexander Tennant. Chowitsuit is sometimes called "the richest Lummi" because he owned several reef net sites and hosted seven potlatches in his lifetime. A Potlatch is a giant giveaway whereat the host gives away all or nearly all of his/her possessions. Potlatches serve a socio-economic purpose amongst NW tribes as a man's wealth is measured by what one gives, not by what one keeps.

As a result of Chowitsuit's generosity, his status amongst Lummis' was very high. This status led early pioneers of Whatcom County to consider Chowitsuit to be the Chief of the Lummi Tribe. Chow-its-hoot signed the controversial Treaty of Point Elliott as Chief of the Lummis in 1855.

Chow-its-hoot made friends with the first "hwa-ni-tum" ("non-Native" in Lummi) to settle in the area, Peabody. Peabody was looking for a waterfall on which he could build a saw mill. Chow-its-hoot explained that the Lummis had no word for "waterfall" and that he was looking for "whatcom", which means "loud water" in Lummi. So, Chowitsuit directed Peabody to a waterfall that would later be named "Whatcom Falls" and Peabody proceeded to build the first saw mill there.

Chowitsuit and the Lummis helped the first pioneers survive in Whatcom County. He and Peabody were lifetime friends. According to Peabody's journals, Chowitsuit sent messengers to ask Peabody to visit him at his home on Portage Island where Chowitsuit told Peabody that the Haida had stolen his hair and they were performing Black Magic on it. Chowitsuit forecasted to Peabody his own death and called Peabody to Portage Island to say "good bye" to his old friend. Peabody didn't believe Chowitsuit because of his apparent good health. Nevertheless, Chowitsuit died soon thereafter.

Today, the name Chowitsuit carries with it elevated respect within the Lummi and Nooksack Tribes. The late Damian Solomon (Nooksack) carried the name and was followed by the late Richard Solomon (Lummi).[1]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Interview with Solomon Family Member, 2005