During the 1850s, he lived at the largest village of his people located at Toultʷ, a fishing village at the confluence of the Tolt and Snoqualmie rivers (today, Carnation, Washington) in a complex containing sixteen longhouses.
He was the dominant power from Whidbey Island to Snoqualmie Pass, between what is today British Columbia and King County, Washington According to historian Bill Speidel, his was the major Indian power on Puget Sound, in no small part due to control of Snoqualmie Pass and therefore the profitable trade between the tribes on either side.
In 1848, Patkanim arranged a meeting on Whidbey Island of 8,000 Puget Sound Indians to discuss the rising threat of white settlers. A year later, he arranged a raid on the Hudson's Bay Company trading post at Fort Nisqually, in which two white men were killed. Thereafter, he found it more profitable to co-operate with the settlers, reportedly turning over his own brothers to be hanged for the raid in exchange for $500.
In 1854, Patkanim assisted U.S. Army Captain George McClellan (later a Civil War major general) in exploring Snoqualmie Pass as part of the Pacific Railroad Surveys. On January 22, 1855, he signed the Treaty of Point Elliott, trading away several modern counties in exchange for a reservation near Tulalip, Washington.
Patkanim maintained excellent relations with the founders of Seattle, such as Doc Maynard and Arthur Denny. With the approach of the Puget Sound War, they persuaded him to ally himself, for a fee, with the forces of the United States. He assisted in constructing forts and encamped at Fort Tilton with 100 of his troops to block Snoqualmie Pass.
After the Battle of Seattle in 1856, Governor Isaac Stevens put a bounty on the head of raiders, $20 for ordinary Indians and $80 for a "chief". Patkanim obligingly provided a great many heads, until the Territorial Auditor put a stop to the practice. According to Speidel, there was a suspicious number of "chiefs" among the heads and many of them were probably nothing more than Patkanim's slaves from raids on other tribes.
Chief Kanim public middle school in Fall City Washington is named after one of his descendent nephews, Chief Jerry Kanim.
Reportedly, Patkanim had three daughters, Julia, Susie and Elizabeth (Lizzie).
A marker was raised to his memory, near Tulalip, but appears not to include a date of birth or death.
- Palmer, Christine Savage (2006). "Historic Overview: Carnation". King County Parks, Planning and Resources Department. Retrieved November 14, 2006.
- "Snoqualmie Indian Chief". Access Genealogy Indian Tribal Records. Retrieved August 5, 2007.
- Speidel, William C. ("Bill") (1978). Doc Maynard: the man who invented Seattle. Seattle: Nettle Creek Publishing Company. ISBN 0-914890-02-6.
- Ashley Bach (March 27, 2004). "A little-known tribe is finding its voice". Seattle Times. Retrieved October 19, 2008.