Ancient Burial Ground Found And Dug Up

Ancient Burial Ground Found, Dug Up


By William Simonsen

Port Angeles, Wash. — There are tombs and graves in Rome and Athens, some are 1.700 years old. They are preserved and venerated.

There are graves 1,700 years old in Clallam County and corpses are being dug up to make way for a construction yard. And no arrangements are being made to preserve the corpses.*

Here, state and federal officials plan to pave over corpses that aren’t disinterred.

This week officials from WSDOT, the Federal Highway Administration and the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe plan to meet to try to reach yet another compromise so a huge bridge replacement project can continue at a site on Ediz Hook.

The trouble began shortly after a 22.5-acre parcel in the harbor was chosen for construction of large drydocks to build components to rebuild the Hood Canal Bridge.

When construction started in the summer of 2003, ancient corpses were found. It soon became evident a tribal village was on the site for hundreds of years.

Work was stopped and archeological excavations were started.

Less than one year into the project it is two years behind schedule, and there is still a lot of excavating to be done.

WSDOT Communications Manager Lloyd Brown said under normal circumstances all of the excavation would take six weeks.

When the first skeletons were found, this project becamce anything but normal.

He said digging in the deepest parts of the drydock — almost 30 feet — is well underway. He said WSDOT does not plan to excavate deeper than 5 to 7 feet in areas planned for only concrete pavement. Almost all of the remains were found at depths of less than ten feet.

This policy leads to the disagreement between the tribes and WSDOT.

Tribal officials claim graves that have not yet been found will be sealed under concrete. Before concrete is poured on the surface those leaders want deeper excavations to unearth all possible corpses.

Last week the Federal Highway Administration ruled the construction of large drydocks can continue as planned.

“The FHWA ruled that the Memorandum of Agreement (with the Tribe) of March, 2004, is still in effect,” a press release said Wednesday afternoon.

Tribal requests for more excavation of the area were rejected under the ruling,

The Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe is asking for the same treatment for buried ancestors given to orderly, tree-lined modern graveyards with mowed lawns and granite headstones.

“We know that they’re there,” tribal council chair Francis Charles said. “Put your foot in our shoes and somebody you love, would you want them laying under a concrete floor under tons of water?”

So far, 265 fully intact corpses have been exhumed, as have more than 700 isolated pieces from an unknown number of bodies and thousands of historical objects. The site is the location of an ancient Klallam village, Tse-whit-zen, which dates back more than 1,700 years.

More than 70 burials were found in an ancient sand dune along the edge of the site. When digging was expanded to an adjacent area, seven more burials were discovered within 30 minutes and six more were later found, Charles said.

“It’s not like we’re asking them to go through the whole 22 and a half acres,” tribal chair Frances Charles said.

The tribe is primarily concerned with an area along the northern edge of the drydock site, along the 1896 beach line, where they suspect more tribal ancestors are buried.

She said the tribal elders and spiritual advisors determined the best course would be to remove all of the remains to be reburied together. She likened the situation to a family burial plot that relatives would not wish to disturb or separate spouses or children and parents.

She noted that archaeologists have discovered a mother and child buried together and a couple buried in an embrace.

“We do not want to separate them or others like them,” Charles said.

She said the tribe is in discussions with the Port of Port Angeles and Nippon paper mill, which own property on either side of the burial site, to acquire adjacent land for reburial.

Brown said if a construction project disturbed a modern cemetery, WSDOT “would follow the law to the letter,” when moving corpses.

All parties involved profess a desire to keep the project in Port Angeles.

Brown said WSDOT views negotiations as “bringing together two very different perspectives.”

The stakes driving a compromise are enormous.

If the tribes appeal the FHWA decision in court, it “would throw us into a situation where we’d have to consider looking somewhere else” to finish the project, Brown said.

Charles said she hoped to resolve differences during discussions in the process outlined in the original agreement signed by the state and tribe outlining the process and compensation for disturbing the village and burial site.

There are several avenues left for resolving the dispute and talk of filing an appeal in the court system is too early, Charles said.

Either way, last week’s FHWA decision is not the final word.

So far, more than $65 million has been paid to Kiewit-General, the main contractor on the bridge reconstruction. The winning bid for the job came in at $243  million, money that will mostly be spent in Clallam County.

About the only thing all parties can agree upon is that the current bridge across the Hood Canal must be rebuilt. Traffic has increased from 1,500 cars per day when it opened in 1962, to 18,000 cars per day in 1997. Traffic is projected to reach 37,000 cars per day in 2020.

WSDOT engineers say the current structure is hard to maintain and unsafe for the projected traffic load.

© 2013 William Simonsen. All rights reserved.


Rebuilding Hood Canal Bridge


By William Simonsen

Port Angeles, Wash. — Rebuilding the Hood Canal Bridge just got a lot more complicated.

The Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe asked the state to stop construction at its site in Port Angeles harbor in a letter Friday to WSDOT Secretary Doug MacDonald.

Tribal Chairman Frances Charles said the tribe wanted work stopped “because of the physical problems involved.”

Charles stopped well short of blaming WSDOT for the problems. “We know that you and your colleagues at WSDOT have made every effort, and are willing to continue to make efforts, to save our burials,” her letter said.

Charles wrote, “We have already suffered damage to ancestral remains and losses of historic properties, and it has become clear that — no matter how hard we all worked at it — the current construction cannot be sustained without additional destruction of burials and remains of our ancestors.”

Charles sent copies of her letter to Rep, Norm Dicks, (D-Wash.), Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Marla Cantwell (D-Wash.), and Gov. Gary Locke.

If WSDOT complies, a new location for construction of components for rebuilding the floating Hood Canal Bridge must be found.  The state Transportation Commissioners meet in Olympia Thursday.

Shortly after work was started 17 months ago, 1,700-year-old graves and artifacts were unearthed. From that time forward, archaeological excavations, and little else, have been in progress.

WSDOT planned to use the site to build huge pontoons and concrete anchors to replace the aging eastern half of the Hood Canal bridge, the longest floating bridge in saltwater in the world.

The 22.5-acre construction site is now known to be the site of the ancient village of Tse-whit-zen. It soon became evident a tribal village occupied the site for hundreds of years. So far, 265 fully intact corpses have been exhumed, along with more than 700 isolated pieces from a number of bodies.

Longhouse structures, cooking hearths, hunting and cooking tools, and articles of clothing have been discovered.

The area on Port Angeles harbor has turned out to be the largest archaeological site in the Pacific Northwest.

It has become evident the village boundary extends well beyond the boundary of the planned construction site.

When construction began, more than 70 burials were unearthed in an ancient sand dune along the waters edge. As digging expanded to an adjacent area, seven more burials were found within 30 minutes, then six more.

With these discoveries, heavy machinery was removed from the site. Since then, archeological excavation followed by the careful sifting of material has been the rule.

The crux of the disagreement between the tribe and the department concerns graves not yet discovered. Tribal officials claim unexcavated graves of their ancestors could be sealed under concrete.

Before concrete is poured on the surface those leaders want deeper excavations to unearth all possible corpses.

The tribe’s request to stop work is its response to a two-week-old Federal Highway Administration decision.

It was much less than the tribe wanted.

FHWA said work can continue and archaeological work will be done only in areas disturbed by construction, ignoring the tribe’s request.

WSDOT Communication Manager Lloyd Brown said department officials plan to meet with the tribes soon to discuss the future of the site.

He said the consensus of opinion is to move the construction of the bridge components elsewhere. Brown said WSDOT plans to address public safety concerns about the delay in bridge construction.

Engineers plan a new inspection of the 45-yeaer old bridge to determine if any immediate repairs are needed, or if it remains safe for public use.

Brown said the construction site shutdown would impact many workers, some of whom are tribal members.

To date, more than $65 million has been paid to Kiewit-General, the main contractor on the bridge reconstruction.

Brown said the cost of the delay has not been calculated.

Some of the expenses were incurred in work completed widening the western half of the bridge and on the eastern approach to the bridge.

The original bid for the bridge rebuild was $243 million, but that was long before the ancient cemetery was discovered.

Wherever the construction is moved, the department plans to use the same site to build components for the highway 520 bridge across Lake Washington.

Still in question is the disposition of the artifacts and corpses from the site.

Charles said she hopes WSDOT and federal officials will help find “an appropriate use for the site.”

Monday afternoon the Port Angeles Chamber of Commerce released an opinion poll asking its members about the construction site dilemma.

The poll’s questions sum up the questions of the community of Port Angeles. It asks for opinions on alternatives from WSDOT pulling out completely, to stopping the archeological work and proceeding with construction, or removing dirt from the entire site to be sorted in a different location. Chamber Executive Director Russ Veenema said Tuesday several dozen responses had reached his office.

“They express pretty diverse opinions,” he said.

And a Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe member has put a petition online addressed to “All Government Officials.” It states signers of the petition believe no more work should be attempted at the site without consent of the tribes, It also demands complete funding for any archeological work needed to restore and repair the site, and fund emotional and spiritual healing.

© 2013 William Simonsen. All rights reserved.


Construction Yard To Be Moved, Along With Jobs


By William Simonsen

Port Angeles, Wash. — The state Department of Transportation has decided to move its construction site out of Port Angeles and there is no turning around, said Secretary of Transportation Doug MacDonald.

Monday, he said nothing would happen at the department’s 22-acre, $4.5 million site until the state, the city of Port Angeles and the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe agreed on the action.

MacDonald said, “We need to convince people we are going to stop” using the site.

“We don’t want the tribe out there until there is a plan,” he said. “Federal laws require the department to cap the site to prevent looting.”

MacDonald said there are now “cosmic issues” involved in the future use of the land on the waterfront.

“There should be mediation and talks” about the future of the site, said MacDonald.

But no talks can be held now because “we are not hearing from the tribe,” he said.

Then Tuesday, tribal representatives met with department officials in Port Orchard to discuss the future of the waterfront land.

“The meeting is about getting both parties to the table to talk about what we do now,” said Lloyd Brown, communications manager for the department. “This is not about continuing work” at the Port Angeles site.

“Expecting any results from this meeting is too optimistic,” he said.

The meeting was set up at the last minute by Tim Thompson, a private consultant to the department, Brown said. It was closed to the public.

But at the very public meeting Monday MacDonald emphasized the state will do little to mitigate the impact of abandoning the site.

He said the department will not be involved in any further archaeological work at the site — with the exception of disposition of human remains. “We have boxes and boxes of the remains of souls,” said MacDonald.

Transportation funding comes from gas tax and is supposed to be used for building roads, not archaeological digs, he said.

There is currently a fence around the site. No one is allowed on the property, he said.

“The problem will have to be solved by people of good will in this community,” said MacDonald. The future of the Port Angeles site will be decided without the help of the department, he said.

MacDonald said his participation in rebuilding the bridge is, “the most interesting and difficult thing I’ve ever done in my life.”

MacDonald said the groundbreaking ceremony at the site in 2003 “was the last good day on this project.”

“Within days, we found the first burial,” he said.

The corpses found at the site were not all buried in a traditional manner. Archaeologists said they were likely victims of a smallpox epidemic in 1786.

They said some of the remains dated back more than 1,700 years.

It is the largest archaeological site in the Pacific Northwest.

Longhouse structures, cooking hearths, hunting and cooking tools, and articles of clothing were discovered.

But the hundreds of corpses were not enough to stop the project.

However the combination of a request from the tribe to excavate the entire site and negative public opinion were the deciding factors, he said.  “Every mile you get from Port Angeles opinions shift because it becomes a larger issue of historic preservation.”

The department has spent over $65 million on the bridge project.

Now, the focus of work for the department is to find a different location to build the huge pontoons and anchors for the bridge rebuild. MacDonald said the department prefers to use a site on the Olympic Peninsula, but has received inquiries from all parts of the Puget Sound area.

When a new dry dock site is chosen, contracts will have to be renegotiated and plans changed. He said the department will “bring in a panel of national experts to help decide how to proceed.”

MacDonald said the decision to pull out of Port Angeles was several weeks in the making.

“Many government officials participated making the decision,” said MacDonald.

Gov. Gary Locke, Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Belfair, participated in the decision to leave Port Angeles, said Linda Mullen, communications director for the department.

© 2013 William Simonsen. All rights reserved.


Ancient Burial Ground History 


By William Simonsen

Port Angeles, Wash. — The north Olympic Peninsula had its own Trail of Tears.

In 1912 Michael Earles offered to build a sawmill if the town of Port Angeles would furnish the land. Townspeople took him up on his offer. They collected over $35,000, an immense sum a century ago, and gave him land at the base of Ediz Hook. Land covering a an ancient tribal graveyard. Land already in use by Native Americans for their village.

Even after they were evicted from their village, Klallam tribal bands lived on the shore of Port Angeles harbor until 1933, an anthropologist writing in 1993 reported.

“Port Angeles city officials wrote to the Indian Agency to inform them that the city planned to move trhe Inddians off the beach…and was looking for a place to move them,” said a 1997 anthropological report from Larson Archaeology/Anthropology.

Anthropologists Robert Ruby and John Brown wrote the federal government bought 372 acres at the mouth of the Elwha River on Freshwater Bay. Fourteen Klallam families remaining from Tse-whit-sen village were moved on the land, which became the Lower Elwha Clallam Reservation.

The land seized from the tribe kept its secret hidden for almost a century. During construction excavations last year hundreds of burials were found, in addition to the human remains, large midden piles and relics of longhouses, tools and fire pits were found.

Scientists think they have found the largest archaeological site in the Pacific Northwest, and perhaps North America.

The graveyard was revered by the tribe. Tribal elders told children not to walk on the land above the graves, said tribal chairman Francis Charles. Areas of mass burial document the smallpox epidemic that decimated the Native American population.

Earles came through on his promise by building the largest sawmill on the continent at the time, the Puget Sound Mill and Timber Co. Archaeologist Lynn Larson said mill construction did not disturb most of the relics and remains at the site.

The mill was sold to Charles Nelson and Joe Irving. It was closed in 1933.

It was re-opened during World War II as Olympic Shipbuilders.

Larson said it was not surprising to find a village at the site.

Klallam tribes inhabited the southern end of Vancouver Island as well as the northern shore of the Olympic Peninsula, studies say. The tribes migrated to river and creek mouths during the winter months and built longhouses of cedar planks for shelter against the elements.

They took advantage of food resources from both fresh- and saltwater, especially salmon and steelhead, a report from Larson Archaeological Anthropological Services said.

Klallam settlements were established on almost every freshwater drainage or bay, the report said.

Fish were taken using weirs, traps, hook and line, spears and nets. “At least one trap was kept on each river and creek in Klallam territory,” said a 1927 anthropological study by Erma Gunther.

The site of the now defunct Rayonier mill at the mouth of Quinn Creek, east of downtown Port Angeles, is no exception. It was proposed by for the dry-dock construction site by Rayonier Properties LLC., owner of the property for several decades.

Historical records place an Native American village and graveyard on the site.

Archaeology confirms the written record. During construction near the creek in 1976 “at least two skulls were unearthed in addition to many blue trade beads, both rounded and square, circular coins, and at least one projectile point,” said a 1997 report to the state Department of Transportation.

The village of I-eh-nus, meaning good beach, was on the Rayonier site when white settlers arrived. Archaeologists think Native Americans have occupied the Ennis Creek area for 2,500 to 5,000 years.

The creek mouth was also the site of the Puget Sound Cooperative Colony, a utopian community in existence from 1887 until 1904. It was one of many utopian colonies to spring up on the Olympic Peninsula.

Colony records indicate the creek mouth was shared by both cultures for many years.

More than 400 people lived in the colony. They built a sawmill, meeting house, houses and the first hotel in the area. The colony settled on both sides of the creek and at the base of the bluff to the west.

Local historians agree the colony at its peak was larger than the town of Port Angeles.

Forms nominating the area for the National Register of Historic Places in 1969 said, “…the Clallam Indian burial ground was located near the mouth of Ennis Creek…the burial ground disappeared completely when the area was covered with 10 feet of earth to build an area for parking cars.”

Between the colony and Rayonier the sawmill went through several owners. In 1917 it was enlarged by the federal government to produce spruce to use in airplanes during World War I.  A Clallam County Historical Society document said 30,000 soldiers were assigned to the effort centering on the mill.

But the present proposal for use of the area is apparently for land created by dumping fill into the bay to build a 1,100-foot dock after the site was bought by Olympic Forest Products in 1929. Olympic merged with Rayonier, Inc., in 1937.

The mill was closed 10 years ago and shortly afterward became an EPA Superfund cleanup site. Health reports list petrochemicals in the ground as the main pollutants.

The proposed site at Twin Rivers has a history too.

Lafarge North America put forward its Twin River Clay Quarry to use for dry-dock construction.

Lafarge, based in Reston, Va., is one of the largest suppliers of cement for residential, commercial, institutional and public works construction, with 14 plants in the United States and Canada.

The Twin Rivers area is connected to the current site on Ediz Hook by both ancient and recent history.

Anthropologists think Native Americans inhabited the site long ago. They theorize it was one of a string of villages centering on Tse-whit-zen.

When sawmills were built, owners looked west for logs to feed their machinery. A short-line railroad was built to haul logs to the mills in Port Angeles and Port Townsend.

Twin Rivers, the terminus of the railroad became a logging town settlement home to the largest logging operation in the world at the time, say local historians.

© 2013 William Simonsen. All rights reserved.


The Cost Of Moving Construction Project


By William Simonsen

Port Angeles, Wash. — Pulling out of its Port Angeles construction site will be painfully expensive for the state Department of Transportation.

It has spent more than $58.8 million, but produced no components for the Hood Canal bridge. Last week, the department released a Preliminary Summary of Costs itemizing its expenses at the site.

The original contract for the entire bridge rebuilding project was $243 million.

When the department paid the Port of Port Angeles $4.8 million for 22.5-acre site at the base of Ediz Hook it intended to excavate enormous trenches to be used as dry docks. Then huge concrete pontoons and anchors would be built to replace those parts failing on the 40-plus year old floating bridge.

The land purchase turned out to be one of the smallest expenses at the site. Shortly after breaking ground, Native American corpses and relics were unearthed. Work stopped, negotiations with the Lower Elwha Clallam Tribe were held.

As a result of the negotiations, $3.4 million in mitigation was paid to the tribe to allow work to continue. The negotiations resulted in archaeological work at the site.

Excavation by Larson Archaeological Services cost $2.8 million and Western Shores Historical Services cost the department $700,000.

The department’s estimate of additional archaeological work is incomplete. The report said completing excavation and lab work to comply with its agreement with the tribe will cost $5.1 million. No estimate is included for screening stockpiled  and new excavated material. 

The state spent $4.2 million on steel pilings driven at the edge of the construction site to allow excavation below water level.

Contractor mobilization cost $9 million. Keiwitt-General of Poulsbo is the general contractor of the bridge rebuilding project. No estimate was available for extra costs to Keiwitt for work not included in the original contract and change orders. The actual payment must be negotiated with Keiwitt.

The department spent $2.5 million on in-house engineering on the project.

An estimate of $4.5 million is included for additional construction cost attributable to abandoning the site. This cost includes capping the excavation with four feet of clean soil to protect archaeological material as required by federal law. It also includes security fencing the site, pulling  out some of the piling and contractor cost to remove its equipment.

© 2013 William Simonsen. All rights reserved.


Proposed New Construction Sites


By William Simonsen

Port Angeles, Wash. — Municipal port authorities and waterfront industrial businesses from Tacoma to Grays Harbor to the Canadian border sent in proposals offering land to use building components for the Hood Canal bridge. Eighteen proposals were received by the deadline — 5 p.m. Jan. 10 at state Department of Transportation headquarters in Olympia.

One will be chosen within 45 days.

The department is pulling out of its current facility in Port Angeles. So it needs a new place to build huge dry-docks to be used for construction of Hood Canal bridge components. Four of the proposals are for locations in Clallam County, three from Jefferson County.

WSDOT Communication Manager Lloyd Brown said, “The bridge project design team will evaluate each submittal, gather additional site information, and summarize characteristics of each proposal.”

Brown said the summary should be ready for further consideration by department engineers and staff members this week.

“We are still on track to make a decision on where to build pontoons and anchors by March,” said Brown

The Makah Tribe proposed a site in Neah Bay. The Makah land is a component of its port development plan, department documents said.

A site was proposed by Lafarge North America owners of the Twin River Clay Quarry about 10 miles west of Port Angeles.

Lafarge home office is located in Reston, Va. It is one of the largest suppliers of cement for residential, commercial, institutional and public works construction, with 14 plants in the United States and Canada and annual sales of more than $1.6 billion, said its website.

The Port of Port Angeles sent in a proposal for Terminal 7, a parcel contiguous to the current site. Port Executive Director Robert McChesney said the land could be used without excavation. The paved site would require a special railway to transport the enormously heavy concrete components to the water, he said.

The site of the now defunct Rayonier mill at the mouth of Quinn Creek, east of downtown Port Angeles, was proposed by Rayonier Properties LLC.

Forms nominating the site for the National Register of Historic Places in 1969 said, “…the Clallam Indian burial ground was located near the mouth of Ennis Creek…the burial ground disappeared completely when the area was covered with 10 feet of earth to build an area for parking cars.”

But the proposal is apparently for land created by dumping fill into the harbor during the 1930s.

A site at Fort Discovery on Discovery Bay was proposed by its owner, Security Services NW, Brown said.      

The Port of Port Townsend and Townsend Paper Company jointly proposed a site. Port officials said the site is located on land created by landfill.

Olympic Property Group proposed a portion of its property in Port Gamble, said Brown.

The property group is a Pope Resources subsidiary. Pope is a huge real estate holding and development company. It owns the entire historic town of Port Gamble, its website said. It also owns timberland and real estate properties in the West Puget Sound.

Glacier Northwest, producers of sand, gravel and quarry rock, proposed its Mats Mats quarry property in Port Ludlow.

The former Scott Paper Mill in Anacortes currently owned by MJB Properties was proposed for dry-dock construction.

The Port of Grays Harbor proposed       property at the confluence of the Hoquiam and Chehalis Rivers.

FCB Facilities Team proposed property owned by Concrete Tech., AML / Duwamish Shipyard and Todd Pacific Shipyards in Seattle.

Property on Skokomish River was proposed by Gerald G. Richert.

Property on Thea Foss Waterway was proposed by J. M. Martinac.

The Port of Everett proposed use of 26 waterfront acres.

A proposal from KLB Construction in Everett was received.

Also in Everett, the Snohomish Delta Partners proposed its property, the former Weyerhaeuser mill.

Concrete Tech sent in a proposal for its       property on Blair Waterway.

The Port of Shelton proposed upland industrial property only, no waterfront.

© 2013 William Simonsen. All rights reserved.


It Was An Eden


By William Simonsen

Port Angeles, Wash. — The extinction of the buffalo caused the near extinction of Native Americans living on the Great Plains.

On the Olympic Peninsula, the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe was driven almost to extinction by more subtle means.

With treaties, starvation, disease and brute force the Klallam’s Eden was taken from them.

First, the tribe was weakened by disease contracted from its first encounter with European explorers and traders. Then, shortly after settlers began arriving in the area, the federal government forbade the tribe from fishing, its traditional source of food.

The same year the tribe was stopped from fishing and gathering shellfish, a dam went up on the Elwha River, forever altering the runs of anadromous fish.

Just as the buffalo disappeared, so went the salmon.

Bowing to pressure to allow fishing, the state said tribal members could fish if they had a license. But then it refused to issue licenses to tribal members because they were not citizens.

When citizenship was granted to Native Americans, the state still refused to issue licenses because the tribal members had no permanent address.

At its low point, only 325 members of the Lower Elwha Klallam tribe were left, say tribal elders.

When settlers arrived, the Klallam found that all the rules of their existence were changed. They were no longer allowed to get food. They were forced to move to a foreign place — immediately — by invaders who did not speak their language and brandished guns. Being forcibly moved from one huge village stretching from Ediz Hook along the beach all the way to Green Point onto a 300 acre reservation was traumatic. It is a terrible scene as described by tribal elders.

Some individuals never moved. A few tribal members lived on Ediz Hook until the 1950s. But the majority of what became the Lower Elwha Tribe was relocated to the reservation by 1937, said tribal elder Adeline Smith.

While the total dislocation of an entire generation was occurring, federal authorities decided the Klallam tribe should be divided into three separate tribes. So the Lower Elwha Klallam, the Jamestown S’Klallam and the Port Gamble Clallam tribes were created.

Tribal members still scoff at the imposed political division, preferring to regard themselves as Klallam, merely living in different places.

The elders describe the land of the tribe as Eden — before the settlers brought civilization.

Bea Charles and Smith, women in their 80s, describe a time of grace, beauty and peace. A time when “the strong people”, the Lower Elwha Klallam’s name for themselves, lived in harmony with nature. It was a time when surpluses were given to each other, and other tribes, in elaborate ceremonies, and sharing was a way of life. Sometimes potlatches lasted three days, Smith said.

Charles said the people would follow their food sources from place to place on the northern end of the peninsula. Their migrations timed to maximize their hunting and gathering.

And romancing.

Smith married a member of the Makah Tribe. She said the main incursions, other than very occasional battles over whales, from the Makah were to steal away Klallam women.

“Of course the Klallam women were more beautiful,” she said with a smile.

Leaving little trace of their rich culture except graves, the Klallam lived for thousands of years along the coast. They knew when and where plants and medicinal herbs would ripen. They knew where the beargrass grew for basketmaking. And the strong people would be there for the harvest, said Charles.

In winter, families would congregate at river mouths on the Straits of Juan de Fuca to trap, spear and hook salmon. The fish were dried and smoked for consumption later.

Smith said villages were at every river mouth and bay along the strait.  She said there were 13 settlements along the Elwha River between Lake Crescent and the strait.

Hunters went into the hills after deer and elk, she said.

There was never a lack of food, no one ever starved.

Bee said there were times when the settlers, facing starvation from crop failure, would be fed by the Klallam.

Unable to catch fish to survive, some Klallam families turned to agriculture. Smith said five families homesteaded near the mouth of the Elwha River, but all eventually lost their land. They could not read notices or understand the ways of taxes, deeds and sheriff’s tax sales on the courthouse steps.

She said her father attended school through the eighth grade, then became an interpreter for other families.

Both Smith and Charles said they attended Dry Creek School near the reservation.

It was a one-room school with a wood stove for heat and 42 students in grades one through eight when Smith attended. Most students spoke English only at school. They spoke the tribal Salishan language at home.

Life on the reservation was hard. Charles said the main form of transportation was walking until 1929 when state highway 112 was completed to Twin Rivers and Seiku.

Still, most of their knowledge of the world came from their families and other tribal members.

Smith said the elders taught all the children not to go near the graveyard on Ediz Hook.

“The way I was raised, I believe it (the burial ground) should be left alone.

“Put them back where you found them. Their souls are never going to rest unless you do,” she said.

A monument should be put at the spot to mark the burials, she said.

Smith and Charles agreed no further excavations at the site on Ediz Hook should be allowed.

Neither woman is optimistic about the search for a new site for a dry dock along the strait. Smith said every waterfront place with a decent harbor or river mouth was the site of a village.

“They were good places to land a canoe,” she said

Smith said teaching their language in Port Angeles High School is a good start to reclaiming the tribe’s heritage. With the language the students begin to learn the parts of their culture that was lost when a the tribe was dislocated in the early 1900’s.

Some tribal members say the excavation of the site on Ediz Hook allowed them to re-discover their culture. The dry dock construction site turned out to be the largest archaeological site in the Pacific Northwest, possibly North America.

But most members are disturbed by digging up the bodies of their relatives that were at rest on the hook. Scientists estimate the site was in continuous use for 2,700 years.

Decisions will have to be made. There are hundreds of cedar boxes containing the remains of tribal members in storage. There are graves left exposed to the elements, half excavated.

Above all else, the members of the tribe want to be part of the decision of what happens to their graveyard next.

Smith said everyone in the tribe knew there was a graveyard at the site chosen for construction.

“But no one asked us,” she said.

She wants to make sure that doesn’t happen again.

© 2013 William Simonsen. All rights reserved.


Where Should The Corpses Go? 


By William Simonsen

Port Angeles, Wash. — By the sheer number of laws, the Washington Legislature has said burials, graveyards and cemeteries are among the most sacred of all lands.

This is a sample of laws on the books, not even 5 percent of the laws on the books. The legal language of the laws is abridged for clarity.

Chapter 27 in the Revised Code of Washington (compiled state laws) protects Native American graves. It says, “Any person who knowingly removes, mutilates, defaces, injures, or destroys any cairn or grave of any native Indian… is guilty of a class C felony.”

Then lawmakers decided all graves should be protected from graverobbing. “Every person who mutilates, disinters, or removes from the place of interment any human remains without authority of law, is guilty of a class C felony and shall be punished by imprisonment in a state correctional facility for not more than three years, or by a fine of not more than one thousand dollars, or by both,” RCW Chapter 68.

Legislators felt moving a corpse was to be taken very seriously.

Again Chapter 85.50 RCW makes it clear anyone moving a body from its resting place must follow certain specific legal procedures.

“The remains of a deceased person may be removed from a plot (with)… the written consent of one of the following in the order named: (1) The surviving spouse, (2) The surviving children of the decedent, (3) The surviving parents of the decedent, (4) The surviving brothers or sisters of the decedent.

“If the required consent cannot be obtained, permission by the superior court of the county where the cemetery is situated is sufficient…” the lawmakers wrote.

And once again, by law, the legislators sought to protect burials from any disturbance. They approved a law protecting the effects of the person buried, “Every person who in a cemetery unlawfully or without right willfully opens a grave; removes personal effects of the decedent…removes or damages caskets…is guilty of a class C felony punishable under (state law).”

© 2013 William Simonsen. All rights reserved.


Tribal History Timeline


By William Simonsen

Port Angeles, Wash. — A timeline of Lower Elwha Klallam Tribes’ history since first contact with Europeans to the present.

Pre-1790 – About 2,000 Klallams lived in villages spread along ocean from Hoko River to Puget Sound, and on southern coast of Vancouver Island

1790 – Manuel Quimper lands at Freshwater Bay and Dungeness – first recorded contact of Klallam with Europeans

1791 – George Vancouver explores north Olympic Peninsula coastline

1800-1860 – Klallam population decimated by smallpox, measles, influenza and tuberculosis epidemics

1850 – Oregon Donation Act – allowed homesteading in Washington and Oregon

1852 – U.S. astronomical station established on Ediz Hook, near Klallam villages

1853 – U.S. Navy survey of Dungeness Spit and Ediz Hook – Klallam villages noted on map

1855 – Point No Point Treaty

1865 – Lighthouse built on Ediz Hook

1890s – Settlers arrive in Clallam County further displacing Klallam villages

1910 – Construction of first Elwha River dam

1910 – Fishing declared illegal for Native Americans

1914 – Construction of sawmill on Klallam graveyard site on Ediz Hook

1934 – Indian Reorganization Act – 14 families given 327 acres in Elwha Valley

1968 – Lower Elwha Reservation recognized by federal government – first funding from Bureau of Indian Affairs

1974 – Tribal right to fishing reinstated – Boldt Decision

1875 – Lower Elwha Fish Hatchery built

1977 – Three Klallam tribes were paid for 400,000 acres taken in 1855 treaty with federal government.

1994 – Court uphold tribal right to shellfish

2003 – Beginning of construction of dry docks on graveyard site on Ediz Hook

© 2013 William Simonsen. All rights reserved.

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