PORT ANGELES — The Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe is giving the public a chance tonight to preview its new display showcasing artifacts from the Tse-whit-zen Village and a display on the Elwha dam removal project that freed the Elwha River.
The display, which will be available for preview from 5 to 7 tonight at the Historic Carnegie Building, 207 S. Lincoln St, Port Angeles, includes exhibits covering the tribe’s history, what it is working on presently and its plans for the future, said Suzie Bennett, manager of the Elwha Klallam Heritage Center.
Moving the Tse-whit-zen artifacts — which were recovered from the 2,700-year-0ld Klallam village on the Port Angeles waterfront after first being unearthed in 2003 — from the heritage center to the Carnegie Museum has been an exciting and emotional experience, Bennett said.
“It’s such important work and I’m honored to be a part of it,” she said Monday. “The rediscovery of the village and its importance to my community, I just want to make sure I’m doing the best work I can to make my community proud.”
Bennett said she was brought to tears when she first saw an intricately-carved bone comb when it returned from the Burke Museum in 2014.
For her and other tribal members, the artifacts recovered are more than just pieces of history.
“Looking at these artifacts, they’re not just an artifact,” she said. “They belong to my people. I just feel a deeper connection to them and a lot of our community feels the same way.”
Those artifacts will stand beside the traveling Elwha River Dam exhibit, which was curated by the Burke Museum in Seattle and previously traveled the nation.
Visitors will also encounter many art pieces that have never been seen on display and a brand-new culture and lifestyle exhibit.
An Elwha drum group will share a few songs tonight and tribal employees will be on hand to answer questions.
Bennett said tonight is a chance for the community to provide feedback that could help shape what the final exhibit and programming looks like.
“The preview night is to give people an idea of what will happen and to get feedback from the community,” she said.
She said the hope is to eventually offer programs such as the ones featured at the heritage center. That could include hosting classes and showing films, she said.
Bennett said the museum will feature a new contemporary arts section and there are plans to have a loom that visitors would be able to use to weave.
The tribe took over the Clallam County Historical Society’s lease in 2016 and initially used the space for its Natural Resources Department until new office space was finished.
The tribe began working on the exhibit last fall and work is still underway.
Bennett doesn’t know yet when it will regularly be open to the public, but she is hoping the facility will be open 15 to 20 hours each week starting in April.
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].