PORT ANGELES — An archaeological survey at a Port of Port Angeles log yard has revealed remnants from 2,500-year-old Tse-whit-zen village.
The industrial site is next to the Marine Drive parcel where thousands of Lower Elwha Klallam artifacts and 337 sets of intact ancestral remains were unearthed in 2003 and 2004, still a searing memory for tribal members.
They were discovered just as the state Department of Transportation began digging holes in preparation for building an $87 million graving yard dry dock that would come to a permanent halt, a painful episode for the tribe.
The port must build a stormwater-runoff drainage system on the shoreline of Port Angeles Harbor, just east of where Tse-whit-zen was uncovered, under an administrative order from the state Department of Ecology.
Two archaeologists continued toiling there Friday, working in a grid pattern.
“The probability of seeing archaeological and cultural materials is high,” Port Director of Engineering Chris Hartman said last week.
“We know that with past experience with the graving [yard] project.”
“There have been some archaeological, cultural and historical materials that have been identified.”
Hartman would not identify the recent discoveries as artifacts, shell middens or human remains, or some combination of finds, at least until the survey is completed June 2.
Port commissioners approved the $125,000 contract with Australia-base Cardno April 28.
The survey, which began May 5, is being conducted with participation by the state Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation.
The contract assumes up to 100 artifacts will be collected by the time the survey is completed June 2, Hartman said in a staff report.
Seventy of the 169 pits have been dug so far. About a quarter of the pits will require sediment screening at the site, where fill made development possible.
“The results of the testing will be presented in a technical report and will include recommendations regarding project effects in order to avoid or minimize damage to cultural resources that may be present,” Hartman said in the report.
Working with the tribe
Port and Lower Elwha Klallam tribal officials, who agreed on a plan for the survey after two years of sometimes vigorous discussion, will assess the results of the report and decide how to proceed.
“If necessary, Cardno will perform laboratory analysis of collected artifacts and prepare them for curation at the Burke Museum,” Hartman said in the report.
Some 80,000 Tse-whit-zen artifacts are stored at the University of Washington facility, a collection that spans 2,500 years ago to 1900 A.D.
Spindle whorls, stone bowls, combs, needles, harpoons, and other typical objects of daily life found in Native American villages along the Puget Sound coastline were laid bare at Tse-whit-zen, according to the UW website at www.tinyurl.com/PDN-BurkeArtifacts.
A chain link fence runs from the Port Angeles Harbor shoreline north to Marine Drive, separating the tribe’s sacred land from a 20-acre log yard, where a giant shovel builds decks of logs that are sorted, loaded on trucks, or made water-borne for transport.
Tse-whit-zen knows no such boundary.
“We know that our village site continues into the land there, we have witnessed that,” Frances Charles, Lower Elwha Klallam tribal chairwoman, said last week.
“That’s why we had these ongoing discussions and meetings with the port with the concerns we have.
“In regards to the process, it has been a long process working and strategizing on this with the port, with the utilization of outreach so they understand what the concerns are looking at the history and the land adjacent to the village site, in regards to the importance it has on the tribal membership,” she said.
“Tse-whit-zen is known to be one of the largest archaeological sites in Washington state.”
Charles said a curation facility-museum is still planned for the village site.
She said there is “high probability” that at least shell middens will be found at log yard.
The stormwater project “brings up a lot,” she added.
The memory of Tse-whit-zen is still raw for tribal members, who saw work continue on the graving yard as remains were unearthed until Charles withdrew the tribe’s support.
“We don’t want to go back to that,” Charles said.
“We really appreciate the fact of having these ongoing discussions and meetings with the port.”
Tribal and port officials said there is a protocol for the survey that’s being closely followed.
Tribal archaeologist Bill White monitors test-pit work daily, joining two Cardno archaeologists, one of whom was employed for the tribe when Tse-white-zen was unearthed.
Hartman, who is overseeing the project, worked at the graving yard site in 2004 as a field-engineer intern for the construction company Keiwit-General before the project was halted.
A smooth-bladed mini-excavator peels off layers of soil in 4-inch scoops to a depth of up to 2 feet, Hartman said, standing in the logging yard Friday morning.
With the goal of limiting ground disturbance, a substantial amount of fill will raise the grade of the site.
“It’s really a methodical, slow, deliberative process that’s collaborative all along the way,” he said.
“If this were another site in more of a vacuum, you would be doing a scope of work and go through and maybe even progress through with design before you bring in all the regulating agencies and permitting.
“Here you have to engage with the tribe even before Day 1.
To improve their knowledge of the site, Hartman and other staff read Lynda Mapes’ book, “Breaking Ground: The Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe and the Unearthing of Tse-whit-zen Village,” to understand different perspectives,” Hartman said.
They also read the Department of Transporation’s documents on the graving yard project.
“There was quite a lot to learn about doing a project in this very sensitive area,” Hartman said.
The plan is to expand and modify the existing stormwater treatment facility and pave about 10 acres to make the entire log yard hard-surface.
“By paving, it keeps [the stormwater] cleaner before it enters the treatment system,” Hartman said.
Stormwater will be directed to a test point and pumped out in an above-ground pipe to a stormwater treatment facility before being discharged into the harbor.
The goal is to construct the system by 2021.
Port Commissioner Connie Beauvais was board president when she engaged in government-to-government discussions with Charles and other tribal officials.
The first meetings with tribal representatives were intense, Beauvais recalled Friday.
“It took some working to together in the beginning for us to feel comfortable around the table,” she said.
Tse-whit-zen was in the back of everyone’s mind.
“One of the big lessons we learned from that is responsibility for what is on and under the ground and to have steps to move very carefully in the future, and that’s exactly what we are doing right now,” Beauvais said.
“I was really excited in the beginning and continue to be excited that we were able to come to the table about this really vital piece of property, not only for the tribe but the public under the management of the port,” Beauvais said.
“It’s been very good working with the tribe on this project. I’m so appreciative of them coming to the table after the graving yard project.”
Charles said she appreciated port officials attending a ceremonial burning in September at the village site.
She said she is grateful “that they are understanding to the fact of what our concerns were and the lessons that were learned from Tse-whit-zen.”
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].