Lower Elwha Klallam tribe gratified, but there’s no celebration

PORT ANGELES — Lower Elwha Klallam tribal leaders say they are relieved ancestral remains still buried in the graving yard property will not be disturbed.

But they say the tribe isn’t celebrating state officials’ decision announced Tuesday to abandon construction at the Marine Drive site.

“We are gratified and feel that the Washington State Department of Transportation has made the right decision,” said Lower Elwha Klallam Tribal Chairwoman Frances G. Charles.

“The tribal community is overwhelmed by the decision and grateful that our No. 1 priority — protecting the ancestors — is being respected.”

For the past year, tribal leaders said, they struggled to find ways to protect ancestral remains and allow the graving yard project to continue, but could not find a way to do both.

“For the tribe, this is not a time to celebrate even though we are pleased it is stopping,” Tribal Vice Chairman Dennis R. “Sully” Sullivan said.

“We have hard times ahead.”

Charles said archaeologists, tribal workers and others will continue to recover human remains and artifacts that have been exposed during the next few weeks, but will not dig in any new areas.

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