Tribe tells of stress lingering from exhuming remains of ancestors at Tse-whit-zen

PORT ANGELES — Lower Elwha Klallam tribal members, including workers who excavated the Tse-whit-zen village site, tearfully pleaded with the Port Angeles Community Multicultural Task Force on Tuesday not to restart the state Department of Transportation graving yard project there.

“We hope the community sees how important Tse-whit-zen is to us,” said Monica Charles of the tribe.

“It is not just dead bones.

“We wonder when a skeleton is dug up, is that my grandmother?”

Emotional condition

Charles said the tribe is talking to the state about the emotional condition of its members since work at the Marine Drive graving yard site was halted.

It was difficult for people to work in the village dirt with their hands, Charles said.

Sometimes the recovered remains were just broken bones because of what happened during earlier construction on the site, she said.

Between the Tse-whit-zen era — which stretched 2,700 years, according to archeological surveys — and the graving yard project, the property just east of the Nippon Paper Industries USA mill was site of at least two mills as well as log storage.

Charles said she expects many of those who worked excavating the Tse-whit-zen village site to “crash” the same way many Vietnam War veterans did.

Trauma counseling urged

Workers at the site were angry about what they were being forced to do, Charles said. Future problems with alcohol, drugs or violence could be headed off now with trauma counseling, she said.

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