What’s left at the graving yard site? Tribe’s waterfront activity ebbs

PORT ANGELES — A simple weather-worn tarp held down by beach cobbles covers remnants of one of the Klallam longhouses discovered at the former graving yard site.

“This is the fallen wall of a 700- to 800-year-old big house that was naturally burnt,” said Lower Elwha Klallam tribal member Carmen Charles while working at the 22.5-acre waterfront site on Wednesday.

“They are scientifically done with this and told us if we want to preserve it that we would have to find a curator.

“Since we haven’t found one yet, we may lose this forever.”

The aged cedar planks are among some of the treasures still intact at the site, which is the former home of a centuries-old Klallam village called Tse-whit-zen (pronounced che-wheet-sen).

But some evidence of the Klallam village has been forever erased to allow for construction of a graving yard that will never be built.

State Transportation Secretary Doug MacDonald announced Tuesday that fabrication of new pontoons, anchors and roadbed to replace the aged eastern half of the Hood Canal Bridge would not continue in Port Angeles.

After New Year’s, Lower Elwha Klallam leaders will meet with state and federal officials to discuss what will happen to the state-owned property.

No more archaeology

Now that the graving yard project has been pulled from Port Angeles, the money to continue recovering human remains and artifacts is gone.

“We don’t know what will happen to this land — our village — yet,” Tribal Chairwoman Frances G. Charles said.

“A lot has been lost, but a lot of the village is still here, and there is so much that has not been explored.”

Archaeologists have said the site is the largest and most significant Native American village uncovered in the Pacific Northwest.

Longhouse documentation

Cedar posts from numerous longhouses and cooking pits were documented Wednesday before archaeologists left the site.

“Because we used heavy machinery to excavate, we did not find the top of the longhouse posts,” Carmen Charles said.

“We lost a lot because we had to move so fast.”

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