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Suquamish Tribe in discussions for 150 boxes of artifacts

Projectile points and a stone adze blade from Duwamish No. 1, an archeological site listed on the National Register of Historic Places. These artifacts are among 150 boxes of artifacts that will be transferred from the Port of Seattle to the Suquamish Tribe or the Muckleshoot Tribe.  - Joe Mabel / Wikimedia Commons
Projectile points and a stone adze blade from Duwamish No. 1, an archeological site listed on the National Register of Historic Places. These artifacts are among 150 boxes of artifacts that will be transferred from the Port of Seattle to the Suquamish Tribe or the Muckleshoot Tribe.
— image credit: Joe Mabel / Wikimedia Commons

SUQUAMISH — More than 150 boxes of artifacts from an ancient Duwamish village site on what is now Port of Seattle-owned land could go to the Suquamish Museum.

Peter McGraw, spokesman for the Port of Seattle, said Oct. 29 that the port is “still in discussions” with the Suquamish Tribe and the Muckleshoot Tribe and has not decided whether it will transfer ownership of the artifacts to one, or share the artifacts with both.

The Muckleshoot Tribe is considered by the U.S. to be the successor to the Duwamish Tribe. Many Suquamish people have Duwamish ancestry as well; Chief Si’ahl, or Seattle, is interred at St. Peter’s Mission Cemetery on the Suquamish reservation.

The Duwamish Tribe, chaired by Cecile Hansen, great-great-grandniece of Chief Si’ahl, is not recognized by the federal government. Duwamish Tribe members are descended from people who didn’t relocate to Suquamish or Muckleshoot but wanted to stay in Seattle.

The artifacts, stored at the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, came from what is known as Duwamish No. 1, also known as hah-AH-poos, which was excavated by archaeologists in 1978 and 1986. Items dating at least 1,300 years were found there. The site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a park managed by the Port of Seattle.

Steve Denton, manager of collections held in trust at the Burke, said the items excavated from the site include formed objects, such as tools used to shape wood; shells, fish and mammal bones, which tell of the diet of the people at the village; and bags of soil, which contain pollen samples and other plant materials.

Denton said the Port wants to repatriate the artifacts and engaged in discussions two years ago with Suquamish and Muckleshoot. Muckleshoot has a repository, Suquamish has a repository and museum.

The Duwamish No. 1 site is across the street from the Duwamish Tribe’s Longhouse and Cultural Center. On July 22, Burke Museum representatives removed eight hah-AH-poos artifacts that were displayed in the cultural center’s museum for four years, on loan by the Burke — an adze blade, an antler tool, an awl, a harpoon point, and four other points.

Watching the artifacts go out the door was painful for Hansen. The moment brought to the fore one of the painful consequences of the George W. Bush administration — overturning the previous administration's recognition of the Duwamish Tribe.

Because of that, the Duwamish Tribe is excluded from discussions and ownership of the artifacts.

“We signed the Treaty [of Point Elliott],” Hansen said. “We signed it in good will and we’re treated this way … If [our recognition was] restored by the government, it wouldn’t be an issue.”

The Burke Museum — a state museum located on the University of Washington campus — has invited Duwamish officials to review and select “alternate archaeological materials” from its collection for exhibit. There are numerous other items from the Burke Museum on exhibit at the longhouse, including a basket that belonged to Angeline, Chief Si’ahl’s daughter.

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