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Ownership of objects from two ancestral sites will be transferred to Suquamish Tribe, Muckleshoot Tribe

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 the artifacts that will be transferred from the Port of Seattle to the Muckleshoot Tribe. The Suquamish Tribe will assume ownership of objects from a second site.   - 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 the artifacts that will be transferred from the Port of Seattle to the Muckleshoot Tribe. The Suquamish Tribe will assume ownership of objects from a second site.
— image credit: Joe Mabel / Wikimedia Commons

SUQUAMISH — The Port of Seattle is transferring ownership of objects excavated at two ancestral sites to the Suquamish Tribe and the Muckleshoot Tribe.

The objects have been stored by the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture since they were excavated in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s from land owned by the port. The port, seeking to repatriate the objects, entered into negotiations with Suquamish and Muckleshoot, both federally recognized indigenous nations. Many Duwamish people relocated to the Suquamish and Muckleshoot reservations in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The Duwamish Tribe, which is working to restore its federal recognition, was not included in those negotiations.

Suquamish has a repository and museum. Muckleshoot has a repository, Duwamish has a museum.

Going to the Muckleshoot Tribe: Some 150 boxes of artifacts that came from the Duwamish No. 1 site, also known as hah-AH-poos, excavated by archaeologists in 1978 and 1986. Objects 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, the Burke's manager of collections held in trust, said in an earlier story that objects excavated from Duwamish No. 1 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 soil samples.

Going to the Suquamish Tribe: Objects from the Baba'kwob Site, which port spokesman Jason Kelly said is "a historic archaeological site located at the current location of the World Trade Center on Elliot Avenue. The site encompasses the area of a former ravine in the Bell Street vicinity and dates from the 1880s to the 1930s. The collection includes clay pipe fragments, crockery, glass bottles and other historic artifacts left behind by the early inhabitants of the area."

Suquamish Museum director Janet Smoak said the Baba’kwob Site had been significantly altered by the building of early Seattle, and much of the soil used to grade the area was fill. "The objects are not ancient, but evidently some part of the fill contained indigenous pieces," she said.

Smoak said the objects are contained in "a half-dozen or so boxes" and will be brought to the museum "in a couple of weeks." Also included are soil samples, which could contain pollen samples and other plant materials.

Kelly would not comment on how the port decided which objects would go to which Tribe. "Both Tribes were interested in these objects and they jointly requested the port convey custody of these materials," he wrote in an email. "The port is pleased that we have been able to reach agreement with both Tribal governments, which are the appropriate custodians for these materials."

Duwamish Chairwoman Cecile Hansen, whose great-great-granduncle, Si'ahl (Seattle), is buried at Suquamish Memorial Cemetery, opposes the transfer of objects to the Suquamish Tribe and the Muckleshoot Tribe. On behalf of the Duwamish Tribe, she has offered to buy objects from Duwamish No. 1 that had been on display in the Duwamish Longhouse & Cultural Center museum, which is located across the street from Duwamish No. 1.

"It would seem that [the] best public good and cultural value would be to continue to to display the artifacts from this site at the Seattle location where they were found," she wrote in a press release issued by her office Feb. 27.

On July 22, Burke Museum representatives removed eight Duwamish No. 1 objects that were displayed on loan in the cultural center’s museum for four years — 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 an action by the George W. Bush administration — overturning the previous administration's recognition of the Duwamish Tribe. Because of that, the Duwamish Tribe was excluded from negotiations for ownership of the ancestral objects.

"We signed the Treaty [of Point Elliott]," Hansen said in an earlier story. "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 Duwamish cultural center, including a basket that belonged to Angeline, Si'ahl's daughter.

 

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