Watercolour by James Gilchrist Swan (1818-1900) of the Klallam people of chief Chetzemoka (nicknamed 'the Duke of York'), with one of Chetzemoka's wives (nicknamed 'Jenny Lind') distributing potlatch at Port Townsend, Washington, USA. Source: Yale, via Wikipedia.
James Gilchrist Swan
lived one of the most varied and colorful lives in the early history of Washington Territory. He was variously an oysterman, customs inspector, secretary to Congressional delegate Isaac Stevens, journalist, reservation schoolteacher, lawyer, judge, school superintendent, railroad promoter, natural historian, and ethnographer. Above all, Swan was a chronicler. He wrote one of the earliest books describing life in Washington Territory, two Smithsonian monographs, many newspaper articles and technical publications, and more than 60 volumes of still-unpublished diaries. These works document not just pioneer society but also the Northwest Indian cultures that pre-dated white settlement and existed along-side it. Swan’s appreciation of and efforts to record Indian art, technology, history, legends, and language made him a rarity among early Washington settlers.
No doubt Swan wrote some of the most important and interesting accounts of early aboriginal life on the Northwest Coast and you would be lucky to own any of them as hardcopy editions. They are informative and vivid. While they contain some of the biases of the day, there is absolutely no doubt that Swan was a sincere friend and companion of the Makah, Klallam and other Olympic Peninsula Tribes and he set out to tell their story fully in a way of which many anthropologists of the day would be proud. Consider for example, this account of a Makah method of catching flatfish: Continue reading
Whale vertebrae modified into a spindle whorl, from the Tse-whit-zen site. Source: Seattle Times
I mentioned the Tse-whit-zen site a few days ago, in reference to the recent discovery of a small whale sculpture found there in 2009. The Seattle Times had a superb web site on this ancient Klallam village, but unfortunately, many of the links are broken (how does that even happen, anyway?). But the four part illustrated slide show with extensive audio commentary by Klallam, archaeologists and other people is still available and is well worth watching – in fact its one of the best such slideshows I’ve seen. The Interactive Village component of the site is still active as well, and also definitely worth checking out.
As with so many of these sad stories of site disturbance through development, there is a silver lining as the dig itself, and the objects found, have contributed to a vitalization of Klallam traditional practices and increased interest in Klallam traditional culture within their younger generation. At a severe price, though: over three hundred burials were excavated and removed from the site before the project, a massive graving dock, was brought to a halt – a halt which, according to some, cost over 100 million dollars. I’m posting some of the pictures in case the Times site loses even more functionality.
Comb recovered from Tse-whit-zen site. Source: Seattle Times.
One of the more than 800 remarkable etched stones found at Tse-whit-zen, some in association with human remains. Source: Seattle Times
More than 300 human burials were disturbed by the graving dock project. Here, some await reburial in a warehouse on site. Source: Seattle Times.
Posted in Archaeology, Cultural Resource Management, Northwest Coast, Shell Middens, Uncategorized, Washington State
Tagged Archaeology, CRM, human remains, Klallam, Northwest Coast, Olympic Peninsula, Port Angeles, Public Archaeology, Tse-whit-zen, Washington State
Whale sculpture from the Tse-whit-zen archaeological site, Port Angeles. Source: Peninsula News.
The Tse-whit-zen site is a former Klallam Tribe village that was discovered by the construction of a graving dock at Port Angeles, Washington State. The subsequent disturbance and archaeological project led to an astonishing series of events with over 300 human burials recovered, many more disturbed, 65,000 artifacts recovered and after a huge investment the abandonment of the graving dock project at a cost some estimate in excess of 100 million dollars. This is a story I want to know more about and will probably post on from time to time.
But for today, set aside the sad history and feast your eyes on the above small sculpture of a whale discovered during the summer of 2009 at Tse-whit-zen during mopping up remediation. The artist has captured the essence of whale! The article doesn’t say, but there may be a socket on the lower back of the whale just in front of the tail – perhaps this was the handle for a small chisel, or a knife. I also wonder if it doesn’t go the other way up — the mouth is asymmetric and the arching back of a diving whale would be a more natural posture. Either way, this is a happy little sculpture, probably dating from about 2,000 years ago.
Posted in Archaeology, Cultural Resource Management, Northwest Coast, Shell Middens, Washington State
Tagged Archaeology, artifacts, Klallam, Northwest Coast, Port Angeles, Salish, Salish Sea, Tse-whit-zen, Washington State