(Empty artifact case post-removal; 2013 photo courtesy Duwamish Longhouse)
The Duwamish Tribe says it’s still trying to get its artifacts back. Last August, news emerged that the Port of Seattle was deciding the fate of artifacts found on historic tribal land that it now controls. Today, according to this news release sent by the tribe tonight, they received official confirmation their artifacts will be given to a tribe that unlike the Duwamish has federal recognition (something the Duwamish have long fought for). The news release is followed by the text of the letter to which it refers.
The Duwamish Tribe would like its cultural artifacts back. Last July, the Burke Museum was paid by the Port of Seattle to confiscate $800 worth of Duwamish cultural artifacts on display at the Duwamish Longhouse & Center. The artifacts were from the Duwamish #1 Archeological Site, an old Duwamish camp and village site across the street from the Duwamish Longhouse & Cultural Center.
The tribe received a call from the Burke Museum today that the artifacts will be given to the Muckleshoot Tribe in Auburn.
Unknown to the Duwamish Tribe, 2 years ago the Port of Seattle declared that it wanted to surplus its archeological artifacts including those from the Duwamish Archeological Site #1 bordered by the Duwamish River and W Marginal Way SW.
How did the Port come to own the archeological artifacts? In the early 60’s, the Port declared eminent domain, and bought out the interests of area residents to make way for the building of Terminal 107. Because of environmental issues, the terminal was never built. The area was also the site of the last original shoreline of the Duwamish River. As the land was being cleared, the Duwamish #1 Archeological Site was discovered and dug in the 1970’s. The archeological site is on the National Register of Historic Places and has been set aside as a public park. The Port retains ownership of the site.
The Duwamish Tribe has sent a letter to the Port proposing to buy back its culture artifacts for display at the Duwamish Longhouse & Cultural Center.
“It would seem that best public good & cultural value would be to continue to display the artifacts from this site at the Seattle location where they were found.“
Ahead, the text of the letter mentioned above, included in tonight’s e-mail to us from the tribe, carrying today’s date:
To: Tay Yoshitani, CEO, Port of Seattle
Dear Port of Seattle:
We understand that you have declared the Duwamish cultural artifacts from the Duwamish Archeological Site #1 and World Trade Center surplus property.
We would like to buy back the Duwamish artifacts that were removed from the Duwamish Longhouse & Cultural Center last July. We understand that their value to be about $800 according to the Burke Museum. They are, of course, priceless to us.
As your staff is aware, the Duwamish Tribe built the Duwamish Longhouse & Cultural Center across the street from the Duwamish Archeological Site #1 in part to house these artifacts and interpret the site. We believe that we have an agreement with the Port of Seattle from the 1970’s that these site #1 artifacts would be returned to the Duwamish.
We are deeply disturbed that the Port has not included the Duwamish in the disposition of our cultural artifacts or honored its previous agreement. Although we believe we have both a right and previous agreement to keep these artifacts, we are offering to buy back our cultural artifacts.
We understand that the Port’s claim of ownership of our Duwamish cultural artifacts is based on its current ownership of the Duwamish ancestral lands. The Port still owns the Duwamish Archeological Site #1–a public park on the National Register of Historic Places. It is next to the Duwamish Longhouse & Cultural Center. It would seem that best public good & cultural value would be to continue to display the artifacts from this site at the Seattle location where they were found.
We look forward to your consideration of this matter.
Duwamish Tribal Chairperson
cc: Port Commissioners
When the artifacts’ removal from the Longhouse Cultural Center was reported last summer, we contacted the port for more information, and received this copy (PDF) of a letter the port had sent the tribe, saying they had asked the Burke Museum to “recall” artifacts it had loaned the Longhouse in 2008. The port’s letter said that it was recalling artifacts for a “rehabilitation effort which includes Re-Housing and Cataloging of our entire inventory of collections stored at the Burke and any and all materials that may be on loan from our collections. The rehabilitation project is necessary to ensure access to the collections for future study and display and to properly house and protect the items for many years to come.”