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Native American artifacts repatriated

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August 01, 1996 Share This!

SEQUIM, Wash. — Hundreds of historic and prehistoric Native American artifacts recovered from Battelle property near Sequim 15 years ago have been transferred to the Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe located on the Olympic Peninsula.

The items were unearthed during an archaeological testing and trenching project conducted at Battelle's Marine Sciences Laboratory in 1980 and include bone points, bone beads, antler harpoon valves and other memorabilia.

"There were items ranging from primitive times to glass and tin cups dating back to the turn of the century," said Kathy Duncan, tribal representative. "Perhaps the most important find was the human remains, however. A female skeleton was discovered, and although there is no evidence to prove exactly when she was buried, we estimate she died more than 100 years ago. Her remains were reburied on tribal grounds."

Battelle purchased 130 acres near Sequim in 1966 for a marine sciences facility. The laboratory was built in 1972 and expanded in 1981. Before the expansion, an archaeological survey was conducted by Blukis Onat of Seattle, who maintained the items ever since.

The items and associated records were returned last April to representatives of the Jamestown S'Klallam tribe by a Seattle archaeologist after obtaining a release from Battelle. Ancestors of the tribal members who have the artifacts in their possession occupied the land now owned by Battelle.

"While no catalog of recovered artifacts was included in the written report, I estimate that there are about 150 prehistoric aboriginal items, consisting mostly of modified stone and bone artifacts, and 728 historic artifacts such as glass, bottles, ceramics and metal items in the collection," said Paul Nickens, manager of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory's Cultural Resources Project.

According to Duncan, the tribe recently received a grant to assist in identifying and repatriating S'Klallam remains and culturally affiliated items as identified in the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. After a phone call to Battelle by Duncan, the process for returning these items was initiated. "NAGPRA holds great significance to tribal people," she said.

Duncan says one day a museum will be built to exhibit the entire collection transferred by Battelle as well as other items donated to the tribe.

"These artifacts provide an important link to the tribe's history," Nickens said. "In recognition of the value of these materials to the tribe's heritage, Battelle wanted to ensure they were returned to their rightful owner."

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