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Chinook and Washington state reach deal on archaeological find

CHINOOK, Wash. -- The $1.1 million project to realign a portion of U.S.
Highway 101 and construct Station Camp, an eight-acre waterfront historic
park at McGowan, Wash., will resume six months after an unexpected
archaeological find brought construction work to a halt.

Although the Washington State Historical Society originally intended the
park to be ready for the fall 2005 Lewis and Clark bicentennial
commemoration, director David Nicandri agreed with Chinook tribal leaders
that decision-makers needed time to determine how best to manage the
significant find.

Under the present agreement, archaeologists will complete field work and
the Chinook tribe will receive a one-time payment of $120,000 as well as
half-time assistance from WSHS executive staff member Jim Sayce for the
evaluation of the site and purchase of additional acreage for a museum,
library and research center.

"I am honored to work with the Chinook. Their early trade experience
connected them with world trade two centuries before it was fashionable,"
Sayce said. "They were great traders then, and they are great traders
today."

Archaeologist for the National Park Service and associate professor at
Portland State University Doug Wilson, Ph.D., noted that although the
highway will effectively cap the site once it goes through, "we'll have a
really good sample of the best preserved of the three structures that were
found. We're recording the information from the traces of planks, so that
hopefully we'll be able to look at the architecture and see how it was
built. Because it looks like this site was used periodically and rebuilt
but not necessarily in exactly the same spot, we think we will learn a
number of new things about what happened at this important transitional
period in the history of the Northwest."

Wilson noted that his team has also collected samples of animal bones along
with trade artifacts like knives, pieces of ceramics from Europe and China,
and small trade beads half the size of a little fingernail and ranging in
color from deep ocean blue to red to an almost cloudy opaline white. Each
of these bits of material culture are clues to the past -- small windows
into the doings of people who lived two centuries ago.

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Wilson termed the find "fascinating" and when pressed, launched into a
discussion of the dozens of pipes the team has unearthed. "We've found both
clay and stone pipes they used for smoking tobacco or kinnick-kinnick. Some
are carved from steatite, which is like a soapstone and has a dull black
finish. Argillite, black slate, was also used and comes from farther north
in B.C. near Queen Charlotte."

The best thing about the Station Camp project, according to Wilson, is that
even as it gives the Chinook Tribe the profile it deserves in its home
country, it also puts the Lewis and Clark event into realistic perspective.
"The Chinook people had been trading from the site for probably 10 years
before Lewis and Clark arrived, so the find is resulting in people being
able to put the Lewis and Clark visit into the context of what was really
going on at the mouth of the Columbia when everything started to change
with contact of these two cultures."

Wilson is clearly enthusiastic. "It's been a wonderful project and a
fascinating one. It's a very interesting site, and it's great working
through all the issues with the Chinook people and the other partners in
the project."

WSHS director David Nicandri agreed. "The archaeology substantially
increased our understanding of the early trade between the Chinook and
Euro-American trade ships."

And for his part, Chinook Tribal Chairman Gary Johnson said: "The homeland
Chinook are pleased to reach this agreement which will benefit the Chinook
Nation and the local community. The Station Camp Park will tell the story
of the ancient Chinook village, Qiyawaqilxam.

"It is very important that the story of the first people of the great river
be told. I believe that the community and the Chinook Nation will benefit
from out expanded tribal presence in the cultural landscape of the lower
Columbia."

Wilson, though, is the one who captures the magic of the scene. "It's such
a neat place. We were doing field work this last winter, and we could look
out and imagine canoes and trading ships out there 200 years ago. Some days
are sunny and nice, and others are stormy and rainy and just nasty out
there on the water. It's a great place to think about the history at the
mouth of the Columbia, and now this find provides a rich fabric of history
and cultural context in which single events like the Lewis and Clark
expedition can be considered."