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News from the Pacific Northwest

Town may help purchase house posts

FRIDAY HARBOR, Wash. - The Friday Harbor town council may contribute $12,000 toward the purchase of two Coast Salish house posts to be used as a form of welcome at the entrance of this Puget Sound island village.

The council postponed a motion to approve the expenditure on June 5, pending information from other area tribes. Earlier in the day, the council heard a presentation about indigenous history on the island by Russell Barsh, director of historical research for the Samish Indian Nation.

The house posts and crossbeam have been carved by noted Musqueam carver Susan Point, whose work is displayed at universities, museums and stadiums in the region, including the Seattle Seahawks stadium.

Point has Samish relatives.

The house posts, titled "Interaction," depict the relationship between the Coast Salish people and the land and sea. They would be displayed in a park overlooking Friday Harbor Marina; an adjacent state ferry landing is the entry point for hundreds of thousands of visitors a year.

Barbara Marrett of the Portals of Welcome Committee said the house posts would be the only public acknowledgement of the island's tribal heritage. Her committee is trying to raise $50,000 to buy the posts.

The council is proceeding cautiously, however, to ensure that art by a Musqueam artist will be acceptable to local tribes. The Musqueams are Coast Salish but are located north of the San Juan Islands; as Barth explained, San Juan Island was the traditional fishing, hunting, trading and gathering place for the Lummi, Saanich, Semiahmoo, Songhees and Sooke.

"The San Juan Islands is where marriages were arranged, where business took place," Barth said. "It's where (these tribes) lived together and shared traditions."

San Juan Island was also the home of the San Juan Tribe of Indians, which has tried to get federal recognition. Three San Juan Indians are on the Portals of Welcome Committee.

Barth endorsed the project. And Marrett said several tribes will participate in a fundraiser for the house posts in August at the San Juan County Fairgrounds. The event will feature carving, dancing and other traditional activities.

The Friday Harbor Port District donated the site for the house posts and has promised to maintain them in perpetuity. An anonymous donor has given $10,000 toward the purchase. The local Soroptimist Club donated $500.

Friday Harbor's donation would come from a fund of hotel/motel taxes set aside for the promotion of tourism.

Squaxin Island Tribe battling 'oyster drills'

SQUAXIN ISLAND, Wash. - When Pacific oysters were introduced into Puget Sound in the 1930s, they brought with them an unwanted hitchhiker, the Japanese oyster drill.

The snail, a form of whelk, eats oysters after boring through their shells. It has devastated the Pacific oyster population and may prove to be a barrier in the reestablishment of the Olympia oyster.

The Squaxin Island Tribe is exploring ways to exterminate Japanese oyster drills in the southern Puget Sound.

"The biggest obstacle we've faced trying to re-establish Olympia oysters has been drills," said Brian Allen, shellfish biologist with the Squaxin Island Tribe.

"We saw a huge jump in the oyster drill population on Squaxin Island soon after we planted Olympia oyster seed a few years ago. Japanese oyster drills, because they have adapted to boring through the thicker shell of the Pacific oyster, have a much easier time with the smaller Olympias."

One of the options the tribe is considering is collecting the drills during their breeding stage, when they are at their most vulnerable.

"Oyster drills congregate from early spring to early summer to spawn," Allen said. "This makes it fairly easy to go out to the beach and simply remove them from the oyster beds. We just need to be out on the island when they're coming together so we can get as many as possible."

Also, since the drills can't migrate long distances, another way to control their spread is to set up quarantine or "drill free" zones. All oysters brought into a "drill free" zone would be checked to make sure they don't carry drills.

Most of the drill-free zones in Washington are in Hood Canal.

"Hopefully, Squaxin Island can become one of the few drill-free zones in southern Puget Sound," Allen said. "Having an area without drills would be a big advantage in restoring Olympia oyster populations."

The Squaxin Island Tribe has been collaborating with the Puget Sound Restoration Fund for the last few years to restore Olympia oysters on Squaxin Island. The tribe and the non-profit have spread thousands of oyster seed on the Island.

Carvers share traditions with public, each other

OLYMPIA, Wash. - Master Native carvers wowed the public with demonstrations of their art at the First Gathering of Northwest Native Wood Carvers, June 6 - 7 at The Evergreen State College Longhouse Education and Cultural Center in Olympia.

Members of more than 25 tribal nations throughout the Pacific Northwest participated in workshops and forums on contemporary carving. Free public events included carving demonstrations, workshops and a dance presentation with Tshimshian carver David Boxley and Git-Hoan: People of the Salmon.

In a panel discussion, "Contemporary and Traditional Expressions in Carving," panelists discussed the inspirations guiding their work, what comprises traditional art and how art is continuously evolving and redefining tradition.

The gathering was sponsored by the Washington State Arts Commission and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Squaxin Island Tribe calls for estuary restoration

SHELTON, Wash. - Squaxin Island Tribe officials say restoring the Deschutes estuary is the only non-chemical way to rid a lake of Eurasian milfoil and other noxious weeds.

The Deschutes River was dammed 50 years ago to transform the estuary into Olympia's Capitol Lake, which is now freshwater. State officials are considering poisoning the lake to kill the invasive plants that choke the lake; one of the chemicals is classified as a "moderately hazardous" herbicide and was a component of Agent Orange.

Squaxin Island Tribe officials are concerned because the lake drains into Budd Inlet in southern Puget Sound.

"If the label on the chemical warns for it not to be used in saltwater, then why are they using it in a body of water that drains immediately into saltwater," said Jeff Dickison, policy analyst with the Squaxin Island Tribe.

"The real problem isn't milfoil. The problem is Capitol Lake's shallow and warm water that creates prime growing conditions for milfoil and other invasive species. The only way to eliminate the problem and permanently remove milfoil is to restore the Deschutes estuary."

That would mean removing the dam.

Capitol Lake was created in 1951 when an earthen dam was built between the banks of the lower Deschutes River. Capitol planners had called in 1912 for a reflecting saltwater pool fed by a free-flowing Deschutes River; the pool would be created by a dike.

On Jan. 19, 1912, Capitol planner John Olmsted wrote to the State Capitol Commission: "? this area (would) be mainly devoted to a saltwater pond which would be kept nearly up to high water level, merely fluctuating a foot or two at even tide so as to ensure a change of water."

The estuary was once an "important place in the life cycle of salmon," Dickison said.

Jim Peters, Natural Resources director for the Squaxin Island Tribe, added, "The Squaxin people have always and continue to depend on the natural resources of our region. Every piece of habitat is important to us."

The Squaxin Island Tribe has launched a Web site about the restoration of the Deschutes River estuary:

Richard Walker is a correspondent reporting from San Juan Island, Wash. Contact him at