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Friday, November 07, 2003 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.
Tribal remains desecrated in 1915 at site, officials say
By The associated Press
PORT ANGELES Remains from a Klallam tribal burial ground, at the site of a huge onshore dry dock now under construction, were desecrated in the early 1900s when a mill was built there, city and state officials say.
Human remains apparently were used as backfill in excavations and pipe trenches when the mill was built in 1915, the officials said.
The information was revealed Wednesday during a news conference at which officials again called for construction to resume at the Department of Transportation dry dock, where components for refurbishing the Hood Canal Bridge will be built.
Construction was halted on Aug. 26 after initial work revealed the discarded remains. State, federal and tribal officials have been negotiating on how to handle recovery and reburial of Klallam remains and artifacts found at the site, once a tribal village called Tse-whit-zen.
The remains of 11 adults and one infant have been recovered. Many of the bones had been dismembered when they were used as part of the mill's construction.
The shutdown is costing the state $30,000 a day and threatens to delay the replacement of the aging eastern half of the bridge beyond its planned 2006 date.
The tribe wants the dry-dock project to proceed, but the work must be done properly, said state Rep. Jim Buck, R-Joyce.
"The Elwha are heartbroken. They have known this situation existed for years but this provides proof," he said.
During the news conference, Buck joined City Council members Karen Rogers and Larry Williams, who expressed their horror after learning the remains had been used as fill.
"No words can express the shame and sorrow we feel for the way these graves have been desecrated," the officials said in a joint statement.
Rogers said the city owns properties that could provide a secure location for recovery of artifacts.
Council members toured the site last week and later offered to help end the stalemate involving federal, state and tribal officials.
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