Years After Restitution Request, Seattle Returns Indigenous Artifacts Found on River Shore

The Seattle City Council unanimously voted earlier this week to return 270 historic artifacts to the native Upper Skagit Tribe, reported the Seattle Times. The artifacts likely represent the remains of an ancient village of the Upper Skagit Tribe, who had hunting and fishing settlements along the Skagit River for thousands of years.

The artifacts were first discovered during a renovation project at the Gorge Inn site, northeast of Seattle, in 2013. Constructed in 1925, the Gorge Inn was built by the utility business Seattle City Light as a company-town dining hall and though the location was not previously documented as an archaeological site, the city hired an archaeological firm to oversee the renovation.

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There, the team unearthed various tools, hammerstones, scrapers, a club, and a projectile point that would have been used for such activities as crafting and sharpening tools, cutting, scraping, chopping, and splitting wood.

Upon their discovery, the city reached out to local Indigenous communities for further insight on the findings. The Upper Skagit Tribe determined they were authentic artifacts and requested their return, however the city had begun ethnographic research into their origins which finally wrapped after nine years.

Archaeologists estimate the artifacts are roughly between 4,000 to 9,000 years old; the tribe’s first contact with Westerners was roughly 170 years ago.

Despite their transfer of ownership, the artifacts will remain at the North Cascades Visitor Center in Marblemount, Washington, where they are cared for by the National Park Service. The items are not on view to the public, but they will be available to researchers and tribe members.


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