Published on September 26, 2013 by Amy
The Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe (Nəxʷsƛ̕ áy̕əm “strong people”) is a federally recognized and sovereign Native American nation. The tribe is part of the larger Klallam culture, part of the Coast Salish peoples of the Pacific Northwest. The traditional territory of the Klallam is the north and northeast portion of the Olympic Peninsula, in the U.S. state of Washington.
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As of 2007 there are 776 enrolled members of the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe. Of these, 112 live on the Lower Elwah Reservation, an Indian reservation managed by the Lower Elwha and located at the mouth of the Elwha River, 48°8′19″N 123°33′11″W, about 4 miles (6.4 km) west of Port Angeles.
The Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe was recognized by the United States in 1855 Point No Point Treaty. The tribe’s current reservation was first acquired in trust from the United States in 1935-36. In 1968 the land was proclaimed as the Lower Elwha Reservation. Today tribal lands include about a thousand acres of land on and near the Elwha River.
The Lower Elwha occupied several villages on the bay sheltered by Ediz Hook, now Port Angeles. One of these villages, Tse-whit-zen was rediscovered in 2004 during construction for a graving dock being undertaken by the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT). On December 21, 2004, after archaeological efforts unearthed over 10,000 artifacts and more than 335 intact skeletons WSDOT halted all construction efforts relating to the graving dock.
The village of Tse-whit-zen dates back over 2,700 years, according to radiocarbon dating, and it continued to exist until as recently as the 1930s. A number of mills were built on top of the village site during the 20th century. Because the ground was covered with 15 to 30 feet (4.6 to 9.1 m) of fill the village site was preserved. Archaeology has revealed possibly eight longhouse structures.