LITTLE BOSTON — The Museum of History and Industry in Seattle will open the cover today to its newest exhibit, “Washington Stories,” and a prominent member of the North Kitsap community will be one of the chapters.
With two panels featured, the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe will present its history and culture not just to Seattle residents, but to people statewide as the exhibit travels to different venues around Washington after being sited at MOHAI for a month.
“Last spring, we started gathering information and oral histories,” said Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribal associate director Laurie Mattson. “We have two panels to tell the story of tribal families in the ‘20s, ‘30s and ‘40s, when they lived on the spit — the area we know as Point Julia.”
The panels will join those of six other groups, including the Black Historical Society of Kitsap County, the Arab Center of Washington, the Croatian Fraternal Union, the Puget Sound Welsh Association, the Tar Heels Roots Project/Lincoln Theatre Foundation and the Ethnic Heritage Council.
Humanities Washington, Ethnic Heritage Council and MOHAI representatives selected the groups based on their proposals and specific history, said MOHAI public programs coordinator Helen Divjak. The exhibit is part of a grant program supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities to encourage different cultures to examine and document their history.
“The Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe had a very, very powerful proposal,” Divjak said. “They are extremely interested in people learning about their history. The whole purpose of this exhibit is giving them, and the other groups, a voice for their cause.”
MOHAI, Humanities Washington and the Ethnic Heritage Council are also hoping this will give the participating groups a chance to ask questions and do a little digging into their own pasts, she said. This, ideally, will set off a chain reaction within the communities, creating more programs to document traditions and heritage.
“The S’Klallam Tribe has already embarked on a really extensive oral history documentation project,” Divjak said. “They are definitely a model on the process of collecting histories and have a lot to offer this exhibit.”
“I hope so,” said Tribal Chairman Ron Charles when asked whether he feels the display will gain the tribe statewide recognition. “We are a small tribe, and sometimes out here, we get overlooked. For a long, long time, our small tribe was pretty isolated and a bit forgotten. This gives us the chance to get out a bit and let people know what we are about.”
Each group will have a chance to perform a dance, song or music from its culture Sunday as a part of the exhibit’s opening, Divjak said. The Port Gamble S’Klallam Dancers and Singers will be there, and tribal members are thrilled to visit the presentation, Mattson said.
“This is really an exciting event for us,” she said.