LITTLE BOSTON — The beginnings of a museum are starting to take shape in the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe, as residents welcomed a culturally significant gift Wednesday afternoon. Port Angeles resident Joe Waterhouse presented the tribe with 47 historical artifacts tribes throughout the Pacific Northwest utilized. Bone, stone, wood and shell now decorate the entrance lobby of the tribal center, welcoming visitors to explore the tribe’s heritage.
School groups and other organizations will also be invited to tour the center, and learn more about what the artifacts were used for and how they are tied into the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe’s culture.
“He acquired them from Astrida Onat during an archeology dig on Indian Island near the Naval base,” Waterhouse said of his son, Joe Waterhouse Jr., who located the artifacts in the 1970s. “We used them in different schools to teach the different culture that’s come from this area.”
Waterhouse and his son visited students from preschool to high school throughout the Puget Sound to help increase their understanding of the Native American culture that grew for hundreds of years before America was born. His favorite visits, he said, were those with younger students, who were awed by the tools and stories that accompanied the presentations.
Now, the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe will pass along the knowledge to the next generation and residents who want to know more about their neighbors.
“We normally have school children come through, and we’ll be including the artifacts now,” said tribal cultural resources director Marie Hebert. “It educates not only the youngsters, but the older folks, too, who are wanting knowledge about the tribe.”
Knowledge they’ll find, mainly about how tribal members lived their everyday lives as many of the artifacts are household items such as hammers, needles, fishing hooks, part of a rattle and even a firefighter’s button that was found with the other pieces. The button is definitely not part of the Native American instruments, but Waterhouse said it is an artifact as well.
The tribe set aside money to install climate-controlled cases to store the artifacts and several other items it already had displayed in the lobby, Hebert said.
“I’ve worked as an informer for many, many years,” Waterhouse said of his reason for giving the artifacts to the tribe. “The tribe here in Port Gamble, the people made it possible to have the stands. The artifacts are at home now, and I hope they stay here forever.”
Hebert said curious visitors are welcome to stop by any time to view the new display, and if she is available, she will pass on the knowledge Waterhouse gave to her along with the donation.