THE ARCHAEOLOGY OF WEST POINT
THE BURKE MUSEUM
THIS IS THE STORY of a land and its people, and how both changed over time. It's a tale of urban archaeology and the discovery of ancient cultures beneath the city of Seattle, cultures with traditions that endure today.
Here, on a windswept beach below a high wooded bluff, people have gathered and prepared foods, created tools, and shared their stories for more than 4,000 years. The descendants of those people have roots that reach back to those times and forward into futures as yet unwritten.
According to the archaeologists who investigated the site, the ancestral Duwamish, Muckleshoot, and Suquamish lived along the eastern shore of central Puget Sound when Euro-Americans arrived. Today, descendants of the West Point site are affiliated with the following federally recognized tribes: Muckleshoot Indian Tribe, Suquamish Tribe, and the Tulalip Tribes.
We invite you to explore this story. Make connections to the past and learn about the contemporary Native American tribes whose ancestors lived at West Point, and find out what it is like to be an archaeologist confronted with a complex array of data to analyze.
BEYOND THE WEST POINT PROJECT
What good is archaeology?
IT IS EASY TO LOOK OUT across a landscape and imagine that what you see today, whether it be an urban environment or wilderness, is how that landscape has always been used. Archaeology delves below the surface, showing us that land use changes over time, that settlement patterns differ by region and climate, even locally, and that what is often viewed as a static landscape is actually very dynamic. A Harris Poll completed in 2000 showed that a majority of Americans (60%) are interested in archaeology. The two most frequently cited reasons were that archaeology improves the future by learning about the past and helps us to better understand our modern world.
The West Point archaeological project fits both of the above cited reasons. What was thought of as a culturally sterile site when construction began in 1992 was brought alive by the cultural remains of local Native Americans that lived at and used the site for thousands of years. The recovered archaeological material allows contemporary area residents to learn from the Native American inhabitants that long ago passed across the landscape. By learning of those past peoples, we also have the opportunity to learn from their contemporary descendents who still live here and utilize many of the same resources. Past knowledge and contemporary technologies combine and help us learn from each other how best to manage and preserve regional natural and cultural resources. Archaeology also helps us appreciate our differences and similarities.
Archaeology informs us of past events that would otherwise remain unknown. Civil War battlefields reveal mysteries of battle left unrecorded in written histories; work camps of Chinese railroad laborers----without whom railroad construction in the West would have been crippled----tell us of lives largely ignored at the time. Similarly, West Point shows how local peoples altered settlement patterns to repopulate a landscape drastically changed by a major earthquake and tsunami, a topic especially timely to Seattle-area residents. Archaeology provides insight into cultural change, stability, and transformation.
Destruction of archaeology sites, whether through looting, development, or natural causes, destroys information and insight unavailable elsewhere. King County Waste Treatment recognized the value of the archaeological record they stumbled upon. Through their dedication and interest, all of us, Native American and non-Native American, have a new source for learning about our local surroundings and each other.
Visions of the future
THOUGH CONTEMPORARY NATIVE AMERICANS no longer gather shellfish along the shores of West Point, they do actively manage many of the same resources their ancestors collected 4,000 years ago. By playing an active role in regional management of resources, the shellfish, salmon, deer, and other culturally important resources will continue to be viable for future Native Americans and non-Native Americans for generations to come. Though builders at West Point did not initially notice the long history of Native American use at the site, the archaeological project showed all of us that Native Americans were here, are here, and will continue to live here and utilize the same resources far into the future.
King County will continue to develop the area as pressure from growing demand requires a larger and more sophisticated treatment facility. As of November 2005, METRO submitted paperwork for additional development at the site. The state's Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation in cooperation with the three federally recognized affiliated tribes (Muckleshoot Indian Tribe, Suquamish Tribe, Tulalip Tribes) will review and comment on the proposed work to ensure that any remaining portions of the site are properly protected. In the event that new construction uncovers more cultural remains, Larson Archaeological and Anthropological Services from Gig Harbor will conduct additional archaeological work to mitigate the disturbance and ensure that information is properly collected. Future excavations may uncover evidence of the missing time period noted in the 1992–-'94 excavation (2,350–-1,450 BP) or answer questions not previously addressed.
West Point is a landscape in transition, as it has been for thousands of years. Though we often view contemporary land use as permanent, the park and sewage treatment plant, like the other past structures and uses of West Point, will eventually disappear from view. Will time take its slow toll or will a catastrophic earthquake quickly alter the landform? What will be left of the contemporary structures once they collapse or are torn down? How will evidence of the park be recorded archaeologically? Thankfully, Native and non-Native area residents can ponder and discuss these questions while enjoying West Point and Discovery Park, a place set aside to enable all to connect with the natural and cultural elements that define our region.
Where are they now?
THE ARCHAEOLOGY OF WEST POINT suggests that inhabitants left the site around the time Euro-Americans arrived in the region. The archaeologists surmise that the changing landform became more suitable for seasonal use and that many resources were more easily obtained nearby. In 1855 an event occurred that dramatically changed the cultural landscape: the signing of the Treaty of Point Elliott. The treaty abrogated Native American interests in the lands specified within the treaty, including West Point, and created reservations to which all signatory tribes and bands were to move. If you look at the treaty language, you will see that 22 tribes are named, many of which are no longer recognized by the federal government as individual tribes or bands and seemingly disappeared from the landscape.
Forced removal to reservations brought together peoples from different bands and families and applied a tribal name to these often disparate groups. The people moved to the Muckleshoot Reservation were the Stkamish, Yilalkoamish, Skopamish, Smulkamish, and Tkwakwamish. Once on the reservation, they became known as the Muckleshoot Tribe to most area residents. The people on the Suquamish Reservation are primarily Suquamish, but people from other bands and tribes also came to the reservation. Tulalip Tribes includes people from the Snohomish, Snoqualmie, Skagit, Suiattle, Samish, and Stillaguamish----all now known to outsiders as Tulalip. However, if you ask local Native Americans about their heritage, they may well tell you of their tribe or band that predates the reservation era.
Don't be fooled, though, into thinking that today's area Native Americans only live on reservations. Some Native Americans, for whom reservation lands were unfamiliar, chose to continue their lives on their home land. Some groups continue to battle the federal government for official recognition by showing that by refusing to move onto reservations they never left their ancestral lands. Also, like communities around the world, Indian Nations are now global. People recorded on tribal rolls live across the country and around the world. Regardless of where they live, though, their Native American heritage keeps them grounded to the Northwest, the place where their people have always lived and their people will continue to live until time ends.
IT'S PROBABLY NOT NEWS to you, but looting archaeological sites is illegal. Knowingly disturbing a site on private or public land in Washington is against the law. Look at the Related Reading page and you will find the federal and state laws that spell this out. Laws stop most people from taking objects from archaeological sites, but as with any law, some choose to knowingly ignore them and face jail time and/or substantial fines.
Native Americans have a deep, personal connection to the stories told them by the materials their ancestors left behind. Archaeological sites do not just represent fascinating objects or scientific data, but a personal story left to us by those who passed before. Like oral histories, these stories are unwritten. Removing pieces of the story by taking archaeological objects impacts contemporary Native Americans ability to learn from and hear their ancestors.
Recreational artifact collecting has a long history in Washington. Weekends spent walking the shores of the Columbia River or area beaches looking for artifacts are fondly remembered by many people. Unfortunately, collected objects often ended up in a box or drawer mixed with objects from many other locations. Imagine a tin can full of chipped-stone tools simply labeled "Scrapers, etc." At the time they were collected, the person may have had plans to catalog them, recording where they came from and what else was found with them, but life interrupted. Instead they ended up in a cookie tin gathering dust on a shelf in the garage or closet. Those same tools, if they had been left in place, could continue to tell stories of the people who left them behind, instead of becoming just "Scrapers, etc."
Archaeological sites, whether historic or pre-contact, make up an irreplaceable resource, a resource rich with information about our national cultural heritage. Vandalizing archaeological sites looking for that single arrowhead, pot, or bottle destroys much more than is gained. Yes, the looter may have a beautiful object, but we, whether Native American or not, have lost the ability to learn from and enjoy that same object and all that was originally associated with it.
ARCHAEOLOGICAL PROJECT PERIOD
THE WEST POINT ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITE is located on the west side of Discovery Park, in the Magnolia District of Seattle.
The first person to identify cultural deposits here was geologist Brian Atwater, who noticed a thick layer of crushed mussel shells in a trench dug for a new pipeline in 1992. Archaeologists evaluated the site, and what they found surprised them: Evidence of occupation at least 4,000 years old.
State officials and tribal leaders were consulted: They agreed a major archaeological excavation was needed.
BEFORE PROCEEDING, archaeologists developed questions to guide their research: How was the site formed? What were the settlement patterns of West Point's inhabitants? How did physical changes of the land influence those cultural patterns?
Clearly, more information would be needed to answer such questions. How would they gather that information? Archaeologists and geologists worked together to predict where cultural deposits might be located. Based on those predictions and some test pits, they devised a strategy and approach for the archaeological excavation. They chose the "isolated block" technique in which groups of 1x1-meter pits (called "units" by archaeologists) are excavated in order to provide a larger view into the past.
COLLECTING CULTURAL MATERIAL in a systematic way in order to answer their research questions is the step archaeologists call data recovery. This phase included excavating trenches and block units, screening excavated material, sorting the screened material, and bagging, labeling, and analyzing excavated material.
Track-hoes removed layers of fill from the last hundred years of site use. Four isolated blocks of varying size, called Block 1, Block 2, Block 3, and Block 4, were placed within the main project area and consisted of numerous 1 x 1 meter units. Archaeologists used shovels and trowels to excavate each 1x1-meter unit, carefully examining and recording the stratigraphy and the characteristics of each stratum (or layer of dirt). They used water pressure to help push the excavated material through screens in their search for cultural material. Some of the material from the excavations was sorted in the field, while some was collected and preserved for analysis by future generations of archaeologists.
In all, a total of 83 1x1-meter units were excavated, amounting to 12% of the total surface area of the main site at West Point. This Web site focuses on the Block excavations, though evidence of occupation was found in many other areas.
Only 12% of the site was excavated. Could we have learned more by excavating the entire site or does this sample adequately represent the whole site? Look at a map of Puget Sound. Do you think other similar landforms may have been used in the same way? What do you think people were doing a thousand years ago along the Seattle waterfront? How about in your own neighborhood?
Analyses and Findings
ARCHAEOLOGISTS ANALYZED the stratigraphy and artifacts to determine the chronology of the site. Dating methods included radiocarbon testing, and comparing stylistic attributes of artifacts with similar ones found at other dated sites.
Rock features such as hearths, pits, and ovens provided clues to how occupants used the site to prepare and dry food. Botanical samples helped identify the seasons when people lived at or used the site. Shell samples provided a wealth of data about the diet of early inhabitants. Decorative and ornamental artifacts, including beads, pendants, bone bracelet fragments, and gaming pieces, opened a small glimpse into the culture of the inhabitants over time. Most of the artifacts found at West Point are made of bone, stone, antler, and shell. The presence of shell at the site helped preserve the bone and antler. The wet Northwest environment accelerates the decomposition of organic materials; but, in shell middens, the shell, which is made of calcium carbonate, neutralizes the acids in soil, and slows decomposition.
Archaeologists reported their conclusions in a two-volume report that describes a dynamic landform and culture and how both the site and its settlement patterns changed over time. Their findings paint a progression of occupation on a changing landscape that divides roughly into five phases called "components" by archaeologists.
Next we'll explore this chronology to learn more about the archaeologists' findings and see how the land use--and the landform itself--changed over these five phases:
Component 1: 4,250--3,550 years before present;
Component 2: 3,550--2,700 years before present;
Component 3: 2,700--2,350 years before present;
Component 4: 1,450--700 years before present;
Component 5: 700--200 years before present.
200 Before Present-1994
Times of transition
BY THE TURN OF THE CENTURY, the people who had come here for 4,000 years were removed to reservations. For four millennia they called this bountiful point of land home; now it had become part of the growing city of Seattle.
The Army purchased the land to create Fort Lawton in 1898. The Army transferred much of the base to the City of Seattle in 1970. That land is now part of Discovery Park.
In 1911 the first sewer line brought untreated wastewater from central Seattle to outflow at West Point. In the mid-1960s a large wastewater treatment plant was built here; large portions of the archaeological site still remain undisturbed under the existing buildings.
THE DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE acquired 703 acres of land from the City of Seattle in February 1898. The first soldiers arrived in December 1899. Designed as part of the coastal defense system, the fort rarely saw more than one battalion at a time during its history. Construction of Fort Lewis near Tacoma prompted the Army to recommend the base for closure in 1938. It offered the entire space to the City of Seattle for one dollar, but the city declined due concerns about the cost of maintaining the property.
World War II saw increased activity at the fort, as soldiers prepared to ship out oversees. It reportedly saw as many as 20,000 soldiers at time, with over one million passing through during and immediately after the war. Several thousand German and Italian prisoners of war also called the fort home during the war. The 1950s saw development of a Nike missile defense system on the base. The Nike missiles quickly became outdated and the base became quiet again. A 1968 attempt to create a more sophisticated missile installation was defeated by local residents, and the Army surplused a large portion of the site in 1970, which resulted in the creation of Discovery Park.
The U.S. Army Reserve still operates a facility at Fort Lawton. In 2005 the Department of Defense recommended transferring the remaining operations to Fort Lewis. As in 1970, the possible base closure once again brings up questions on appropriate land use at the site. Over 100 years after coming to Magnolia, it looks as though the only reminders of the Army may soon be the buildings left standing when they leave. And, of course, whatever archaeological evidence they left behind over the past century.
TRANSFER OF LAND from the U.S. Army to the City of Seattle created Seattle's largest park: Discovery Park. The 543-acre park includes nearly half of the former 1,100-acre base, including the parade ground and surrounding structures that are now part of the Fort Lawton Historic District.
The city manages the park as a natural area. Secluded beaches, views of the Olympics, forest groves, meadows, and streams transport visitors from an urban to a natural setting. The bustle of Seattle, only minutes away, quickly diminishes as one walks the beaches and forest trails.
In 1970 Native Americans gathered to demand that a portion of the surplused military base be transferred back to them, instead of to the City of Seattle. Negotiations with the federal and city government resulted in an agreement that gave the United Indians of All Tribes 20 acres upon which to build a cultural center. Daybreak Star Cultural Center, built in 1977, is the result.
The historical district and cultural center ensure the presence of two important players in the history of West Point. The West Point Lighthouse, built in 1881 and the oldest in Puget Sound, is another important part of area's history. The city acquired the West Point Lighthouse from the U.S. Coast Guard in late 2004. Currently there are plans to convert a portion of the lighthouse to a museum chronicling the natural and cultural history of West Point.
700-200 Before Present
Chronology: Component 5
DATES: 700--200 years Before Present (BP)
GEOLOGY: Marshy area fills in behind sandspit, enlarging the area to today's shape.
FOOD: Clams, cockles, salmon.
SEASON: Seasonal: spring, summer only.
USE: Intense harvesting and drying of clams and cockles, continued salmon-processing.
CULTURE: Temporary camps for food processing.
TECHNOLOGY: Abundant evidence of shellfish processing and drying.
BY 700 YEARS AGO, it appears that settlement patterns in Puget Sound were similar to what early explorers encountered upon first visiting the region. Villages at Old Man House (on the Kitsap Peninsula) and along the Duwamish River and its tributaries gained prominence, while West Point continued to be mostly used for clam processing and drying. 84% of the shellfish associated with this component were clams or cockles.
Salmon, though making up 51% of fish bones found at the site, appear to have been eaten at the site, rather than prepared for winter storage. More productive salmon runs, those perhaps closer to villages, were processed and dried for winter.
Woodworking, as evidenced by antler wedges, continued at the site. Archaeologists found bone and antler wedges in every component except Component 4, representing a continuation of a technology over a nearly 4,000 year period. Not until iron wedges were introduced, which were recognized as less likely to split through use, were the bone and antler wedges largely abandoned. Of course, the iron wedge did not represent a change of technology, only a change of tool material.
It appears that Native Americans mostly abandoned West Point around the time Euro-American settlers arrived in the region. Early ethnographies record native place names for West Point, but do not mention seasonal or permanent camps. Native peoples, whose population was decimated by foreign diseases introduced by early Euro-Americans, of course continued to use the same resources, but were restricted by the new settlers as to where they could gather those resources.
TO BETTER UNDERSTAND how prehistoric people made tools, some archaeologists try to make new tools using materials and techniques that closely match the originals. These experiments help archaeologists learn how different types of tools were made, and also how different materials break and what debris results from the manufacturing.
Understanding these processes allows archaeologists to interpret what activities took place at a site. For example, finding large flakes with the cortex (outside surface of the rock) intact might indicate that tools were made at a site, while finding small flakes without cortex likely indicates that tools were repaired or retouched at that location.
Exotic material (material not available locally) indicates trade connections with distant groups. How did obsidian from Eastern Oregon and petrified wood from Eastern Washington get to West Point? Was it traded between groups, or did the people at West Point make long trips to get material directly from the source? The advent of food drying in Component 2 enabled transport of fish and clams from Puget Sound over the Cascade Mountains and further, opening up new sources for distant materials.
Some methods used to make stone tools include percussion flaking, pressure flaking, pecking, grinding, drilling, and incising. Techniques used to make bone and antler tools include sectioning, grinding and abrading, incising, drilling, carving, adzing, and splintering.
Using the artifacts database, can you ask: What different materials were used for tools at West Point? How many types of tools were found here? What influenced decisions to use one material over another, such as using antler for a wedge instead of bone? What else can you tell by looking at the tools and materials left behind?
Materials & Objects
MATERIALS USED at West Point pre-date contact and settlement by Euro-Americans. Stone, bone, shell, wood, and other materials were used for tools, decorative objects, housing, and all other needs for thousands of years. Basalt used for tools was durable and equally as effective for some tasks as materials used today. The dense bone of a deer ulna when sharpened to a fine point worked as well as metal awls for puncturing animal hides. The tools created from local materials were a proven technology, a technology that enabled the people of the Puget Sound to live comfortable lives.
Archaeologists at West Point found many types of stone used for tools. The order from most prevalent to least is: Basalt; cryptocrystalline silicas (CCS), such as jasper, grey/green CCS, chalcedony, and chert; quartz and quartzite; obsidian; nephrite/jadeite; slate. Why was basalt most prevalent? Basalt is easily found in cobble form on Puget Sound beaches and is very durable. The CCS materials generally required some travel to obtain, but are easier to flake than basalt and have sharper, though more fragile, edges. CCS was used most frequently for fine tools, such as projectile points, knives, drills, and scrapers.
The adoption of materials introduced by Euro-Americans resulted not necessarily from a desire for better materials, but because of the time-saving offered by pre-made tools, fabrics, and beads. A steel axe blade removed the need to make the tool and reduced the amount of time spent sharpening the tool. Beads came in new, exotic colors and shapes not possible in shell, stone, or wood. Of course, this type of trade wasn't new. It is likely that rather than trading raw materials from which to make tools, Native Americans traded finished tools or blanks easily fashioned into tools. Trading with Euro-Americans was just a continuation of a longtime practice.
Think about these questions while looking at the collection. What type of material is best suited for woodworking? What would you use to make a shell bead? How about a stone bead? Why use antler for wedges instead of stone?
1,450-700 Before Present
Chronology: Component 4
DATES: 1,450--700 years Before Present (BP)
GEOLOGY: Major earthquake and tsunami, causing dramatic decrease in area available for use.
FOOD: Salmon, clams, and barnacles.
SEASON: Seasonal: spring, summer, fall.
USE: Intense salmon processing, and clam-drying for winter storage.
CULTURE: People abandon area of block excavations.
TECHNOLOGY: Processing areas for drying clams are common.
A MAJOR EARTHQUAKE occurred 1,100 years ago, dramatically altering the regional landscape. Landforms rose and sank depending on where they were in relation to the Seattle fault, which lies roughly under I-90 from Bainbridge Island to Issaquah. Alki Point rose 25 feet; West Point fell approximately 3 feet. Useable area at West Point became much smaller. Site stratigraphy tells a story of perseverance: cultural layers are found immediately below and above tsunami sand, showing that people quickly returned to this dramatically altered landscape.
During this time period, the importance of West Point diminished. As other areas such as the Duwamish River valley became more productive, West Point became only one of many seasonal camps visited during seasonal rounds. Environmental change made mussels less abundant, resulting in focus on clams and barnacles. Shellfish processing and drying is evident in stone features found throughout the site and in the abundance of charred hardwoods, especially alder, for smoking and drying. Fishing focused on salmon, with sculpin a distant second in preference. People used the site spring, summer, and fall, but most intensively during spring and summer. Winter was likely spent at one or more of the many villages dotting the Puget Sound shoreline.
Salmon over time
THE IMPORTANCE OF SALMON in the diet of West Point people increased dramatically over time. While in earliest periods a wide variety of food was caught and consumed fresh in all seasons, gradually the people shifted to a smaller variety of resources, with special focus on salmon.
The people of West Point used various techniques and technologies to fish, including hook-and-line, trolling, spearing, and netting. Archaeologists recovered the greatest quantity and most diverse variety of fish bones from the earliest occupation (Component 1). The most abundant fish from the early period were flatfish such as English sole, starry founder, and rock sole.
During later periods of occupation the quantity of fish bones decreased and became less diverse. The evidence suggests that as time passed, the people focused on fewer types of fish during specific seasons. Eventually, the site was used primarily for salmon fishing during spring and summer, along with possible processing of salmon for winter storage, while other fish and mussels were eaten fresh.
Salmon remained the single most important food for native people during the 19th and 20th centuries. Photographs from the early 1900s show Native people catching and drying salmon for personal use and to sell in Seattle. In a 1950s photo Muckleshoot women prepare salmon over an open fire, showing the continuation of a thousands-of-years-old technology well into the 20th century.
Salmon is still a mainstay of the Pacific Northwest diet. Activities surrounding the catching, preparing, and cooking of salmon are to this day a source of cultural pride.
2,700-2,350 Before Present
Chronology: Component 3
DATES: 2,700--2,350 years Before Present (BP)
GEOLOGY: Continued landslides, rising sea levels, expanding lagoon results in shift of areas used.
SEASON: Seasonal: summer, fall, winter.
FOOD: Focus is on fish, clams.
USE: Salmon fishing, clam-drying only.
CULTURE: Other regional sites grow in importance.
TECHNOLOGY: More cores, suggesting final tool manufacture elsewhere.
SIGNIFICANT CHANGES IN USE characterize this time. Areas used for campsites and food-processing continued to shift due to repeated landslides from the bluff, rising sea levels, and expanding lagoon. Use of the site changed to more seasonal occupation primarily during summer, fall, and winter. Activities included hunting, fishing, and gathering, with increasing emphasis on salmon fishing and clam harvesting.
Following Component 3 is a gap in the archaeological record, as no data was found in the excavation areas for the time period of 2,350 BP to 1,450 BP. Archaeologists theorize that perhaps areas used during this time are now located undisturbed beneath existing buildings of the wastewater treatment plant.
Clams over time
ARCHAEOLOGISTS FOUND THAT one of the principal activities over time at West Point was the harvesting of shellfish. During the earliest occupations mussels were harvested off the rocky beach adjacent to the camp area. Gradually the environment changed and the rocky beaches where mussels thrived became sandy and more hospitable to clams and cockles than mussels. The ability to dry clams also changed the site use. Eventually year-round consumption of a variety of shellfish gave way to a focus on harvesting clams in spring and summer, and on drying them for later use.
Shellfish continues to be a mainstay of western Washington Indian tribes today. The tribes conduct commercial, ceremonial, and subsistence harvests. Available technology is brought to bear now, just as it was thousands of years ago, with today's tribal shellfish managers now handling detailed management plans, regulations, and harvest data. See the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission for more information.
3,550-2,700 Before Present
Chronology: Component 2
DATES: 3,550--2,700 years Before Present (BP)
GEOLOGY: Landslides and mudslides from bluff into sandy trough cause shift in campsite areas.
SEASON: Year-round habitation; less active in winter
FOOD: More focus on clams, salmon, small mammals.
USE: Fish for immediate consumption; clam drying.
CULTURE: Trade with Columbia River and Eastern Oregon.
TECHNOLOGY: Clam-drying for winter storage; changes in tools.
THE LANDFORM WAS CHANGING. Sea levels rose, covering areas used during earlier periods and eroding the bluffs and cliffs. Rocky shores covered with mussels gave way to sandy beaches that attracted large colonies of clams. More people came to West Point than ever before and stayed for months at a time.
Evidence suggests a technology for clam drying was innovated about 3,000 years ago. This ability to dry clams for winter storage led to changes in the seasonal subsistence cycle. Evidence such as ochre and the skull bones of a bear suggest a more elaborate ceremonial life developed during this period.
The presence of obsidian from Oregon and petrified wood from the Columbia River indicates ties to areas east of the Cascade Mountains and south. This availability of different types of stone led to changes in the number and types of tools manufactured at West Point.
Gambling over time
GAMBLING HAS LONG BEEN a part of Native culture, from prehistory to the present day. The discovery of gaming pieces at West Point indicates the people here enjoyed gambling at least 1,500 years ago.
Gambling was a popular pastime among the Native American tribes of the Pacific Northwest. One of many games, the bone game (also called "slahal"), was played between two teams sitting opposite one another. One team member held up his hands, each of which contained a small bone, and the opposite team tried to guess which hand held the marked bone. Other team members held sticks used for scoring and for keeping up a rhythmic beat.
Later, after forced relocation to reservations following 1850s treaties, the Indian agents who administered the reservations discouraged traditional gambling games----except during Treaty Day celebrations.
Today, tribal gaming takes a modern form, the "Indian casino." Revenues from these Native-owned casino and bingo businesses provide for the economic and educational advancement of tribal members.
4,250-3,550 Before Present
Chronology: Component 1
DATES: 4,250--3,550 years Before Present (BP)
GEOLOGY: Sandspit protects site; sandy trough develops between water and bluff.
SEASON: Year-round habitation; less active in fall.
FOOD: Wide variety----animals, plants, fish, shellfish.
USE: Large campsite area; food processed for immediate consumption.
CULTURE: Evidence of trade with British Columbia
TECHNOLOGY: No food-drying.
DURING THIS EARLY OCCUPATION, people returned year after year to a large camp below the bluff protected by a sandspit. They visited West Point for its abundant resources: elk and deer roamed above the bluff and on the grassy tidelands; occasionally whales, porpoises, and seals were caught. People hunted, fished, and gathered for a wide variety of food. However, there is no evidence indicating the ability to dry food at this time.
Occupants collected stone from the beach to make tools, which were used for a short period and then discarded. Woodworking tools were made of deer or elk bone. Antler wedges were used for felling and splitting cedar logs. Evidence suggests the people here maintained an entire tool kit related to woodworking, perhaps for making canoes, houses, and utensils.
Some raw materials and artifacts were brought to the site from far away; for example, some of the decorated artifacts might have come from the northern areas of Puget Sound and British Columbia.
Diet over time
ARCHAEOLOGISTS LOOKED AT the interplay of geology, resources, and technology to see how diet and site use changed over time. They examined the massive amounts of shell and fish and animal bones for clues; they also analyzed soil samples for microscopic remains of seeds and plants.
As the landform changed, they found, so too did the beaches, marshes, freshwater streams, wooded bluffs, and vegetated uplands----the habitats that determined the available plants and animals. Accordingly, as food resources changed over time, so did people's use of the site. The ability to dry foods for later use was a technological advance that also changed site use.
The earliest occupants utilized the broadest variety of resources and probably stayed year-round, consuming foods as they processed them. As time passed, people came to West Point seasonally; specifically for harvesting salmon and clams and preparing those for winter consumption. Removal to reservations, the reduction of land available to harvest salmon and clams, and diminishing resources resulted in a significant change in diet for local Native Americans. Food sources used for thousands of years were suplemented with newly introduced foods. Though Native Americans continued to utilize old resources, the new food sources may have created unforeseen health issues, such as the epidemic level of type 2 diabetes among Native Americans today.
Archaeological data is currently being used to study pre-Euro-American period diet in this region in the hopes of reducing the high incidence of diabetes among Native Americans. Excavations at West Point and other sites along Puget Sound have recovered animal bones, plant remains, hunting equipment, and food-processing tools used by Native Americans over the millennia. A project team with members from the University of Washington, King County, Muckleshoot Indian Tribe, Suquamish Tribe, and Tulalip Tribes, and with support from the Institute for Ethnic Studies in the United States (IESUS), is currently working to study existing data on pre-contact diet, and to make the information accessible to any audience. The findings will illuminate the variety of animals (shellfish, fish, birds, mammals) and plants used in the deeper past and shed light on possible health issues surrounding contemporary diet.