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Touch Vashon’s Past During Archaeology Day

last year’s Archaeology Day. L to R: Archaeologist Laura Phillips, a student, Pat Eastly
last year’s Archaeology Day. L to R: Archaeologist Laura Phillips, a student, Pat Eastly

Many Islanders have inherited artifacts from pioneer ancestors. Others have found their arrowheads or scrapers while gardening or walking along the beach. It is no secret that our 21st century culture occupies land where a much older culture flourished for eons, until 160 years ago.  Experts will come to Vashon on Saturday, July 26, for an afternoon and evening of learning from these artifacts. Artifact identification will take place 1 to 4 pm inside the Vashon-Maury Island Heritage Museum. Everyone is welcome to bring in their artifacts and archaeologists from the Burke Museum, the Puyallup Tribe of Indians, and King County Roads will explain the purpose of each, and how they were made and used.

Nobody will try to take these items away from their current owners.  In Washington state, the law recognizes that artifacts are the property of the landowner. For further questions about this issue, you may contact the Burke Museum (  206-221-6183).

In the evening, archaeologists will collaborate to present findings from several excavations.  Brandon Reynon from the Puyallup Tribe, Tom Minichillo from King County Roads, and Laura Phillips from the Burke Museum will compare findings from the 1996 dig at Jensen Point and the one at Manzanita in 2010.  What can these objects tell us about the people who made and used them?

We know that the people who lived here, the sxwobabc, had the tools and equipment to meet all their needs for food, shelter, clothing, transportation, and cultural activities.  How did they do this? What do the scrapers, projectile points, stone mauls, net sinkers and bone awls suggest about their craftsmanship and style of living? What has been found, and what has not?  Nets made of plant fibers have probably not survived in the ground. Baskets, hats and clothing woven of bark or cattails have likely disintegrated long ago. The stories people told and the songs they sang as they worked, visited, and prayed cannot be found lying around either. But the descendants of Vashon’s first people, members of the Puyallup Tribe of Indians, can fill in many of those blanks.

On Saturday, July 26, come learn something about the Puyallup band who lived comfortable lives here for thousands of years. And in the months to come, we will invite some of their descendants to honor us with stories, descriptions of the cultural roots of their design style, demonstrations of weaving skill, and the nature of their manifold connections to the fish and shellfish of the Salish Sea. Also consider visiting the museum to see the special exhibit “Vashon’s Native People: Navigating Seas of Change,” 1-4 pm Wednesday through Sunday, plus additional hours on July 26 from 5 to 7 pm.
For supporting the exhibit and these programs, the Vashon-Maury Island Heritage Museum thanks the following sponsors: 4Culture, Puget Sound Energy, DIG, Beth de Groen/Windermere, Rick’s Diagnostic & Repair Service, The Hardware Store Restaurant, John L. Scott Real Estate, and the Northwest School of Animal Massage.