Monday, June 4, 2007

Successful appeal to keep hiking trail off burial ground disregarded by port district

by Terri C. Hansen
Environment Writer
News from Indian Country

Cathlamet, Wash.--Thirty years ago, the eternal resting place of the Chinook Chief Skamokawa was plundered.

Skamokawa was unearthed for the peace medal he received from Lewis and Clark. Other artifacts were stolen along with the medal.

Skamokawa's body, too, was stolen.

Circa 1805

Wahkiakum Indians waiting atop basalt cliffs
over Cathlamet, looking for the white men
they had heard were coming. When they spotted
Lewis and Clark's Corp's of Discovery they sent
out canoes to lead them to their village to trade.

The Chinook Nation fought Wahkiakum County Port District No. 2 to stop the trail from accessing the site, used by tribal members for religious ceremonies. And they prevailed.

Or so it had seemed.

In March, the state Shoreline's Hearing Board ordered the trail rerouted and shortened, if necessary, so that no point would come within 400 feet of the perimeter of the site, to be designated by an independent archaeologist hired by the port. Further, no access from the trail to the site would be permitted, and no signs allowed except for general information at the trailhead concerning the history of a site "in the area."

The port voted April 19 to move ahead with the trail without contracting for an independent archeological survey, as required by the Board's order, Tarabochia said. Instead, the Chinook Nation received a map from the port with a revised trail route allegedly allowing for the 400-foot buffer zone roughly marked in. Their revision is based on an old survey, leading the tribe to question how the port could determine the new trail route with no new information.

Carol Carver, a port commissioner, said that the port was undecided about hiring an independent archaeologist. The Commissioner suggested that the Chinook Nation should think about paying for the survey themselves. Carver said, “They,” the Chinook Tribe, “should think about paying part of the cost of any archaeological survey.”

But the port's latest plans for the trail are in violation of that order, says Chinook tribal spokesman Tim Tarabochia. "We feel the port hasn't met the conditions ordered by the Shoreline's Hearings Board," he says. "The tribe is opposed to the trail. It still provides access to the site."