- Associated Press - Friday, July 11, 2014

PORT ANGELES, Wash. (AP) - A decade after being excavated, 14 artifacts from the ancient Klallam village of Tse-whit-zen are back in Port Angeles.

“They’ve been away for such a long time, I almost can’t believe they’re home,” said Frances Charles, chairwoman of the Lower Elwha Klallam tribe.

Charles and other members of the tribe brought back the items from the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture in Seattle earlier this week.

The artifacts will now be on permanent public display at the Elwha Klallam Heritage Center, 401 E. Front St.

The free exhibit opens at noon Saturday with songs from the Elwha Drum Group and speeches from tribal leaders.

Tse-whit-zen, occupied for at least 2,700 years until supplanted by industrial development in the 19th and 20th centuries, is one of the largest and most significant archaeological sites in Washington state.

The village was rediscovered in August 2003 during work along Marine Drive to build an onshore dry dock for construction of concrete pontoons to repair the Hood Canal Bridge.

‘Wanted to be heard’

“For over a month, they tried to get that last sheet piling in the ground,” said Arlene Wheeler, tribal planning director.

“The others went in the ground like butter, but the ancestors under that last one wouldn’t let them in. They wanted to be heard.”

Archaeologists exhumed the remains of 335 tribal members and some 80,000 artifacts before the construction project was shut down at the request of the tribe in December 2004 in order to protect what remained of the village and other graves there from further disruption.

The pontoon work was relocated to Tacoma.

The state had spent more than $60 million.

“That was something that the Creator, in her own way, spoke to us,” Charles said. “Our ancestors stood up and demanded to be heard.”

Most of the artifacts remain in storage at the Burke and have yet to be analyzed.

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