10,000-year-old stone tools unearthed in Redmond dig

“We were pretty amazed,” said archaeologist Robert Kopperl of the finds at the site. (SWCA Environmental Consultants)
“We were pretty amazed,” said archaeologist Robert Kopperl of the finds at the site. (SWCA Environmental Consultants)

Archaeologists working near Redmond Town Center have unearthed stone tools crafted at least 10,000 years ago by some of the region’s earliest inhabitants.

By  Sandi Doughton, Seattle Times science reporter


The project started off as nothing special — just a standard archaeological survey to clear the way for construction.

But it quickly became clear that the site near Redmond Town Center mall was anything but ordinary.

“We were pretty amazed,” said archaeologist Robert Kopperl, who led the field investigation. “This is the oldest archaeological site in the Puget Sound lowland with stone tools.”

Kopperl and his colleagues published their initial analysis earlier this year in the journal PaleoAmerica. He’ll discuss the findings Saturday morning in a presentation sponsored by the Redmond Historical Society.

The discovery is yielding new insights into the period when the last ice age was drawing to a close and prehistoric bison and mammoths still roamed what is now Western Washington.

The site on the shores of Bear Creek, a tributary to the Sammamish River, appears to have been occupied by small groups of people who were making and repairing stone tools, said Kopperl, of SWCA Environmental Consultants.

Chemical analysis of one of the tools revealed traces of the food they were eating, including bison, deer, bear, sheep and salmon.

“This was a very good place to have a camp,” Kopperl said. “They could use it as a centralized location to go out and fish and hunt and gather and make stone tools.”


Stone points excavated near Redmond Town Center have unusual concave bases. (SWCA Environmental Consultants)
Stone points excavated near Redmond Town Center have unusual concave bases. (SWCA Environmental Consultants)


The site was initially surveyed in 2009, as the city of Redmond embarked on an $11 million project to restore salmon habitat in Bear Creek, which had been confined to a rock-lined channel decades before. The work was funded largely by the Washington State Department of Transportation, as a way to mitigate some of the environmental impacts of building the new Highway 520 floating bridge over Lake Washington and widening the roadway.

The first discoveries were an unremarkable assortment of artifacts near the surface, Kopperl explained. But when the crews dug deeper, they found a foot-thick layer of peat. Radiocarbon analysis showed that the peat, the remains of an ancient bog, was at least 10,000 years old. That’s when things got exciting.

“We knew right away that it was a pretty significant find,” said Washington State Historic Preservation Officer Allyson Brooks.

As they delved below the peat in subsequent field seasons, the crews started finding a wealth of tools and fragments. Because of the artifacts’ position below the peat, which had not been disturbed, it’s clear they predate the formation of the peat, Kopperl explained. Radiocarbon analysis of charcoal fragments found with the tools confirm the age.

Only a handful of archaeological sites dating back 10,000 years or more have been discovered in Western Washington. They include 12,000-year-old mastodon bones near Sequim and prehistoric bison remains on Orcas Island from about the same time period. But neither site yielded stone tools.

 “It’s hard to find this kind of site west of the Cascades, because it’s so heavily vegetated and the Puget Lobe of the big ice sheet really affected the landscape,” Kopperl said.

A handful of sites have been discovered east of the mountains with tools dating back between 12,000 and 14,000 years.

So it’s clear that humans have lived in the area since soon after the glaciers retreated, but a lot of mystery still surrounds the region’s earliest occupants and their origins.

By 10,000 years ago, the ice that covered the Redmond area was long gone, leaving Lake Sammamish in its wake. But the lake’s marshy fringes extended much farther than they do today, Kopperl said. Pine forests were dominant instead of the firs that are now so common.

Excavations in the 1960s at what is now Marymoor Park, just south of Bear Creek, revealed abundant evidence of people living there about 5,000 years ago.

In fact, most of the region’s streams and waterways were probably occupied or used by early Native Americans — just as they were later used by white settlers and today’s residents, Brooks said.

“It just shows you that humans continuously use the landscape, and that the places that people use today are the same places that people used yesterday,” she said.

Among the most unusual artifacts from the Bear Creek site are the bottoms of two spear points. The points don’t display the graceful fluting characteristic of what’s called the Clovis method of toolmaking. Instead, they have concave bases, which has only rarely been seen.

So perhaps the tools represent an earlier style that’s still not well understood, Kopperl said.

While great for archaeology, the serendipitous discovery at Bear Creek added to the cost of the restoration and delayed the project’s completion by about two years, said Roger Dane, of the city’s natural resources division.

Officials worked with the Muckleshoot and Snoqualmie tribes, whose ancestors might have been among the actual toolmakers, to ensure that the site is permanently protected, Dane explained.

The goal of the restoration was to return the creek to a meandering bed and add vegetation, woody debris and shallow areas to make it more hospitable for salmon.

“For a creek that runs through an urban area, it’s one of the more productive salmon streams in the area,” Dane said.

When Kopperl and his team are done analyzing the artifacts, they’ll hand them over to the Muckleshoot Tribe for curation. There are no immediate plans to display the artifacts publicly.

Construction at the site was completed this year, including addition of a thick cap of soil and vegetation over unexcavated portions to protect and preserve remaining artifacts.

Signs explaining the restoration and the site’s archaeological significance will be added next year.

The excavation also uncovered a single fragment of salmon bone, testament to the fact that the Northwest’s iconic fish has made its way up local streams for at least 10,000 years.

“Since finding the site was based on a salmon-restoration project,” Kopperl said, “it’s kind of like coming full circle.”


(Garland Potts / The Seattle Times)
(Garland Potts / The Seattle Times)

INTERVIEW: Native People And The Trolls Under The Bridge

MintPress talks to a recent PhD recipient whose work focuses on how “rationalizations perpetuate the notion that American Indians are inherently different from non-natives.”




By Christine Graef, Mint Press News


AKWESASNE, New York — In the two decades since the 1990 Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) became law, requiring federal agencies and institutions to return human remains and culturally identifiable items, about 38,671 individuals, 998,731 funerary objects, 144,163 unassociated funerary objects, 4,303 sacred objects, 948 objects of cultural patrimony and 822 sacred and patrimonial objects have been returned to their people, according to the U.S. Department of the Interior.

“In terms of NAGPRA since 1990, changes are apparent, for sure, though I have found that this usually involves just subtle changes in language and not real, meaningful change,” said Brian Broadrose, a Seneca descendant who recently finished his doctoral studies at Binghamton University, where he focused on the relationship between anthropologists and Native Americans. “Last I checked, not a single institution with significant quantities of Native bodies and artifacts is in full compliance with the law.”

Despite being flouted as human rights legislation, Broadrose told MintPress that NAGPRA is actually a compromise.

Broadrose spent five years gathering more than 840 pages of data for his dissertation, concluding that the use of language in NAGPRA is deliberate, “in the sense that these categories were not created by Indians, but by those who possess our materials and have a vested interest in not returning it.”

“In its original wording it was strongly resisted by many of the most powerful anthro-organizations out there, including the Society for American Archaeology,” Broadrose said. ”The SAA would only support watered down legislation, whereby they would have exclusive control over the most relevant definitions — for example, a difference between funerary versus unassociated, culturally affiliated or not — and this was very definitely a theme echoed by the troll faction of ‘Iroquoianist’ scholars.”

Funerary objects are considered unassociated when found with human remains if they are not in the possession of a museum or federal agency.

He said the compromised legislation allowed the SAA to switch their scales of analyses, allowing them to make assertions like, “These objects and bodies are not associated or affiliated with the Iroquois, instead of these objects and bodies areassociated or affiliated with American Indians, in general.”

“I regularly found unmarked boxes of bones in various labs at state and private schools here in upstate New York,” he said.

Despite years of efforts to have the region’s ancestors repatriated, there are still some 800 Native American bodies held in New York museums.

“There is a very inadequate old law allowing for the collection of human remains by the State Education Department,” said Peter Jemison, State Historic Site Manager of Ganondagen in New York and Chairman of the Haudenosaunee Standing Committee on the Burial Rules and Regulations.

Jemison said that after years of trying, they found that building consensus across party lines was impossible. Lobbyists representing developers and even farmers prevented legislation from going beyond the committee phase.

“The state is still in possession of human remains; however, we are closer to repatriation,” Jemison said. “The same can be said of sacred objects. The ball is in our court.”

In his 2014 PhD dissertation, “The Haudenosaunee and the Trolls Under the Bridge: Digging Into the Culture of ‘Iroquoianist Studies,’” Broadrose also examined an example of a state rejecting Native educational curriculum that includes their history.

This relationship, he said, is “fraught with hostility and inequality” because of an unfortunate past. Scholars disregarding the significance of American Indian artifacts, unethical and immoral practices continues into the 21st century because “rationalizations perpetuate the notion that American Indians are inherently different from non-natives,” he said.



Thegroup of ‘Iroquoianist’ scholars consistently minimize the role of the Haudenosaunee in their own Euroamerican culture while overstating the influence of civilized whites upon the Haudenosaunee,” Broadrose wrote in his thesis, which will be published in its entirety by the university this fall.

Dubbed “the trolls,” a term referring to beings from European mythology lurking under bridges, the bridge being what could connect Native people and their history with Euro-Americans and their history, they persistently denied voice to the “Other,” he wrote.

Hiding as if under a bridge, ready to attack those who attempt to cross and meet in the middle, “Many don’t want anything to do with Indians as living breathing people who throw a wrench into the salvage archaeology they continue to practice, which is of course based upon the faulty ‘disappearing Indian paradigm.’”

In the late 1980s the idea for a curriculum supplement was suggested by Donald H. Bragaw, chief of the Bureau of Social Studies Education, at a meeting between New York’s Natives and the State Education Department (SED).

In 1987, a meeting convened between representatives of the SED and the Haudenosaunee Council, including Jake Swamp, Leon Shenandoah, Bernard Parker, Leo Henry, Doug-George Kanentiio, John Kahionhes Fadden, and others. All were in agreement that there were areas that needed work and they were ready to set to the job of supplementing curriculum.

On March 10, 1988 Sen. Daniel Inouye of Hawaii wrote to Fadden, as quoted in Broadrose’s thesis, “The educational project that you and others are undertaking with the New York State Education Department is important to the education of all children, Indian and non-Indian alike”

In what may easily be one of the most positive cooperative efforts between the state and the Haudenosaunee, a 400-page guide for schools, “Haudenosaunee: Past, Present, and Future: a Social Studies Resource Guide,”was drafted.

“The Haudenosaunee authors of the ill-fated curriculum guide wrote their history in a powerful, meaningful work that would have educated young non-native populations in the state of New York about what was here before, and what remains vibrant and in existence today,” Broadrose said.

Then, in 1988, the reviews started rolling in. The SED had solicited evaluations from some 30 experts, including anthropologists, historians and school teachers.

All but five gave positive reviews. The others, however, were “abusively negative,” according to Broadrose. The state dismissed the curriculum guide on the basis of these five, who claimed the Haudenosaunee did not align with what scholars had decided about them, despite the scholars never incorporating the input of any Native American into their research.

Examining the critics, he found, “Arguments of ‘they didn’t use our research,’ to ‘Indians can’t be historians,’ to wanting to save the ideas of the culture while the Indians themselves went extinct detailing charges of reverse racism — that the Haudenosaunee are anti-white — to the charge that the guide authors are political activists with political agendas, to the concern that the proper sources — trolls — were not employed in the guide.”

Finding an assumption of the infallibility of the written Westernized word over other forms of historical recollections, Broadrose said the critics were also “serving as expert consultants and witnesses in court cases involving land or the establishment of casinos, that often encompass the wishes of just single nations or of just single corporate groups.”

“Before anthros resume their seemingly unending study of the Other, perhaps they should devote some research time to studying themselves, their own culture and its role in the production and constructions of pasts,” he said.


The trolls

Collectively, the troll faction of Iroquoianist scholars who rejected the curriculum have been cited by other scholars and themselves 9,263 times, invoking their own authority to perpetuate their own litany, according to Broadrose’s research.

He citedClayton W. Dumont Jr., a member of the Klamath Tribe and NAGPRA specialist, who compared it to a scenario of conquered Americans requesting to have the remains of George Washington repatriated to them.

“After all, Washington had different material culture objects buried with him, different clothing, different technology, and overall lived quite differently than today’s Americans,” he said. “American Indians must, therefore, look and act like the anthropological version of their deceased ancestors, denying them the dynamic nature and adaptability of Euro-American cultures, denying them the ability to change.”

The deliberate complexities in NAGPRA are seen in the Kennewick Man, a skeleton found in July 1996 near Kennewick, Washington. The federally recognized Umatilla Tribe, whose ancestral land he was found on, claimed him as an ancestor.

Archeologists, however, said the Kennewick Man’s age made the discovery scientifically valuable and they claimed there was insufficient evidence to connect him to the tribe.

New York state, meanwhile, does not recognize cultural affiliation for any bodies over 500 years old.

“Simple substitution will show the absurdity of this,” said Broadrose. “Based upon New York law, if I found the remains of a famous European, like Shakespeare, here, I would have the right to collect and study his bones and not be compelled to repatriate to Europeans. After all, Shakespeare wore different clothing, spoke a different variant of English, and had different material culture than Europeans today, therefore, he must not be European. That is the gist of the absurdity of cultural affiliation.”

New York also has no protections in place for burials that are not marked by stone monuments or demarcated in the Euro-American cemetery fashion.

“How is it that basic human rights that all other groups are afforded in the U.S., including

control over ancestral remains and graves, can be compromised or negotiated?”  Broadrose asked.


Punk rock inspiration

Broadrose began his dissertation with a question: “What really has changed since the 19th century?”

“The answer is that such differences are in appearance only, not in substance, as the words of the highly decorated, oft-cited troll faction of ‘Iroquoianist’ scholars has made clear,” he said. “The concern is with appearance and not content.”

What NAGPRA has demonstrated is that there is no systematic inventory of any removed human and cultural remains, he said. “Most remain unstudied, unsorted, and hidden away in offices, boxes, bags, or as personal curios in scholar’s offices and homes.”

“With no oversight, it is impossible to know the quantity of material taken from American Indians, though we know colonization and such dispossession went hand in hand, so we are talking about a theft of massive scale,” Broadrose said. “And we are just talking about those federally funded institutions and their lack of compliance in compiling the NAGPRA-mandated inventory. We have absolutely no idea the quantity of material that resides in private hands, collected from private lands, exchanged through private collectors.”

Calling it a dispossession of historic magnitude, he said, “In my opinion, [it] easily exceeds the theft of material wealth from Jews and others defined as inferior by the Nazis.”

His research challenges the prevailing notion from the 1980s that archaeologists were objective in reporting the past without inserting their own biases into interpretations. In the face of this critique, researchers now are required to choose a specific theoretical framework as a lens that allows them to mitigate their findings without the question of their profiting.

Broadrose’s theory chapter is titled “Punk Rock: The Destruction of the Spectacle.”

“I spent a lot of youthful time down in the city, jumping around and living the punk rock lifestyle,” he said. “I found some incredible intellectual heavyweights on street corners and makeshift stages, and in my research, I wanted to make clear: academics and scholars do not have a monopoly on complex thought.”

He found that scholars often have tunnel vision, a “me-first” attitude that contradicts their created discourse.

“The punks that I squatted with back in the early 80s, a mix of cast-offs, runaways, and urban Native Americans, understood the Potlatch paradigm,” he said. “In particular, I justified my deconstruction or critical destruction of troll narratives that disempower Indians by looking beyond the obvious — the fire burns, to the reality — the ground becomes fertile for new growth when the flame finishes its consumption.”

In this analogy, Broadrose is the fire.

“Punk rock is discordant and jarring,” he said. “My discourse is modeled after this, loudly interrupting. When the normative narrative is interrupted, the status quo types get agitated and oft times slip up and expose the sort of back stage talk indicative of power inequalities, and I sure wanted to expose that.”

In effect, Broadrose explained, NAGPRA and the scholars are saying, “Yes, we agree that your ancestral bodies and artifacts were removed without your consent, but even though all pre-1492 bodies and artifacts are by definition Indigenous, we still want to keep a bunch of stuff so we can continue our careers as experts on you and your people, and so we can continue receiving funding to measure, record, and pose your stuff to a paying public. So too we will define for you who you are related to and who you are not related to.”  

“Behind the scenes I may be marginalized, perhaps tenure or research funding will be denied by any of the 9,000-plus scholars who uncritically cited and accepted the work of troll faction members as fact,” he said.

The burden of proof is on the Native Americans to ask, he said, because otherwise they are dependent on the inventories that institutions which receive federal funding are legally required to compile.

“Few museums complied with NAGPRA, opting to foot drag and draw out the process,” he said. “Why have they not been inventoried? I am a proponent of Indians making surprise visits to anthropology departments and museums to see what might be found.  A box of what are clearly human remains in an unmarked box under the lab table of a biological anthropology classroom in a federally funded institute, is, in fact, a violation of NAGPRA and warrants further investigation.”

Forgotten Souls: Oregon mental hospital to dedicate memorial

Remains of mentally ill reunited with surviving family as part of project


Remains of mentally ill reunited with surviving family as part of project
Remains of mentally ill reunited with surviving family as part of project


By JONATHAN J. COOPER, Associated Press


SALEM, Ore. — They were dubbed the “forgotten souls,” the cremated remains of thousands who came through the doors of Oregon’s state mental hospital, died there, and whose ashes were abandoned inside 3,500 copper urns.

Discovered a decade ago at the decrepit Oregon State Hospital, where “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” was filmed, the remains became a symbol of the state’s — and the nation’s — dark history of treating the mentally ill.

A research effort to unearth the stories of those who moved through the hospital’s halls, and to reunite the remains with surviving relatives, takes center stage today as officials dedicate a memorial to those once-forgotten patients.

“No one wants to be laid to rest without some kind of acknowledgement that they were here, that they contributed, that they lived,” said state Senate President Peter Courtney, who led the effort to replace the hospital and build the memorial.

Between 1913 and 1971, more than 5,300 people were cremated at the hospital. Most were patients at the mental institution, but some died at hospitals, the state tuberculosis hospital, a state penitentiary or the Fairview Training Center, where people with developmental disabilities were institutionalized.

Hospital officials have worked for years to reunite the remains of their former patients with surviving relatives. Since the urns were found by lawmakers on a tour of the hospital in 2005, 183 have been claimed.

The 3,409 that remain and have been identified are listed in a searchable online database. Thirty-eight urns will likely never be identified; they’re unmarked, have duplicate numbers or aren’t listed in ledgers of people cremated at the hospital.

They came from different backgrounds, for different reasons. Some stayed just days before they died, others for nearly their entire lives. Twenty-two were Native Americans. Their remains won’t be part of the memorial; they’ll be returned to their tribes for a proper ceremony. Members of the local Sikh community are working to claim the remains of two people.

Many of the 110 veterans still there will eventually receive proper military burials, though some are ineligible due to dishonorable discharges or insufficient information available.

Some patients spent a lifetime at the hospital for conditions like depression and bipolar disorder that, in modern times, are treated on an outpatient basis.

“At the time, they just put them in a safe place and treated them with what they knew to treat them,” said Sharon Tucker, who led the two-year research project.

Records are sparse, even for people who lived for decades inside the walls. Some had severe delusions; others had physical deformities. Some seemed to be institutionalized because their families just didn’t know what to do with them.

But what does survive is a window not only into who they were, but the time in which they lived.

The remains of thousands have been transferred from the copper canisters to ceramic urns that will better protect them. The old canisters will be preserved to give visitors to the memorial a sense for how they once were housed.

“I think it will be very difficult to forget them now,” said Jodie Jones, the state administrator leading the hospital replacement project.