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Originally published May 22, 2005 at 12:00 AM | Page modified March 16, 2010 at 4:59 PM

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Tse-whit-zen study guide: Things to think about and explore

Discussion Questions: What is Tse-whit-zen, and whose ancestors are represented there? Why is this site such a unique and important find?

Part 1a: Unearthing a tribe's identity

Discussion Questions:

• What is Tse-whit-zen, and whose ancestors are represented there?

• Why is this site such a unique and important find?

• What is "midden," and how does it give insight into the culture that inhabited the area?

• Today we consider technology as a means to advance a society. Would you consider the Klallam an advanced society? Why or why not?

• In what ways is life today similar to life 2,700 years ago? How is it different?

• What feelings and thoughts do you think the Lower Elwha Klallam people working at the Tse-whit-zen site had as they unearthed their ancestors?

Cultural Connection Activities:

• List all the various ways the people of Tse-whit-zen used nature to survive. In what ways do we still use nature as a means to survive?

• As a class, brainstorm a list of questions about the Lower Elwha Klallam tribe, Tse-whit-zen, archaeology and any other topics that relate to this article that you would like answered or further explored during this series.

• Consider the various artifacts, select one and write a story about the person who used it. Be sure to incorporate the cultural meaning/use into the story and use the facts presented in the Tse-whit-zen series.


• The artifacts unearthed at the Tse-whit-zen site were very important to understanding the Klallam culture. In an essay, answer the following questions: What five artifacts do you think would best represent our culture if discovered 2,700 years from now? What would they tell archaeologists about us?

Part 1b: Tse-whit-zen helps open window to the past

Discussion Questions:

• What opportunities does the site offer archaeologists? What specifically do they hope to answer? What does the site offer the Klallam tribe? And how might what is learned from this site impact you and your community?

• From what archaeologists know, what was life like in Tse-whit-zen during the spring, summer, fall and winter months?

• What information at the site demonstrates that the Klallam were a class society that had slaves and were warriors?

• What physical feature was considered beautiful? How was this feature created in the Klallam tribe? Was this feature something anyone could create? Why or why not? Some may argue that this practice is cruel or primitive. But compare this to our own culture: What is considered beautiful in our culture? In what ways do we change our physical appearance to meet beauty standards?

• Why did tribal members wear face paint made of red powder and deer tallow? What powers were sought? In your opinion, how would these powers help the tribe?

Cultural Connection Activities:

• Every culture has its own standards of beauty. Today's article described one such beauty feature for the Klallam tribe living at the Tse-whit-zen site thousands of years ago. Research other cultures that make changes to physical features in order to enhance one's beauty. Then write an essay that describes the various beauty standards found in cultures around the world.

• Combs play in important role in many cultures; research the role of combs in cultures throughout the world.

Part 2: "How could so many die?" Burials may point to epidemic

Discussion Questions:

• What was the "Spirit of Pestilence," and how did it affect the Northwest tribes? How do we know that this occurred? How might the Tse-whit-zen site support reports of the Spirit of Pestilence?

• Who are shamans? How were they buried at the Tse-whit-zen site? Why might the Tse-whit-zen inhabitants bury their shamans this way?

• Aside from disease epidemics, what else might explain the burial site's mass graves?

• Why might the Klallam people not allow further analysis of the bones, ground they touched or offerings buried with them?

Cultural Connection Activities:

• How a culture treats those who have died provides great insight into it. Considering what information was provided in this series about the Klallams' burial traditions, what can we assume about the culture? Research another culture's burial traditions. Then, use a Venn diagram to compare and contrast the two cultures.

• Using the information in this article, imagine you were either a settler or a member of the Klallam tribe at Tse-whit-zen. Record an entry in a journal about the interaction between you and the other party.

• The Lower Elwha Klallam tribe refer to themselves as "The Strong People." Is this name appropriate? Using information from this series, write an essay that defends your opinion about whether the Klallam are "Strong People."

Part 3: "Walking together" meant walking away from project

Discussion Questions:

• What does Secretary of Transportation Doug MacDonald mean when he talks about the "collective amnesia" around the chosen dry-dock site? What role did the state officials, the state-hired archaeologist and the tribal council play in that "forgetting"?

• How did cultural misunderstandings contribute to the current conflict between the state and the tribe at Tse-whit-zen? What cultural misunderstandings have you been a part of?

• Did the Department of Transportation do the right thing with regard to the dry-dock project? Why or why not?

Cultural Connection Activities:

• In what ways can you educate yourself on cultures so that you lessen the chance for cultural misunderstandings? As a class, brainstorm a list of cultures, remembering to consider cultures other than ethnic/racial ones. As you review the list, consider how you can educate each other and yourself about cultures (i.e., read books from other cultures, have pen pals from different cultures, etc). Choose one or two ways you can increase your "cultural intelligence" and set a timeline for getting it done.

• What is your cultural heritage? Who do you consider your ancestors? Put yourself in the position of the Klallam tribe: How would you feel or react if your ancestors' burial grounds were being disturbed?

Part 4: Rebirth of a culture

Discussion Questions: • How was Phillip Charles able to reconnect with his culture and ancestors by recreating their tools?

• Why do you think the discoveries at Tse-whit-zen inspired local tribal members and townspeople to start learning the Klallam language?

• Why does Larry Williams think white people should "crawl back to England" if a compromise isn't worked out to continue construction on the Tse-whit-zen site?

Cultural Connection Activities:

• Looking back over the entire series, think again about the "favorite artifacts" that were displayed and talked about by the tribe members. Which was your favorite? Take a poll of your class: Which is the group favorite? Why?

• Larry Williams of the Port Angeles City Council says, "What Three Mile Island did for nuclear power this has the potential to do for any harbor-side renovation, development or redevelopment in Port Angeles." Research the Three Mile Island incident and write an essay that summarizes the incident and compares and contrasts it to Tse-whit-zen. Do you agree with Mr. Williams? Why or why not?

• Where do we go from here? Should construction continue? Should the Tse-whit-zen site be preserved undisturbed? Should archaeologists be allowed to do more testing and excavation around the graves? What do you think?

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