Bainbridge Island: The Yama Archaeological Site

Yama. In Japanese it means “mountain” or “hill”. On Kitsap County’s Bainbridge Island, Yama was the hillside home for the earliest Japanese residents of the island; about 300 men and later women and children recruited to work in the expanding Port Blakely Mill. Though the village of Yama only existed from 1890-the 1920’s when it burnt and was abandoned, the influence of Yama has shaped much of Bainbridge’s history. Yama was the beginning of a shameful period of the island, state and nation’s history – the forced removal of 276 of the island’s Japanese citizens to internment camps in California and Idaho during World War II, many of them Yama residents and descendants who remained on the island. The Bainbridge Island Japanese American Exclusion Memorial Association has dedicated itself to remembering that time by erecting a beautiful but sobering memorial, The Bainbridge Island Japanese American Exclusion Memorial located at the now defunct Eagledale Ferry Dock Harbor, the site of the forced removal.

Yama 5

Located on the south end of Bainbridge Island overlooking Blakely Park, today Yama is a tangle of vines and fast growing northwest vegetation covering the remains of what was once a thriving village about a mile from the mill.

Based on oral history, a few photographs and the beginnings of an archaeological project, evidence indicates that Yama once had a Buddhist temple and Baptist church, a hotel, a general store with an ice cream shop and photography studio and a bathhouse that lined the wooden planked sidewalks to the houses. The earliest residents were bachelors, many who eventually married. Those who didn’t were consigned to the bachelor quarter away from the families.

While nearby Bainbridge residents were aware of Yama; some even doing their own excavation of pottery and other remnants, it wasn’t until 2010 when the city and parks departments traded who had jurisdiction over the seven acre site, that plans began to develop to fully study it as the important archaeological site that it is. A partnership of Olympic College’s Anthropology Department, the Bainbridge Island Historical Museum, the Kitsap County Historical Society and Museum, the Bainbridge Historical Preservation Commission and the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Community formed and applied for grant funding.

During the summer of 2015, the three year archaeological research began with a team of students from Olympic College participating in an archaeological field school and 37 volunteers who contributed 670 hours of work. I was a very occasional volunteer and can attest to the considerable effort that occurred in the summer of 2015: surveying the hilly overgrown site, removing vines to search for surface level artifacts and cleaning, identifying and cataloging over 2500 artifacts that ranged from metal stoves and pans to parts of shoes, a porcelain dolls head and a lot of glass shards. While some artifacts will be housed at the Bainbridge Historical Museum, the eventual collection is too extensive and so it will be housed at the Burke Museum in Seattle, an internationally renowned museum of Washington history and culture on the University of Washington campus.

The second year of the archaeological project will begin again in the summer of 2016. If interested in volunteering, it can be done here. If you don’t want to volunteer but are interested in following the project, the Yama site has a Facebook page called Yama Anthro that tracked the daily progress of last summer’s work. And the Bainbridge Historical Museum has an impressive display of the history of the Port Blakely Mill, Yama and a collection of artifacts from both.

 

 

 

 

The African Savannah of Kitsap County

They were still there. Standing like sentinels as though it was the African wetlands. As I waded closer I could see they were both sporting Seahawks gear – a scarf on the giraffe and a sort of Turkish Seahawk fez on the elephant – the 12’s in inanimate animal form. It’s football Sunday in Seattle and likely about the end of the first quarter. I wonder if they can tell me what the score is? But more realistically I wonder, yet again, how they got there -two life size wooden African animals in the bush known as the Clear Creek Trail in Silverdale, Kitsap County.  I’d seen them many times before the torrential fall and winter rain had turned the Clear Creek savannah into a wetlands. It’s a mystery how they got there. Even Google doesn’t have an explanation.

Clear Creek Trail is one my my favorite walking trails in the county. While the entire trail system amounts to seven miles, my favorite section is the northern end. It’s easily accessed just off Viking Way NW (aka Silverdale Way NW)  between Poulsbo and Silverdale and has a habit of nagging me to take 30 minutes to park and walk whenever I drive by.

I love that the changes of the season are on constant display there. When it’s monsoon season as it has been lately, there are parts of the trail side that look like the Louisiana bayous, all dark with submerged signs of civilization. On some days galoshes are required footwear on the main trail. It’s a valley formed in the last ice age 13,000 -15,000 years ago and in that section Clear Creek moves slowly because the watershed is low lying. When it rains heavily the creek overflows its banks.

I also love that the entire trail system is maintained and is being restored by a variety of volunteer organizations including twelve trail adoption groups. Donated to the Great Peninsula Conservancy by the last private owners of the land, it was not until the Clear Creek Task Force was created in 1993 that a vision of how to manage and restore the vast Clear Creek ecosystem was developed. Each time I walk the trail it seems as though a new interpretive sign has been installed or a bench that was an Eagle Scout project.

Restoration is a major undertaking. The valley was originally the fishing and hunting area of the local native Suquamish people who called parts of the current Clear Creek ecosystem, Duwe’iq and Sa’qad. In the 1850’s loggers moved in and clear cut the valley turning lush forest into fertile farmland, but in the process destroying wildlife habitat and resources for the native tribe. The efforts to replant the valley are visible everywhere and today the Suquamish Tribe is part of the Clear Creek Task Force.

HeronWhenever I walk the trails I get to witness the slow healing taking place. Part of that healing process is the return of native animal life like the coho salmon who return to Clear Creek between October and January annually. My favorite encounter occurred two weeks ago as I rounded a turn in the boardwalk and came upon this blue heron. The photo was taken with my cellphone so you can see how close the heron let me creep. We spent five minutes staring at each other (me hoping nobody else would interrupt our special moment) before it spread its magnificent wings, cast me one last glance and took off in the air. I wonder how it co-exists with Kitsap County’s African wildlife?

Poulsbo: A Norwegian Christmas at Home

peregrinewoman

I’m not Norwegian. Not one iota of Norwegian blood is in my family roots. And yet by sheer serendipity, I’ve grown up surrounded by Norwegian tradition and history. My birthplace of Hettinger, North Dakota was 68% German (mostly Catholic) and 11% Norwegian (mostly Lutheran). A fellow Hettingerite and blogger at The Prairie Blog recalls the saga of the “mixed marriage” in his family, one similar to my own family history . Despite the minority status of the Hettinger Norwegian community, my German Catholic grandmother and parents played their weekly pinochle games with Norwegians and owned businesses with them so I grew up eating lefse (only at Christmas and only with butter, sugar and cinnamon), making krumkake and going as a guest to the far better events for children over at the Lutheran church than the staid Catholic Church offered.

In both high school and graduate school, the school mascot was…

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