Port Gamble Museum: A Hidden Gem

If you haven’t ventured into Port Gamble’s little gem of a historical museum, you’ve missed a western shores of Puget Sound educational treat. Located in the basement of the 1916 era Port Gamble General Store, the Port Gamble Historical Museum is often mistaken for the better known Sea and Shore Museum located on the upper floor of the store, even by locals.

No. Not the same at all. Follow the sidewalk and stairs outside to the back of the General Store to find the unassuming entrance of the Historical Museum. Designed in 1972 by Alec James, who designed the Royal British Museum in Victoria, Canada, the museum is not a quaint, small town operation. Its a professionally designed museum packed into a small space that showcases the 125 year plus history of the Pope And Talbot Lumber Mill and company town that it built.

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Upon entering, visitors first see a recreation of the interior of the ship, Oriental, whose Captain, William C. Talbot and crew came from East Machias, Maine to settle Port Gamble. The ship creaks and groans and the porthole displays a moving ocean, enough to make one seasick if you watch it long enough. Captain Talbot’s actual ship log can be read in a glass display case in his quarters.

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Recreation of the interiors of important buildings using the actual furniture, dishes and silver wear was part of the design. The lobby of the long gone Puget Sound Hotel is there complete with music from its hey day as the social gathering place. The bedroom of settlers, Cyrus and Emily Walker has been recreated using period furnishings and specially commissioned wallpaper that copied the original found in their bedroom. There is a replica of the inside of the Pope and Talbot sales office and a S’Klallam Native American dwelling, the original settlers of Port Gamble.

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Display cases showcase period fans and wedding dresses, Native American baskets and tools used by the men and women who worked in the mill. There are letters, records and photographs of the non-Native men and women who settled and made Port Gamble their home.

Give yourself time when you visit. The museum, though not the multi floor bohemoth of the Royal British Museum, is a place that needs savoring. The volunteers who keep the museum running are very informative and, if you ask, will show you the back room that houses all of the archived and unlabeled artifacts that have been donated, unearthed and found in attics and crevices of the historical homes and buildings that make up Port Gamble.

MUSEUM FEES:

Adults: $4.00

Students/Seniors/Military: $3.00 

Children six and under free

 MUSEUM HOURS:

May 1st through September 30th: 10:00 a.m. to5 p.m seven days a week.

 October 1st through April 30th: 11:00 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday/Saturday/Sunday.

A Beautiful Day for the Tribal Canoe Journey

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It was a beautiful day for a canoe journey. Standing on the long pier at Suquamish, you could see them as they rounded the point at Jefferson Beach, paddles glistening as they pulled in a rhythmic motion -tiny canoes against the skyline of Seattle and Mt Rainier. Throughout the day on Monday seventy tribal canoes landed on the shores of Suquamish for a two day layover as they make their way to Olympia, the final stop of this year’s Tribal Canoe Journey.

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We’re lucky in Kitsap County – we have two tribal nations who both annually play host to the canoes. It’s about 26 nautical miles between the landing at Suquamish and the previous day’s resting stop hosted by the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe. In prior years the tired pullers would land on the Suquamish shore and, with a handful of volunteers, hoist their heavy, wooden dugout canoes on their shoulders to walk up the ramp to the lawn in front of the House of Awakened Culture. This year, a group of Navy men and women stationed in Kitsap County volunteered to carry the canoes.

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It was an inspiring sight to watch each canoe stop before landing to ask and be granted permission to come ashore (often in their tribal language) from Suquamish Tribal Chairman Leonard Forsman. Yellow-shirted Navy volunteers then waded into the water, lifted each canoe and carried it uphill passing by the flagpole with the waving flags of the United States and the Suquamish Tribe to the applause of watching spectators. The symbolism of that cooperative effort was heartwarming – the original first peoples of Kitsap County sharing their culture and tradition, getting assistance from young Navy men and women, most just passing through on a tour of duty, to the applause of a crowd of Native and non-Native spectators, all under the flags of two sovereign nations.

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Over the next two days there were evening salmon and clambake meals served by Suquamish tribal members and community volunteers followed by tribal singing, drumming and dancing by the visiting tribes – a tradition that allows the visiting tribes to thank the host tribe for it’s hospitality.

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I went back on the second day to sketch the canoes, every one a work of art sitting on the grounds around the House of Awakened Culture. Each is a dug-out canoe made of trees that are found on each tribe’s land. The style varies by tribe though all have to be seaworthy enough to withstand the open water canoeing of the Salish Sea and Puget Sound. Some are painted, some bear tribal flags and wreathes of cedar branches. Some canoes have made the journey more than once and others are first-timers. The new Makah canoe was carved by students at Neah Bay High School.

It amazes me, the number of local residents I know who’ve never attended the Canoe Journey ceremonies hosted by the Suquamish or Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribes because they think they’re not open to the public. They are. You can watch and photograph the canoe arrival and departures, attend the evening dancing and drumming ceremonies and even volunteer to serve food and clean up. The tribes ask that you’re respectful and that you don’t bring or consume alcohol or drugs as the Canoe Journey is a tradition that promotes health and healing for the pullers and the tribes.