331 Things to Do in Port Angeles, Washington – #76 Native American Heritage Month and Year-Round Tribal Culture Celebrations and Attractions
The entire Olympic Peninsula is rich in Native American history and culture. The City of Port Angeles celebrates its Native American heritage and local tribes with parks, cultural centers, museums, art exhibits, and year-round events. Even the street signs, and now a park, are in both the English and the Klallam language. We invite you to visit Port Angeles during National Native American Heritage Month or any time of the year to enjoy the City’s rich tribal culture, experiences, and events.
There are eight local tribes residing on reservations along the coastal areas of the Peninsula who ceded their land back in 1855 and 1856: Lower Elwha Klallam, Jamestown S’Klallam, Port Gamble S’Klallam, Skokomish, Quinault, Hoh, Quileute, and Makah. The Klallam people once spanned the entire northern portion of the Olympic Peninsula with 33 villages.
The annual Culture Fair, held at the Peninsula College’s PUB in Port Angeles, celebrates the college’s connection with the local native culture on the Olympic Peninsula. This year’s Culture Fair includes a ceremonial tribute that starts with a tribal song welcome by the nəxwsƛáyəm Lower Elwha Klallam Song and Drum Group followed by the unveiling and hanging of six flags from area tribes — Lower Elwha Klallam, Jamestown S’Klallam, Port Gamble S’Klallam, Hoh, Quileute, and Makah — that will be permanently on display in the student union building.
The Culture Fair will feature student work depicting Native history and current issues by Native American students from local schools. The event will continue with a special presentation from two Makah basket weavers — Melissa Peterson and Samantha Della-Devoney — on the history, culture,
artistry and the importance of weaving, at the college’s Little Theater followed by a reception at The Longhouse located on Peninsula College’s campus
INDIGENOUS PEOPLES DAY
The City of Port Angeles and the Clallam County commissioners made a formal proclamation to declare the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples Day rather than Columbus Day following the 2011 passage of a resolution to change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day by the Affiliated Tribes of the Northwest Indians. The Port Angeles City Council felt it was an important endeavor in order to promote “tolerance, understanding and friendship, and to combat prejudice and eliminate discrimination stemming from colonization.”
PEBBLE BEACH PARK RENAMED IN THE KLALLAM LANGUAGE
The City of Port Angeles’ Pebble Beach Park, located along the downtown waterfront, was created to honor the Klallam tribal history. The City worked with the Lower Elwha Klallam and Jamestown S’Klallam tribes in planning the 1.5-acre waterfront public park for all to enjoy. Recently the park was officially renamed to sŋaʔŋáʔant cáwŋən ʔəssaqɬúŋt. By giving places Klallam names we are honoring the unique history of our town and the indigenous people of this land and it demonstrates our commitment to helping carry on native cultures and languages. The Klallam people are part of the history of Port Angeles and naming this park using the Klallam language invites locals and visitors to explore and experience our area’s rich cultural history.
TRIBAL MUSEUMS & ART
In 2018, the Elwha Klallam Heritage Center opened the historic Carnegie Museum in downtown Port Angeles to house its Native American art exhibits. The famous tribal exhibits on display include Tse-whit-zen Village (čixwícən) where two-thousand-year-old artifacts were recovered from the ancient village site near Ediz Hook in Port Angeles. This is the largest excavation in Washington State. The epic Elwha River dam removal project is also documented in an exhibit curated by the Burke Museum of Seattle. The museum hours are Tuesday – Friday 1-4 pm and Saturday 12-2 pm. Call for seasonal hours: 360-417-8545.
The Longhouse at Peninsula College ʔaʔkwustəƞáwtxw
The House of Learning Longhouse is the first of its kind in the nation to be constructed on a college campus. The Longhouse was named in the nəxwsƛayəm language and is a gathering place to teach, learn, and share cultural traditions, knowledge, and identity. ʔaʔkwustəƞáwtxw is a place to acknowledge and respect differences and diversity. The Longhouse at Peninsula Community College was constructed through collaboration with six local tribes. The building is actually sitting on tribal territory set back in a wooded area and welcomes all with a traditional totem pole carved from one large tree. Wander by or stop in during an event to view the impressive collection of rotating Native American art from area tribes.
Art Murals Around Downtown Port Angeles
Follow Port Angeles’ Art Mural Trail to discover two hand-painted murals featuring our tribal history: Ennis Creek and The Strong People murals.
The Ennis Creek Mural, located near the Port Angeles Pier, artfully illustrates a Klallam tribal village in the early days of the Port Angeles waterfront in 1750.
The Strong People Mural, located in The Gateway at the corner of N. Lincoln and Front Street, is a colorful 30-foot-wide mural that tells the tale of the origin of the name for the Elwha Klallam people as the “Strong People” or “Nəxwsƛáyəm”. The artist Toma Villa, a registered member of the Yakima Nation and a former graffiti tagger, outlined the mural in 2015 and local school children from Port Angeles filled it in. The mural was spearheaded by Suzie Bennett, manager of the Elwha Kallam Heritage Center, and was funded by the First Federal Foundation and the Lower Elwha Klallam tribe.
TRIBAL CULTURE EVENTS
Annual Canoe Journey Landing at Hollywood Beach
The annual Tribal Canoe Journeys, a spiritual canoe voyage where paddlers heading to Canada land in Port Angeles at Hollywood Beach next to the pier between July and August. Tribal song and ceremony welcome the paddlers as they arrive. The public is invited to spectate and even participate.
Annual Dungeness Crab & Seafood Festival at the Port Angeles Pier
The Crab Festival works closely with the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe and the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe to celebrate the Dungeness Crab and all of the bounty of the sea that is so important to the traditions and culture of the Olympic Peninsula. Each annual festival includes a “Welcoming Ceremony” with presentations of song and dance, storytelling, tribal history including the Elwha River, and a blessing. Some of the fresh crab is caught locally by the Lower Elwha and Jamestown fishermen in traditional fishing grounds on the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Jamestown Seafood sells oysters and geoduck and does educational programs about their local fisheries and Lower Elwha has an educational booth with local artists creations.
Annual Forest Storytelling Festival & Year-Round Storytelling Events
In October 2019, Gene Tagaban, Native American Storyteller, told “The Raven Story” at the 2019 Forest Storytelling Festival. The Clallam Story People, creators of the annual festival, regularly host both local and national Native American storytellers for their events.
The Big Hurt
The Big Hurt, one of the top multi-sport events in the Pacific Northwest happening every September, added a traditional salmon bake to the finish line party and a warm welcome ceremony from the Lower Elwha Klallam tribe and casino.