By Joanna Bastian

Hozomeen Mountain cuts into the sky above the cold waters of Ross Lake. Author Jack Kerouac referenced this North Cascade National Park peak in “The Dharma Bums:” “Hozomeen, Hozomeen, the most mournful mountain I’ve ever seen.” In another of his books, “Desolation Angels,” Kerouac contemplates the questions of life while gazing to the summit: “Even Hozomeen will crack and fall apart, nothing lasts.”

Archeologist Bob Mierendorf studied quarries at Hozomeen Mountain for the past two decades, finding a 10,000-year long record of human activity etched and piled on the landscape. You can learn more about his findings in a Youtube video produced by North Cascades National Park, “Hozomeen: A story about chert, identity, and landscape.”

Hozomeen chert, a flint-like mineral found exclusively in the North Cascades, was used by First Peoples to make very distinctive stone tools. The name “Hozomeen” is an interior Salish word that means “sharp, like a sharp knife.” Salish is a geographically broad language group in the Pacific Northwest made up from different dialects, including Methow. The placename, “Hozomeen,” is a constant attachment to the place and the resources found there — bringing together social, linquistic and archeology history. Original placenames are often descriptive terms that connect people and history to a place.

A stone tool made of Hozomeen chert was found at a private residence on French Creek. The owner contacted Rich Davis, archaeology adviser for the Methow Valley Interpretive Center (MVIC) and Methow Field Institute (MFI), and generously agreed to allow Rich to study the stone tool as a research effort to document early history in the Methow Valley. The tool is impressive in size and detail. The age has been determined to be at least 3,000 to 4,000 years old, based on the heavily patinated sheen on the surface of the tool.

Other found objects in the Methow Valley include projectile points that are of the same style found broken off in the thigh of Kennewick Man — the Cascade Willow Leaf style. Tool styles represent cultures that thrived within a specific period of time. Tool styles combined with radiocarbon dates of surrounding layers have dated some sites in the Methow Valley to be 9,000 years old.

In the lower Methow Valley, Rich has compared present day landscape with geological surveys and maps completed in the late 1800s. Using this record, Rich believes he has located “Ballou’s Crossing” on the Methow River that may intersect the Chiliwist Trail, a major trade route through the Cascade region used by the First Peoples. Along the Methow River near this intersection, Rich discovered fire-cracked rock and debris left over from the production of chipped stone tools, indicating that section of the river bank was used as a “workshop” to create tools eons ago.

Rich and the MVIC and the MFI have partnered with Aaron Neuman, archeologist for the History/Archaeology department of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation (CCT) to create a photo record of Native American artifacts found in the Methow Valley. All we have left is stone tools and oral history to recreate a record of the First People who once lived, thrived, and died here.

Owners of artifacts are encouraged to share valuable historic information by contacting Rich and allowing him to photograph and record found objects. Privacy is assured and no other obligation is necessary. Sensitive information will be kept confidential.

Owners have the option to keep the objects, loan them for exhibit, or donate the found objects to either the MVIC, or the History/Archaeology department of CCT. Contact Rich Davis by email, davisrich@hotmail.com, or call 997-2284.

 

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