St. Helens' tribal significance marked

Mountain given status of Traditional Cultural Property

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For its significance to the Cowlitz Indian Tribe and the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation, Mount St. Helens on Sept. 11 was designated a Traditional Cultural Property and listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

According to the Forest Service, Mount St. Helens' qualified for listing in the register because of its position as a cultural landscape central to local tribes' oral traditions and identities.

The listed area encompasses 12,501 acres of the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument on the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.

"The Forest Service has profound respect for the cultural significance of the area," Gifford Pinchot National Forest Supervisor Janine Clayton said. "This formal recognition further validates our deep and long-standing relationships with our tribal partners."

The mountain is of particular importance to the Cowlitz Tribe; it falls within the area of their land claims made during treaty negotiations with the federal government in the 1850s.

An image of the volcano appears on the official seal and emblem of the Cowlitz Indian Tribe.

"For millennia, the mountain has been a place where Tribal members went to seek spiritual guidance," Tribal Council Chairman William Iyall said. "She has erupted many times in our memory, but each time has rebuilt herself anew. She demonstrates that a slow and patient path of restoration is the successful one."

The National Register is part of a program intended to coordinate and support efforts to protect America's historic, archaeological and traditional cultural resources.

Mount St. Helens' nomination process took several years and was a collaborative effort between the Gifford Pinchot and the Cowlitz, the Forest Service said in the news release.

Formal listing was recommended earlier this year.

This is the second Traditional Cultural Property listing in Washington State and one of the very few Traditional Cultural Property listings nationwide, according to by Allyson Brooks, Director of the Washington Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation.

More than 80,000 properties are currently listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Of that total, only 23 are Traditional Cultural Properties.