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Published: Friday, June 14, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Signs point the way to Hibulb village history

  • Signs recently installed at Legion Park provide information about Hibulb, the tribal village once located at the mouth of the Snohomish River.

    Bill Sheets / The Herald

    Signs recently installed at Legion Park provide information about Hibulb, the tribal village once located at the mouth of the Snohomish River.

  • Three signs recently installed at Legion Park provide information about Hibulb, the tribal village once located at the mouth of the Snohomish River, a...

    Bill Sheets / The Herald

    Three signs recently installed at Legion Park provide information about Hibulb, the tribal village once located at the mouth of the Snohomish River, and aspects of tribal life before the arrival of white settlers.

  • Three signs recently installed at Legion Park provide information about Hibulb, the tribal village once located at the mouth of the Snohomish River, a...

    Bill Sheets / The Herald

    Three signs recently installed at Legion Park provide information about Hibulb, the tribal village once located at the mouth of the Snohomish River, and aspects of tribal life before the arrival of white settlers.

EVERETT -- For thousands of years, the population center of this area was in a different place from today.
The location of the village reflected the focal point of life -- the mouth of the Snohomish River.
The Hibulb village sheltered several hundred people in houses made of cedar planks and poles, tucked under a bluff below the north end of what is now Legion Park.
Now, visitors to the park can easily know that history. Three interpretive signs, purchased by the Tulalip Tribes and the Everett Cultural Arts Commission, have been installed in the park directly above where the settlement was located.
The signs use watercolor, computer-generated art, historic photos and narrative to describe life in the area long ago. They were dedicated last week.
"I'm really thankful that we have this, that people can see that it was the location of one of the main villages," said Ray Fryberg, director of fish and wildlife for the Tulalip Tribes, at the event. About 80 people attended the dedication June 5.
The idea sprung up more than two years ago at a meeting of Everett's Northwest Neighborhood Association, member Annie Lyman said.
Earlier, she had attended a talk by local historian David Dilgard regarding the first people of the area.
"I didn't know there was a very large village here," she said at Legion Park on Wednesday.
She and Valerie Steel,who in 2011 was president of the Historic Everett group, approached Tulalip cultural resources director Hank Gobin about the possibility of honoring the village in some way.
Gobin -- who died in April -- was receptive to the idea, Steel said.
"This would not have been possible without Hank Gobin," she said. "He made sure we did everything right."
Funding was arranged. Ultimately, the tribes kicked in $11,000 of the $13,000 total cost, with the Cultural Arts Commission picking up most of the rest. The Everett parks department contributed about $900 in materials and labor, Lyman said.
Many volunteers also pitched in, she said.
"It took a village to honor a village," Steel said.
Artist Jim Englehardt of Sedro-Woolley, who had done a number of public projects, was hired to do the work.
Gobin was able to see the final proofs before his death, Steel said.
Each sign focuses on a different aspect of life in the area. One is titled "Hibulb Village: Heart of the Region," featuring Englehardt's rendition of the settlement based on archaeological records.
Five longhouses served as community buildings for the Snohomish tribe. The largest was 115 feet long and 43 feet wide, according to the sign. The four other houses were slightly smaller.
"Hibulb" -- pronounced with a short "i", as in "hih-bulb" -- means a place "where the water boils out of the ground," the sign says.
Another sign, titled "The River: The Lifeblood of the Region," explains how streams served as the main routes of transportation for the first people. The Snohomish River, because of its size, was like a superhighway, and Hibulb was strategically located at its entrance and exit.
The village became a focal point for trade, diplomacy, weddings and ceremonies. The river provided an abundance of resources -- berries and waterfowl in addition to fish.
The third sign, "The Overlook: Eye of the Region," describes how the bluff where the park is now located was used as a vantage point by the tribes. At night, campfires could be seen for many miles, on the islands as well as the nearby mainland.
A subsection of this sign, titled "The Land of the Little Ones," describes the small dogs kept by the tribes that were sheared for their soft, woolly, white fur.
Fryberg said honoring the village is essentially an honoring of the people who lived there.
"For us to stand here and represent our ancestors is a big deal for us," he said.
Fryberg and several other tribal members drummed and sang at the event.
"I believe they'll hear it," he said of the ancestors and the music, "and they'll look to see what it is."
Bill Sheets: 425-339-3439; sheets@heraldnet.com.

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