Swinomish suit goes to mediation

A lawsuit filed against Oak Harbor claiming the city desecrated ancient Indian burial grounds may be resolved without a trial.

All of the parties named in the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community’s lawsuit, as well as various insurance providers, are meeting in a mediation session Thursday, Jan. 30 in a Seattle law office, said Oak Harobr City Administrator Larry Cort.

John Cooper, with the state Arbitration and Mediation Service, will serve as mediator in the discussion.

The purpose of the meeting is to identify any “common ground” among the parties; all the parties agreed to participate in an early mediation, Cort said.

Cort said he couldn’t comment on whether the city may propose a settlement offer during the discussion.

The Swinomish Tribe originally demanded $9 million in damages from the city in a complaint for damages filed this past summer. The claim accused city officials of violating law and breaching their legal duty by digging up the known site of an ancient tribal village and burial ground during the 2011 road project on Pioneer Way.

The Swinomish Tribe followed up the claim last June with a lawsuit that names the city and three companies involved in the project‚ Perteet, KBA Construction Management and Strider Construction Management.

The reburial of the human remains and other artifacts will likely wait until after the case is resolved.

Archeologists and members of the Swinomish Tribe spent more than two years sifting through dirt piles on public and private land after the first human bones were identified and the project was stalled.

Archaelogists recovered more than 4,300 human bones or bone fragments, nearly 17,000 non-human bone fragments and more than 44,000 “pre-contact or historic artifacts or artifact fragments,” according to a declaration by M. Brian Cladoosby, chairman of the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community.


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