Monday, 21 February 2011

Makah People

I've chosen to look at the Makah people or the "People of the Cape" (qʷidiččaʔa·tx̌) as they call themselves. They are located at the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State and their Reservation is in Neah Bay, part of which is the most Northwest point of the United States.


"Makah spoken history tells the story of ancient times when the Makah People, the Qwiqwidicciat lived in a world that revolved around the sea and land. Yet it never lets one forget the great cultural changes that brought the tribe to where it is today, a sovereign nation in its traditional homeland. Makah tribal members live both on and off the reservation and throughout the world practicing an intertwined contemporary and native culture. The Makah, both past and present, have demonstrated their ability to adapt, survive and flourish."

Before contact the Makah tribe had a vast amount of land, both co
astal and inland and so they had access to a great amount of natural resources from both the sea and the forest. Throughout this land they had five permanent places of residence as well as summer homes. Every village had longhouses which were made out of cedar and often housed several different generations.

"Waatch, Sooes, Deah, Ozette and Bahaada, were located along the shore of the northwestern-most point of the continental United states." "Kidickabit, Archawat, Hoko, Tatoosh Island, Ozette River and Ozette Lake. These summer camps were closer to the traditional fishing, whaling and gathering areas of the Makah."

The website tells that the Makah people had advanced navigational and maritime equipment and were obviously very skilled when it came to traversing the water. They also had a great respect for everything that helped to keep them alive during the winter months. Another skill they possessed was in canoe building, for which they made canoes for every type of use from catching salmon to seals, for children to practice in as well as for war...with the canoes having sails so that the people could use the wind advantageously.

"The canoes and their contents were never disturbed as the Makah were taught from an early age to respect the belongings of others. The Makah were tireless paddlers and traveled great distances to obtain food or trade their wealth."

However, everything changed when the Europeans arrived. Even though they didn't have direct contact, thousands of Makah people died from diseases such as smallpox, tuberculosis, influenza and whooping cough. The site says that because of this great loss there was obviously a huge amount of grief and therefore a lot of the old ways were lost because the traditional ways in which they passed on information was interrupted. This was just before the Makah people signed a treaty with the United States.

"On January 31, 1855, the Makah Villagers, represented by 42 Makah dignitaries negotiated and signed a treaty between the United States and the Makah Indians. The negotiations between Gov. Isaac Stevens and the Tribal representatives were held at Neah Bay in the Chinook language, an English interpretor present. The Makah Tribal forefathers knew it was up to them to protect their peoples' whaling, sealing, fishing and village land rights from elimination. Certain rights were specifically outlined in articles in the treaty to insure that the importance of continuing these traditional practices was clearly understood by both the United States government and future generations of Makah. In order to retain Whaling rights, and to protect the health, education and welfare of their people, the Makah ceded title to 300,000 acres of tribal land to the U.S."

It also states that despite the attempts to make the Makah people assimilate by using laws against potlatches, ceremonies and the Makah Language, the people resisted being completely assimilated and that this can be seen today by their use of ancient cultural ways.

Problems faced today?

This particular tribe does not appear to have problems like some of the other ones do because they own several businesses and their location is partly to do with this.

  • Grocery stores and an arts and crafts store
  • Several restaurants/cafes
  • Moorages
  • A variety of bed and breakfasts as well as Hobuck Beach Resort
  • Mini mart (with 24 hour filling station)
  • Makah Business Enterprises
  • Own public transit
  • Makah Museum
"Step inside a life-size reproduction of a longhouse and see how the Makah lived for thousands of years. You can also stop by the Gift Shop. We have a wide variety of items made by local Native artists."

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