Makah is a southern Wakashan language that was spoken in the northwest of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington state in the USA, along the south side of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The last fluent native speaker, Ruth E. Claplanhoo, died in 2002, however the Makah tribe are working to revive the language.
Makah acquired much of their food from the ocean. Their diet consisted of whale, seal, fish, and a wide variety of shellfish. They would also hunt deer, elk, and bear from the surrounding forests. Women also gathered a wide variety of nuts, berries and edible plants and roots for their foods.
What does it mean? Makah is pronounced “muh-kaw.” This is an English pronunciation of a neighboring tribe’s name for them, which means “generous ones.” Their own name for themselves is longer and harder to pronounce, Qwiqwidicciat (which means “people of the point.”)
The Makah Indian Tribe own the Makah Indian Reservation on the northwest tip of the Olympic Peninsula and includes Tatoosh Island. They live in and around the town of Neah Bay, Washington, a small fishing village along the Strait of Juan de Fuca where it meets the Pacific Ocean.
The name Makah was attributed to the Tribe by the neighboring tribes, meaning “people generous with food” in the Salish language.
The Makah believe that physical beings would return to the world after death as spirits and would haunt the places they were attached to before their deaths. The Makah have a ritual tradition of burning an individual’s personal possessions after death and throwing them out onto the beach.
The western red cedar tree was probably the most beneficial tree to the Makah tribe because they used it for almost everything, including their clothing. The bark was ideal for making clothing because it had moldable properties.
The Makah are explicitly allowed to hunt whales; the Treaty of Olympia preserves the right of some other tribes to take fish, which a court has ruled includes whales and seals. Over time, tribal leaders say, those rights and privileges have been denied.
The bounty of the reservation is not limited to the natural resources of the rivers, lakes, tidelands, and ocean areas in Makah territory. Makah forests provide many types of wood for carvers, many species of land animals for hunters, and a wide variety of plants that can be used for food, medicine, or raw materials.
It features a grand parade and street fair as well as canoe races, traditional games, singing, dancing, feasting, and fireworks. Many Makah tribal members derive most of their income from fishing. Makah fish for salmon, halibut, Pacific whiting, and other marine fish.
Potlatch, ceremonial distribution of property and gifts to affirm or reaffirm social status, as uniquely institutionalized by the American Indians of the Northwest Pacific coast.
Since time immemorial, the Makah people have depended on the reliable and abundant resources from the ocean for their subsistence, culture and economy. Hunting whales, seals and other sea mammals and catching halibut, salmon and other marine fish have always been integral and essential to Makah life.
Makah hunters used harpoons tipped with mussel shells and bows and arrows. Fishermen used hook and line or wooden fish traps. In war, Makah men fired their bows or fought with spears and war clubs. Makah warriors would wear armor made of hardened elk hide.
Why didn’t the Makah tribe farm? They just wanted to play Xbox ALL day, just like Denzel. They had too much food in the forest. They traded with other tribes.