A Breakdown of the Treaty at Neah Bay


In this blog post I would like to break down the details of the treaty at Neah Bay as simply as possible. I want to focus on the main points and interpret them in a more simple manner.

First of all, the treat at Neah Bay was signed on the 31st of January 1855, ratified on the 8th of March 1859, and finally proclaimed on the 18th of April, 1859.

Article one on the treaty outlines that the Native people agree to give up all the land they, at the time, occupied. This land went from the mouth of the Oke-ho River then running west to Cape Classet, from Cape Classet or Cape Flattery as it is more popularly known now, running southward along the coast down to Ozette. Essentially their entire homeland that they have occupied since time immemorial. This also included any islands lying off the same straights and coasts.

Article two outlines the parameters of the Makah reservation. The Makah were forced into a small area to the north by Neah Bay, at the site of an old Spanish fort. The article also states that white men are not allowed to reside on the reservation unless permitted by the local native tribe. The United States government reserved the right to run roads through the reservation if they felt it was needed, and it states that the Makah people would be compensated for any damages. Lastly, it is made clear that the president of the United States reserves the right to place any other tribe into the reservation as he sees fit.

Article three outlines that the tribe agrees to move onto the reservation within one year of the treaty being ratified. Until then it remains lawful for the native people to live on any land they see fit, as long as it is known privately owned by an american citizen.

Article four is perhaps the most important article, especially to the Makah people themselves. The fourth article reserves the right for the tribe to continue fishing, whaling, and sealing at their accustom stations and grounds. They are also allowed to build houses for the purpose of holding, curing, and processing anything they catch. The only acceptation in this article is the the Makah people are not permitted to any shellfish that is laid in the beds of another American citizen. They are also allowed to hunt game and pick berries and roots in public places.

Article five says that the United States Government will pay the Makah tribe a total sum of $30,000 for their compliance. They will do so by giving the tribes $3,000-1,500 every year for ten years, with the amount lowering every year.

Article six says that the government will give the tribe a sum of money to help move their people to reservation and to start cultivating the lands.

Article seven outlines how the president of the United States reserves the right to move part of all of the tribe again to another site if he sees fit. He also reserves the right to combined the Makah tribe with other friendly tribes or move other tribes into the Makah territory.

Article eight simply states: “The annuities of the aforesaid tribe shall not be taken to pay the debts of individuals.”

Article nine says that the Makah tribe acknowledges its dependance on the United States government. It also adds that this means that they will be friendly with any other American citizen and not wage war or attack any neighboring white villages. They are also not to wage war on any other friendly tribe, unless in self defense. Breaking these rules will result in the removal of the reservation under their name and the treaty will not be ratified. They are also not allowed to conceal any offenders against the United States.

Article ten says that the Makah people are not allowed to consume alcohol, or bring any alcohol onto the reservation. If a person does so then their benefits from the United State will revoke their annuities.

Article eleven says that the government will provide certain agencies and support them for 20 years until the tribe can do so by themselves. This includes schools, carpentry workshops, physicians, a black smiths, and other resources. They also agree to provide medical vaccines.

Article twelve says that the Makah people must free any slaves they now posses and not to posses any in the future.

Article thirteen says that the Makah people are not allowed to trade with the natives from Vancouver Island or any other international tribes. It also states that out of country natives are not allowed to reside on the Makah reservation either.

Article fourteen says that all partied are obligated to follow the rules of the treaty as soon as it is ratified. The following is also stated: “In testimony whereof, the said Isaac I. Stevens, governor and superintendent of Indian affairs, and the undersigned, chiefs, headmen and delegates of the tribe aforesaid have here unto set their hands and seals at the place and on the day and year herein before written.”

After this the treat is signed by Isaac I. Stevens as well as 41 Native Makah tribes men and chiefs. The native people signing only with “X’s”.

Hopefully this explanation breaks down what one of the Native treaties looked like and what it contained!

Works Cited:

Treaty with The Makah, 1855 , http://www.fws.gov/pacific/ea/tribal/treaties/MAKAH_1855.pdf

Photo credit: http://americanindiantah.com/Makah/Makah%20Research/images/OriginalMakahReservation.jpg


Discoveries at Ozette


One of the most, if not the most important event that has occurred recently in Makah history is the uncovering of the archeological site at Ozette. The discovery of this amazingly preserve site cemented oral history as well as connected the Makah people with tangible artifacts used by their ancestors, and on their homeland. Some people say that the uncovering of the artifacts at Ozette connected the Makah people with their culture and ancestors in a way that was revitalizing, especially since the Makah had already struggled through so much.

ozette-digIn 1969, a huge storm filled the ground with water at the site of the old Ozette village in Washington. When the storm had subsided, hikers began to uncover what looked like ancient native artifacts. The University of Washington was soon contacted to preserve the site as much as possible while scientists figured out exactly what had happened. What they found was the result of an ancient, massive mudslide. This mudslide had been heard of in oral history, but no trace of it had been uncovered until now. According to archaeological research the site the Makah people have occupied Neah Bay for 3,810 years.

The amazing thing about the Ozette was that there was TONS of organic artifacts! They found amazingly preserved pieces made from wood, fauna, bark, and bone. The amazingly preservation was due a large part to the fact that when the mudslide occurred, everything was covered in a wet clay. This wet clay was able to keep oxygen out and more efficiently preserve the organic material beneath it.

Some of the finds they made at Ozette included large houses. There was evidence of nearly 20,000 structural members, these included roofing, walls, benches, drain planks, and rafter support posts. There was also evidence of woven baskets, clothing, hats, sleeping mats, cradles, wedges, fishhooks, clubs, bows and arrows, and so much more that has given researches an even greater insight into the way the Makah tribe lived.

Even more interesting was the way that the site was worked on. There was both a native and non native presence at the sight. The native people gave cultural insight to the finding when the Archaeologists could not tell what an items purpose was. The archaeologsits in return would describe the site in a way that truly brought the Makah people back in time.

Works Cited:

Handbook of North American Indians Volume 7, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, 1990

Olympic Peninsula Community Museums, https://content.lib.washington.edu/cmpweb/exhibits/makah/arch.html

About the uncovering of Ozette village. Part 1, Canvas videos , https://www.dropbox.com/sh/pxxg30rurk7xqqi/LWtZ3gKLu1#lh:null-Gifts%20from%20the%20Past.mp4

The Makah Tribe: People of the Sea and the Forest, Essay by Ann M. Renker Ph.D. ,https://content.lib.washington.edu/aipnw/renker.html

Site Image: https://qmackie.files.wordpress.com/2010/02/ozette-dig.jpg?w=500&h=289

What it may have looked like image : http://wsm.wsu.edu/mag_images/big_brother/2012winter-feasting4.jpg

Helping the Makah youth


The Makah Tribe does a lot to help their youth stay busy, active, and positive. There are a lot of examples of the Makah Tribe planning activities for the entire tribe to come together, as well as activities reserved just for the youth of the tribe.

One of the biggest get togethers that the Makah Tribe holds in the annual festival called “Makah Days” This year will be the 91st annual Makah Days and it will last for three days. The activities included are traditional canoe racing, a Slahal tournament, modern dance, a talent show, a firework show, and an open street fair! It’s an exciting time of the year when the Makah people honor their fisherman as well as celebrating the day that native people became U.S. citizens. These kind of  inclusive festivals can be very important for the youth of a community because they are together with their families celebrating culture. It is something they can look forward to every year and it brings the community together.

The Makah Tribe also has programs specifically for it’s youth. The Surfrider Makah Youth Camp is a summer camp where the local kids can come and spend their days at the beach learning how to surf! The camp is open to everyone as it is run by volunteers so it is free! The responses from parents are very grateful and happy for this opportunity for their children.

The Makah Tribe also runs a website that is often updating it’s community with opportunities for both youth and adults alike. One of the posts they’ve made it for a “Summer Leadership Opportunity for Native Youth in Agriculture”. This opportunity selects 50 children from the community to be flown to Fayetteville, Arkansas to participate in an educational agricultural program. The program provides “comprehensive training in the legal and business complexities unique to Indian Country land and agriculture.”

The school district also provides extra programs for their youth. The Cape Flattery school district offers Student ASB, Honor Society, and Knowledge Bowl which are all after school extra activities to get kids involved in their learning as well in their community.

These are the main current events and programs I was able to find in relation to Makah youth as of today, although I am sure there were more in the past and there will be more in the future.

Works Cited:

Photo from Makah Days: http://makah.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/IMG_4146.jpg

Makah Tribal Website: http://makah.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/IFAISummerSummitFlyer.pdf, http://makah.com/blog/

Cape Flattery School District Website: http://www.capeflattery.wednet.edu/student-clubs.html

Surfrider Youth Group Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/events/202273203265708/

Utilizing the Environment

The Makah territory changes drastically throughout the seasons. In the winter the tribe would experience wild storms and never ending rain, while the summers remained pleasant and mild. These lands were a perfect home for many land and sea mammals, birds, and freshwater, saltwater, and anadromous fish. The Makah territory contained several small streams that ran with coho, chum salmon, steelhead, chinook salmon, and halibut.cedar-tree

The environment also supported a large amount of flora as well with technological, medicinal, and nutritional value. I wasn’t able to find much information into specific medicines unfortunately but I’ll keep looking..

One thing I found particularly interesting was that because of the abundance of food in the Northwest, these people did not need to gather their own food specifically for themselves. People could trade specialized tasks and goods for food to eat, this is a culture that developed far before white influence.


By far the most important environmental resource the Makah tribe used was definitely the Cedar. The cedar provided wood and bark for virtually everything in the lives of the Makah people. They used the wood to build canoes, houses, hunting shacks, boxes, cots, and more. The bark was used to make all sorts of clothing, baskets, hats, pouches, mats, and various house hold items. In later years after the European involvement the Makah were also able to make somewhat of a living off of the timber gathered from the trees.

Other vegetation was utilized by the Makah tribe but was definitely less important. The area that the Makah natives occupied was rich in berry bushes. They would pick salmonberries, blackberries, thimbleberries, huckleberries, and occasionally cranberries. There were also a few plant species that would sprout in the spring and used for food.

A lot of the plant food that is native to the Makah land is no longer utilized. They also do not attempt to utilize the berry population commercially.

Again it is mentioned that the Makah people did pick plants for medicines, however, there is still no reference to what specific plants were used.

Works Cited:

Handbook of North American Indians Volume 7 Northwest Coast, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, 1990

The Makah Tribe: People of the Sea and the Forest, Essay by Ann M. Renker, Ph.D, University of Washington

The Makah Indians: A study of an indian tribe in modern American society, Elizabeth Colson, University of Minnesota, 1953

Photo of cedar: https://kihm2.files.wordpress.com/2007/12/cedar-tree.jpg

Winning Back the Whale Hunt


Whaling has always been crucial in Makah culture and history. They found it so important that when the former chiefs signed over the rights to acres of their land in the Treaty of Neah Bay, they made sure they reserved their right to hunt whales. A single whale can provide enough resources for a whole village to last for months. “Makah whaling tradition provides oil, meat, bone, sinew and gut for storage containers: useful products, though gained at a high cost in time and goods.” (Makah.com)

Although they secured their rights to hunt whales back in 1855, they were not alone in their hunt. White commercial whalers all but wiped out the whale population in the area by 1920, so the Makah decided they would have to stop hunting the whales.

Many hardships fell on the Makah Tribe throughout the 1900’s. The people of the cape were almost completely wiped out by disease, poverty, and cultural assimilation. It began illegal to potlatch, speak their native language, and do anything that would set them aside as Makah people. Whaling became something that was sung about but no longer seen. Whaling would still show up in art and dance, kids would hear their grandparents tell about the whale hunts, but no one would every experience it.

By the 1980’s the isolated reservation found itself with soaring unemployment and a uninspired tribe with little resources. An earlier discovery in the 1970’s at Ozette saw the uncovering of many ancient Makah artifacts and had creating an increased interest to develop in the community of the peoples native roots. People were curious and had a real desire to continue on with expressing their culture as they had before the white man came.

Since the 1940’s when the whales had been put on the endangered list, the population had come back strong. Grey Whales had rebounded from a couple thousand to around 23,000 in total. The Makah people technically still had the right to hunt these whales, except they needed them to get taken off the endangered species list. The Makah tribe asked for permission from the International Whaling Commission to be able to hunt five whales annually. Before they did this they also had to bring the matter of the whales no longer being endangered to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. In June 1994, “Eastern north Pacific gray whales are removed from the Federal List of Endangered Wildlife after a determination that the population has “recovered to near its estimated original population size and is neither in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range, nor likely to again become endangered within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range.” (NOAA)

Even after the Makah Tribe had gone through all the trouble of getting all the right permits to continue whaling they still had a lot of backlash from the surrounding communities, especially from animal rights groups. Some groups accused the Makah of only wanting to hunt whales so they could do business internationally. The Makah however were only interested in mending the fabric of their culture, which at the time was in quite an array. After a couple unsuccessful attempts due to weather and protesters the Makah Tribe finally brought a whale to shore on May 17, 1999. Everyone gathered around the huge beast on the beach and a massive feast and celebration took place! Everyone was so excited and connected through this tradition that most members had only heard about from elders in songs, dance, and art.

Although the Makah Tribe had to do some legal battling and a lot of waiting to get their needed permits for waiting. The hunt of the single whale was enough to inspire and unite their community in a crucial way. Unfortunately, since then the Makah have run into more legal trouble with animal rights groups that claim the Makah whale hunt can damage the population in the immediate area. As of right now whaling has been postponed again waiting on further investigations about the environmental impact of whaling. This hasn’t stopped the Makah from whaling though, and in 2007 several hunters caught a whale illegally. The whale was not allowed to come to land and it sank. Those involved in the hunt were prosecuted in court and are still fighting legal battles.

It just goes to show that even through all the legal hiccups, the Makah people care enough about the tradition of whaling to go against the law. Hopefully in the future they will be able to resolve this issue through the proper channels.

Works Cited:

Makah Whaling-A Gift from the Sea, http://makah.com/makah-tribal-info/whaling/

Makah Whaling, http://www.historylink.org/index.cfm?DisplayPage=output.cfm&file_id=5301

Chronology of Major Events Related to Makah Tribal Gray Whale Hunt, http://www.westcoast.fisheries.noaa.gov/protected_species/marine_mammals/cetaceans/chronology.html

Photo: http://content.lib.washington.edu/cgi-bin/showfile.exe?CISOROOT=/mcrc&CISOPTR=464

Photo: http://www.webportalnet.com/society/culture/makah/faq/whalehunt.jpg

Alex McCarty- A Modern Makah Artist


Alex McCarty is an artist from the Neah Bay area and Makah Tribe Territory. His great grandfather was chief of one of the five original villages in Neah Bay. He has obtained two degrees from the Evergreen State College and currently teaches woodcarving in a full year program there. After working on a diorama of the Ozette village for the Makah Museum he fell in love with carving, especially in the traditional way.  Because it was his job to create as accurate of a diorama as possible Alex had to know the village inside and out and this gave his great insight for his art.

Through his carvings Alex tries to preserve the history of the Makah people as true as possible. He worked hard to understand the essence of the culture before he tried to replicate the artwork. Alex’s work is very indicative of the bold sweeping lines that are incorporated in Native art. He hopes with his art he can create and pass on the skills to keep the culture alive. His biography summarizes his message as: “learn it with care, preserve it with beauty, and pass it on.”

Alex has had four exhibitions in cities including Neah Bay, Seattle, and Tacoma. He also hold the award titles of Teacher of the Year Award, and two Artist Trust Awards.

Sources Cited: Alex McCarty’s Website http://www.alexmccarty.org/about-1/

Photos also taken from Alex McCartny’s website: http://www.alexmccarty.org/gallery

The Importance of Art and Dance


The Makah Tribe still considers art to be a crucial part of every day life. The Northwest coastal style is a very distinct one that isn’t found anywhere else, so many Natives make their living as artists! They sell their carvings to shops, galleries, and individual collectors all over the world. They make very good use of the resources around them and are typically able to use the wood from the trees that surround their land. The most commonly used designs are that of the raven, eagle, wolf, salmon, halibut, and whale. Each animal that is depicted is symbolic and resembles something very important to the Makah people. The carving made from the trees can be as small as earrings and as large as totem poles! The carving are usually used to tell a story, and these stories are passed on from generation to generation.

Just as the carvings are a way of passing down stories from one generation to the next, dance is also used in this same manner. Each dance tells a story of the history of the land and it’s people. These dances are the way that the Makah ancestors wrote down history, instead of using pen and paper. These songs, dances, and stories can be owned by families, groups, or individuals. Only the person or persons that the dance belongs to can preform it. At potlatches these songs can be reaffirmed to their rightful owners. The songs can be used to celebrate life as well as mourn death

Sources Cited: The Makah Tribal Wedsite:  www.Makah.com

Photos: https://salishreflections.files.wordpress.com/2010/08/raven.jpg, http://www.nature.org/cs/groups/webcontent/@web/@washington/documents/media/wolf-dance-720×400.jpg