When the Europeans arrived at the homes of the Makah people they brought with them a lot of problems. The Europeans did not understand or wish to understand the culture of any Native peoples. The rules, regulations and diseases they brought with them almost wiped the Makah tribe completely from existance. A huge underlying issue with the involvement of the Europeans in Native life was the fact that the Europeans brought many diseases with them on their travels. They introduced many diseases that Native people had no antibodies for into the environment beginning in the late 18th century. These diseases included: influenza, tuberculosis, and small pox. This caused the death of thousands of Native people. Due to the massive loss of family members the Makah Tribe began to crumble in it’s ability to live as a social community. Many traditions started to not be passed down through generations as family members died. All of this combined to shake the very foundation that the Makah Tribe stood on. In 1855 42 Makah leaders signed over 300,000 thousand acres to the United States government in order to attempt to protect it’s peoples social welfare as well as trying to save their whaling rights. Only four years after this treaty was signed, the United States went back on it’s word and starting trying to assimilate the Native people into white culture. The wanted to eliminate the Native language as well as their customs, and essentially turn them into farmers. The Makah people were able to resist this a little bit because of their fishing and hunting talents. After and during the physical pain being suffered by the Makah people occurred, economic and social pain was also being inflicted.
One of the most important resources, whales, were taken from them as Europeans began fishing them into extinction. Fearing the disappearance of the whales altogether the Makah tribe gave up hunting them in the mid 1920’s. Eventually it became too hard to attempt to survive as the people they had always been. The government was constantly trying to limit the Makah’s access to their land and resources. The white people of the area would completely ignore the treaty rights of the Makah people to fish and would bully them out of the water by claiming that the Makah people did not have any legal fishing licenses. However, you could not get a fishing license if you were not a citizen of the United States, which the Makah people were not considered to be until 1924. Even after this date the Native people were only allowed access to 50% of the allowable salmon catch. The Makah people found it to be very hard to hold on to the culture they had always known, and interest in expressing this culture started to fade. It wasn’t until the 1970’s that the Makah people found some inspiration to explore their culture once again.
At this time the old village at Ozette was excavated and a lot of ancient artifacts were found. People began to show interest once more, especially in the old tradition of whaling Finally in 1999 the Makah Tribe was able to preform it’s first whaling expedition in many many years. It was a success that rekindled the love of culture that had been hiding for so many years. Hopefully as time progresses and we progress as understanding and accepting human beings, the Makah Tribe can continue to flourish as it once did, before the white man came.
All information was provided by:
The Makah Tribal Website :http://makah.com
Makah History Website: http://www.u-s-history.com/pages/h1557.html
Article by Deb Cline of Evergreen University: http://academic.evergreen.edu/curricular/ageofirony/aoizine/deb.html
Photo also from Deb Cline’s Article, same link