The Makah are an indigenous people living in Washington, in the Pacific Northwest of the continental United States. They are enrolled in the federally recognized Makah Indian Tribe of the Makah Indian Reservation.
Linguistically and ethnographically, they are closely related to the Nuu-chah-nulth and Ditidaht peoples of the West Coast of Vancouver Island, who live across the Strait of Juan de Fuca in British Columbia, Canada.
The Makah Indian Tribe own the Makah Indian Reservation on the northwest tip of the Olympic Peninsula; it 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 Makah people refer to themselves as Kwih-dich-chuh-ahtx which translates to somewhere near to “the people who live by the rocks and seagulls”. Other thought translations include “the people who live on the cape by the seagulls”, and “people of the point”, as well as several others.
Archaeological research suggests that the Makah people have inhabited the area now known as Neah Bay for more than 3,800 years. The ancient Makah lived in villages, inhabiting large longhouses made from western red cedar. These longhouses had cedar-plank walls. The planks could be tilted or removed to provide ventilation or light. The cedar tree was of great value to the Makah, who also used its bark to make water-resistant clothing and hats. Cedar roots were used in basket making. Whole trees were carved out to make canoes to hunt seals, gray whales and humpback whales.
The 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.
Much of what is known about the way of life of the ancient Makah is derived from their oral tradition. Abundant archeological evidence excavated at the Ozette village site (see below) has provided great insight into the lives of the Makah.
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