What Is the Belief System of the Makah Tribe?


Quick Answer

The Makah tribe believes that the world is filled with powerful spiritual forces that can be used for good or evil. The Makah focus on improving the present, rather than rewards in the afterlife.

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Full Answer

The Makah reservation is located on the northwest tip of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington with the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the west. The reservation has many natural resources that are important in Makah culture, including timber for carving, plants for food and medicine, and land and ocean animals for hunting.

Whaling is an important part of Makah culture. In the 1855 Treaty of Neah Bay, the Makah ceded part of their reservation to the U.S. government but retained their right to whale. In 1999, the Makah tribe harvested its first whale in over 70 years. Whaling benefits the community by providing oil, meat, bone and sinew. Tribal songs and dances reflect the importance of whaling in the tribe's culture.

The Makah use songs, dances and stories to pass cultural information to younger generations. The songs, dances and stories are owned by specific families, meaning that only members of that family can perform the rituals. These are often performed at weddings, potlatches and naming ceremonies. The Makah compose new songs to commemorate important events in their lives.

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