Important events in the history of the Makah Tribe include the start of the tribe's whale hunting tradition, the spread of disease from Europeans in the late 18th century, the reduction of the southernmost villages in 1852 and the treaty of 1855. The tribe also recovered whaling traditions in 1999.
There is no fixed date documenting when the Makah Tribe began its tradition of whaling. As of 1998, some scientists put the tradition back at least 2,000 years, although some Makah Elders put the tradition back even further. This tradition defined the Makah way of life from that point on.
The Makah Tribe eventually made indirect contact with European explorers, including the diseases the newcomers brought. Smallpox, tuberculosis, influenza and whooping cough decimated many members of the tribe, and as the tribe could not explain it, the epidemics affected the passing of oral tradition. Smallpox epidemics in 1852 actually destroyed a good share of the tribe's southernmost villages.
The U.S. government and the Makah signed a treaty in 1855, which guaranteed the Makah the right to continue their whaling traditions and other tribal ways if they gave 300,000 acres of tribal land to the government.
The Makah did not hunt whale around Cape Flattery on the Olympic Peninsula for much of the 20th century, but recovered this tradition in 1999 and 2000.