What Is the Makah Indian Tribe Known For?


Quick Answer

The Makah Native American tribe of the Pacific Northwest is well-known for its whale hunting. Additionally, the group maintains a strong oral tradition as well as a significant amount of archaeological evidence that describes its history prior to contact with Europeans.

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Full Answer

The Kwih-dich-chuh-ahtx, as the Makah people refer to themselves, have lived in the area of Neah Bay, Washington for over 3,800 years. Their name for their group means "the people who live by the rocks and seagulls." The term Makah is actually a Salish word for the tribe, which translates as "generous with food."

The Makah largely subsist on fishing and whale hunting. The latter was traditionally performed in carved cedar canoes, where hunters tracked prey. Timing the surfacing of a whale, members struck with 16 to 18 foot long harpoons tipped with mussel shells. The detachable tip connected to a line tied off on sealskin floats that provide drag, tiring the whale out. Once weakened, the creature is killed and dragged to shore.

The native speech of the group, extinct since the death of its last fluent speaker in 2002, is a branch of the Wakashan family of indigenous languages. The Makah share the branch, known as the Southern Nootkan languages, with the Nuu-chah-nulth and Ditidaht dialects. The Wakashan comprises languages spoken on Vancouver Island, the Olympic Peninsula and in Canadian British Columbia.

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