The Makah people refer to themselves as Kwih-dich-chuh-ahtx, which translates to "the people who live by the rocks and seagulls", in the Makah language, Qwiqwidicciat. Archeological research suggests that the Makah people have lived in the Neah Bay area for more than 3,800 years. The ancient Makah lived in villages near Lake Ozette, inhabiting large long houses made from western red cedar. On January 31, 1855, the select Makah representatives signed the treaty of Neah Bay with the U.S. federal government, which reduced the size of their traditional land to what it is now. The treaty allowed for the establishment of the Makah Reservation and preserved the right of the Makah people to hunt whales and seals. In 1936, the Makah tribe signed the Makah constitution, accepting the Indian Reorganization Act. Today, there are 1,214 enrolled members in the tribe, the unemployment rate on the reservation is approximately 51%, and many of the tribal members derive most of their income from fishing.


The Makah Indian Reservation is on the northwest tip of the Olympic Peninsula and 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.

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The ancestral tongue of the Makah Indian Tribe is called Qwiqwidicciat. Makah linguistically belongs to the Southern Nootkan branch of the Wakashan family of languages. Makah has been extinct since 2002, as the last fluent speaker died. However, it survives as a second language as the tribe is attempting to bring it back, including through preschool classes.


The Makah men didn't usually wear clothing at all, except the few men who wore breech-clouts. The woman wore short skirts made out of cedar bark or grass. When it rained, the Makahs wore tule rush capes, and in the colder weather they wore tunics, fur cloaks, and moccasins on their feet. Later, after the European influence, the Makah people began wearing blanket robes. Instead of wearing long headdresses like some other tribes, they wore basketry hats made of finely woven spruce root.

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Diet/Food Sources:

In the early 1900's, the Makah people ate whales, fish, crabs, mussels, and much more. Typically, Whale was the favorite. They also hunted elk and deer for the most part. They also gathered seagull eggs and hunted seal. Back then, the men did all the hunting and the women did all the gathering. They had a rather healthy diet.


The Makah Indians typically lived in long houses. The long houses contained five separate living areas that centered around cooking hearths. The houses were built so that the planks on the walls and roofs could be taken and used at other places as they moved seasonally. The houses had benches raised above the floor on stakes, which were the main furniture of the houses.

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Makah Indians usually traveled by canoe to be able to cross the ocean. They built the canoes out of cedar trees. To make canoes, they hollowed out a cedar log, and flared the sides by pouring in hot water and fire-heated rocks. When they didn't need to cross the ocean and use a canoe, they just traveled by foot.

Economic Activities:

The Makah Tribe fished, hunted mammal, and the most common was whale hunting on the ocean. They also hunted for seals, as well as sea otters. They used the animal parts for all different sorts of things, like tools, accessories, food, and the fur for some of the clothing.

Religious Beliefs:

The Makah Indians believed that the universe is filled with supernatural power that could enter a person's body. They thought that the tribe's doctors could heal the sick, and others believe they have the power to see visions. Most of the Makah tribe could spiritually connect with the Great Spirit in the heavens.

Special Ceremonies:

The Makah Indians created and wore masks for the ceremonies, but only by certain tribe members. Priests shook beaded rattlers during these ceremonies to ask for help. Masks were always worn even during certain events such as fishing and hunting expeditions.

Unique Customs:

They hunted whales and many other sea animals. Also they celebrated and worshipped the spirits above them.

Tools and Implements:

Hunters used harpoons tipped with mussel shells, and also used bows and arrows. Fishermen used hook and line or even fish traps made out of wood. In war, they used bows and arrows, spears, and wore armor made out of elk hide.

Recreation and Games:

The Makah Indians had traditional dancing, singing, canoe races and slahal games.


They used bows and arrows, spears, and war clubs. Not only did they use just weapons but they also wore armor to protect themselves.

Unique Characteristics:

They had oval shaped faces, and were generally shorter in stature with a stocky build.

Social Organization:

There were families, which were composed of the parents, children, and other close relatives. The families would share food and shelter. Males were dominant. They were the ones that fished, hunted, and killed, while the females handled the house, gathered other sources of food, made the clothes, and took care of the children.

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Governmental Structure:

The one that was considered to be the most wealthiest was chosen to be the chief, and the one who was considered to be the second wealthiest was called the shaman. The chief was the leader of the tribe.

Trade and Commerce:

They interacted with other tribes by giving and receiving gifts at polatches and raiding. They brought what they were going to trade in a basket that was usually made by the wives of the tribes.

Works Cited:

What Type of Clothing Did the Makah Indians Wear?

Home of the Makah People

Makah and Nez Perce Indians

The Makah Tribe: People of the Sea and Forest

What Are the Makah Indians Beliefs?

Makah Indian Fact Sheet

Makah People

Makah Clothing

Makah Diet and Food Sources

Makah Shelter