This four-day lesson introduces students to the historical and contemporary lives of the Makah Indian Nation. It focuses on the resilience of the Makah Nation as it sought - and continues to seek - ways to both adapt to and resist Euro-American encroachment upon its land and its people.
Grade Level and Standards: The lesson is especially focused on secondary education topics related to California standards for 8th and 11th grade U.S. History, as well as 12th grade civics and economics. However, it also addresses topics related to various elementary standands for the first, third, fifth, and sixth grades (see Standards listed at the end of this guide).
Objectives: The student will be able to
- Understand the history of the Makah Nation and its cultural, political, economic, and spiritual reliance upon whaling.
- Explain how and why unique characteristics of the Makah Nation have encouraged both resilience and resistance when dealing with both Euro-American encroachment
- Explain how and why the 1855 Treaty of Neah Bay promised to secure for the Makah people the right to engage in whaling.
- Examine and critically analyze the reasons that the Makah Nation wishes to restore its traditional whaling practice and how this wish for restoration has been subjected to legal challenges in the late 20th and early 21st Centuries.
- Take a stand about whether or not the Makah should be allowed to continue their traditional whaling practices.
Academic Language (words or phrases that the teacher should introduce to students before, during, and after the lesson will be printed in bold the first time they appear in the text of the lesson): sovereignty, encroachment, continguous United States, ceded, cultural self-determination, ethnographer, resilience, resistance
Introduction: According to Makah oral history, the Makah people have lived at the most northwestern point of what is now the contiguous United States since the beginning of time. The Makah reservation is on the northwest tip of the Olympic Peninsula and the Makah 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 reservation is 47 square miles, much of which is dominated by rocky coastline and small mountains. It is one of the most isolated Indian reservations in the continental United States. The Makah people refer to themselves as "Kwih-dich-chuh-ahtx" or "the people who live by the rocks and seagulls".
Hook: Let's get a good visual understanding of the historical and contemporary relatlionship of the Makah Nation with the whale. (See the 9:45 minutes video "Food for the Spirit: A Way of Life" on Youtube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lR2MEI1CcsA&feature=related or if you can't get Youtube, the same video is available at http://videowap.org/video/lR2MEI1CcsA/MAKAH-WHALING.html.)
Lesson Content: The history of the Makah people, as we have seen, is intimately tied to the whale hunt. So today we will work on a better understanding of what that means by learning about Makah history through oral tradition and archaeological evidence,
What we know today about the history of the Makah is derived from oral tradition and archaeological research - both of which emphasize that the Makah people lived in territory substantially larger than the current reservation. The dark gray area on the map below indicates the traditional Makah lands while the light gray area at the top indicates the current Makah Indian Reservation. Within their traditional territory, the Makah had many summer villages and five permanent villages - Waatch, Sooes, Deah, Ozette and Bahaada - all of which were located along the shore of the northwestern-most point of the continental United states.
According to oral history and archeological data, the Makah have lived in this region for more than 3,800 years and they have hunted whales in this territory for some 2,000 years. Fortunately, we know a great deal about early Makah life because from 1966-1970, a series of storms exposed huge portions of the ancient village of Ozette which had been buried during a mud slide around 1750. The Makah, with the help of local archaeologists at Washington State University, spent the next decade excavating the area.
Because the mud slide sealed everything and created a low-oxygen, waterlogged environment which prevented bacteria from attacking the organic remains, more than 55,000 well-preserved objects were recovered from Ozette. Consequently, we now have a rich picture of life between 400 BC and 1700 AD for the ancient Makah:
Note for the teacher: If you wish to delve further into what archaeologists do, you can adapt the lesson plan "You are the archaeologist" from the Cahokia discussion and use it for the initial day of instruction. To show students photographs from the dig, be sure to use the above link, "excavating the area". Additionally, it is strongly recommended that you use the above two links to the village of Ozette and the longhouses. The first provides an artists's computerized version of how the village of Ozette was constructed and the second provides an artist's computerized version of how longhouses were built. Finally, you might use this slideshow to illustrate the beauty of the Ozette coast.
Many of the artifacts uncovered at the Ozette site are now on display at the Makah Cultural and Research Center. This video provides a quick tour of the museum which houses, most of the 55,000 artifacts uncovered at the Ozette dig site.
Note to Teacher: This brief video (2:49) provides a quick tour and a glimpse of the many artifacts uncovered. When finished, ask the students: Why might people refer to the dig at Ozette and the findings in the Makah Museum "the most significant archaeological find in North America" and "the Pompeii of the West?"
Conclusions: Today we learned about the Makah people and their traditional lands at the far northwestern corners of the United States. We especially emphasized the relationship of the Makah people to the whale, a relationship that environmental lawyer Russell C. D'Costa highlights in his 2005 monograph, Reparations as a Basis for the Makah's Right to Whale.
"The tribe has a high degree of reverence for the whales because of the crucial role the whales have played in supporting their people. The tribe’s respect for whales is exemplified through their acts of naming entire constellations of stars after whales, saving prized pieces of whale meat for ceremonies, using whale remains in art, and creating numerous songs, ceremonies, and legends devoted to whales and whaling. Whaling also played an educational role for the Makah, as families passed down the hunting skills and traditions to their children ... The Makah also have religious and spiritual beliefs that stem from whales and from the tribe’s whaling practice. Before setting out on a whaling trip, members of the tribe would undergo intense ritual preparation, including abstaining from contact with family members and sexual abstinence. It is also significant that after harpooning a
whale, the Makah would pray to the whale and sing to it, begging its spirit to turn toward the shore where the people stood ready to give it praise and to honor it as a guest of the village with ceremonies and
Note to Teacher: This quote should be available for students to visually follow along while you read it aloud.
Keep this economic, cultural, and spiritual relationship between the Makah and the whale in mind when we continue our story tomorrow by explaining how the social, economic, spiritual, and political lives of the Makah Nation were interrupted by the encroachment of Euro-Americans.
Introduction: Yesterday we were introduced to the Makah Nation and their intimate relationship with the land upon which they lived and their cultural, economic, and spiritual connection with whaling. Today, we will examine the ways in which the arrival of Euro-Americans encouraged the Makah to maintain their traditions, while also struggling to adapt to the "white man's way".
Hook: Watch the 2:28 minute video, The Water, the Whale, and the Makah at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FzWE3_c0Ytk.
As we continue our study of the Makah people, it is important to keep this relationship between the Makah people and whaling foremost in our minds. Perhaps another way to make is clear is to understand the Makah's spiritual connection to Thunderbird, a supernatural giant that the Makah people described to ethnographer James Swan in the 1860s when he lived among the Makah:
"This giant lives on the highest mountains, and his food consists of whales. When he is in want of food, he puts on a garment consisting of a bird's head, a pair of immense wings, and a feather covering for his body; around his waist he ties the Ha-kek-to-ak, or lightening fish...This animal has a head as sharp as a knife, and a red tongue which makes the first. The Thiu-kluts (Thunderbird) having arrayed himself, spreads his wings and sails over the ocean till he sees a whale. This he kills by darting the [lightening fish] down into its body, which he then seizes in his powerful claws and carries away into the mountains to eat at his leisure."
Note to Teacher: The quote as well as the tribal logo to the right should be visible while telling the story.
Lesson Content : Thunderbird holding the whale with its talons is the enduring symbol of the spiritual relationship between the Makah and their natural surroundings. Today, we are going to learn how that relationship was altered through Makah contact with Euro-Americans and the Makah Nation's spirit of resilency and resistance throughout the late 19th and 20th Centuries as the federal goverment increasingly encroached upon its cultural, economic, spiritual, and political traditions.
Euro-American Contact and the Treaty of Neah Bay.
It was both the isolated beauty of the area and the whaling tradition that captured the attention of the first non-Indians who came to the area in 1788. Ten years later, foreign ships arrived seeking a trade agreement for sea otter skins with the Makah. In 1792, the Spanish established the first European settlement on Makah land, but it lasted only a few months before the Makah forced them to abandon the fort. Regular contact with Euro-Americans began in 1844 when several whaling ships came to Neah Bay to facilitate a commerical trade in whale oil. This effort was so successful that by the 1850s, Makah tribal members were producing as much as 30,000 gallons of whale oil a year for international trade.
While no clear record exists of the Makah population in the 1850s, oral and archaeological evidence indicates that in 1852, a smallpox epidemic drastically reduced the Makah population and caused the abandonment of several of its ancient villages. Thus it was on January 31, 1855, that the Makah, weakened by disease and eager to safeguard their traditional whaling activities as well as their growing international whaling oil trade, signed the Treaty of Neah Bay. In the Treaty, the Makah ceded 300,000 acres of their tribal lands to the United States in order to retain their right to hunt whales. In Article 4 of the treaty, the federal government promised to forever secure the right of the Makah Nation to engage in whaling: “The right of taking fish and of whaling or sealing at usual and accustomed grounds and stations is further secured to said Indians…” In fact, this was the only treaty in the United States with such a whaling stipulation explicitly written into it. The Treaty further gave the Makah the “privilege of hunting and gathering roots and berries on open and unclaimed lands.” The Treaty also created the Makah Reservation and made provisions for the creation of "an agricultural and industrial school" in the area.
Thereafter, the Makah embarked upon a new period in their history -- an adaptation period characterized by both resilience and resistance to the federal government's continual intervention in their lives. Indeed, as we shall see, despite serious Americanization efforts to "kill the Indian and save the man," the Makah have kept a large degree of their culture, spiritual, economic, and political lives in tact.
Makah Resilience and Resistance
Our powerpoint will argue that at least four distinct and somewhat unique attributes of the Makah Nation, combined with vigorous resilience and resistance efforts of the Makah people, have contributed to their ability to maintain traditional tribal values in the face of continual assimilation efforts.
Note to Teacher: The power point consists of 42 slides and should take at least 30 minutes. Today's lesson may be of enough interest to the students that it should be presented in two days rather than one.
Conclusions: The powerpoint ends with an important question: Are the traditions that have been protected by the Makah enough to retain tribal sovereignty, or does sovereignty depend, as many elders claim, on resuming traditional whaling practices??? Thus, we end today with a provocative point - while we understand that the 1999 whale hunt was a great success for the Makah Nation in terms of regaining a cultural and historical tradition, the hunt represented a severe setback to some people within the environmental movement. This controversy is the subject of our next discussion.
Introduction: For the past two days, we have learned about the Makah Nation by focusing on its historical relationship to whaling and how its several unique attributes have helped the Makah maintain many tribal traditions despite efforts by the U.S. government to "kill the Indian and save the man." For the next two days, we continue our discussion through a chronological understanding of the controversy that unfolded before, during, and after May 17, 1999 when the Makah conducted their first whale hunt in over 70 years. We will conclude our discussion as each of you takes an educated stand on the controversy.
Hook: Watch the video, "Makah Whaling: The Enduring Battle for Tribal Sovereignty" at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9XDW2BMA4YM&feature=related
Lesson Content: Today we will learn about tribal sovereignty in the general context of the word and each of you will learn more about both sides of the controversy and based upon such knowledge, will take an educated stand on the issue.
American Indian Sovereignty
So let's begin with an historical understanding of sovereignty. Sovereignty is the supreme power from which all political powers are derived and which brings people together to form self-governing nations. While there is no one, absolute definition of sovereignty, there are a number of generally accepted characteristics that qualify something as sovereign.
Thus, at the time of European contact with the North American continent, all Indian nations exercised the powers of sovereigns. They recognized the sovereignty of other Indian Nations by forming compacts, treaties, trade agreements, and military alliances. All colonial powers also recognized the sovereignty of Indian nations by entering into treaties with various nations. In short, Indian nations were sovereign entities that negotiated as independent, foreign nations with the colonial administrations of Britain and its colonies. Such negotiations took the form of government-to-government treaties agreed upon by representatives of the British Crown and by Indian Nations.
After the colonists won independence from England, the newly-created United States government immediately claimed ownership of all Indian lands west of the Appalachians - land that had been designated as Indian Country (shown in red on the map below) by the King's Proclamation Line of 1763. Americans justified taking this land because the Indians who had fought with the French during the French and Indian War had lost the war, and subsequently, also lost their land.
Under the U.S. Constitution, the new American government guaranteed American Indian sovereignty through the Commerce Clause (Article 1, Section 8) which declares that "The Congress shall have the power to regulate Commerce with foreign nations and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes." The Constitution thereby specified that there were three governmental entities within the United States with forms of sovereignty - Indian tribes, state governments, and the federal government.
Further, under the Indian Trade and Intercourse Act of 1790 the federal goverment became the guarantor of such sovereignty. The Act placed nearly all interaction between Indians and non-Indians under federal - not state - control, which included buying and selling Indian land. It also established the new boundaries of Indian Country, protected Indian lands against non-Indian aggression, subjected trading with Indians to federal regulation, and stipulated that injuries against Indians by non-Indians was a federal crime. The conduct of Indians among themselves while in Indian country was left entirely to the tribes.
These federal actions indicated that the U.S. government should and would act in good faith in its negotiations with sovereign Indian nations. However, Indian sovereignty soon became a problem for the growing United States. While Euro-Americans wanted to move westward and conquer the land to the Pacific Ocean, it was clear that the hundreds of sovereign Indian nations living on the North American continent were not going to willingly or voluntarily give up their land. Consequently, the United States government took two steps:
Note to teacher: For more information about these two steps, refer to the "Historical Overview" section of this website which is titled, "19th Century Indian Relations with the United States".
Each of these steps resulted in the loss of sovereignty for all Indian Nations within the United States - and the Makah were no exception. Nonetheless, as we learned yesterday, despite the federal government's attempts to assimilate American Indians into white society, the resilience and resistence efforts of the Makah enabled them to retain many of their cultural, economic, political, and spiritual traditions. In the 1990s, one of those traditions was the resumption of whaling and the belief that whale hunting would bring sovereignty back to the Makah Nation. In so doing, the Makah entered into another struggle with environmentalists. Now we need to get a better historical understanding of the Makah struggle to resume whaling.
Sovereignty and Makah Whaling - Take a Stand
For the past several days, you have learned a great deal about the Makah Nation leading up to the current controversy about the resumption of whaling. Now, it is important to get a clearer, chronological understanding of how the Makah effort to resume whaling and the resulting controversy has progressed over the past 100 years. The Makah Whaling Chronology provides an in-depth explanation, so let's work in pairs to explore the controversy and answer some important questions.
Note to Teacher: This chronology is complete and consequently, rather lengthy. You will need to decide if you want to use it as it is, or if you would rather abridge it to emphasize the points you feel are most important in the Makahs' pursuit to resume whaling. The assignment is explained at the top of the chronology. You will need to either take your students to the computer lab to read the chronology online or make copies of either your revised copy or the online Makah Whaling Chronology for each student in your class. Ideally, students would work on the computer so they can access the linked information and articles.
After the discussion generated from the chronology, it is time to take a stand. Working in groups of four, each of you will read articles about Makah whaling. Two people in each group will read an article in support of the resumption of whaling and the other two people will read an article that does not support Makah whaling.
Note to Teacher: Within each group, one student will read Article 1, another will read Article 2, another Article 3, and the last student will read Article 4. Directions at the top of each article ask the students to take 10 minutes to carefully read the article and then write down the 2-3 most persuasive points in the article. When they are done, direct them to the next steps in the assignment (this will spill over into the fourth day):
Conclusions: We have learned about the efforts of the Makah Nation to resume whaling in an effort to restore tribal sovereignty. Some of you supported the resumption of whaling, while others did not. The final question for us, then, is if the Makah are not allowed to resume whaling, based upon what we have learned, do you think it will hinder their efforts to regain tribal sovereignty?
Note to Teacher: This final assessment question can be handled through an all-class discussion, a homework assignment, or an exit journal.
Colson, Elizabeth. The Makah Indians: A Study of an Indian Tribe in Modern Society (University of Minnesota Press, 1953)
D'Costa, Russell. "Reparations as a Basis for the Makah's Right to Whale," Animal Law Review, 71 (2005) http://www.animallaw.info/articles/arus12animall71.htm (click on title to bring up the pdf file.)
Erikson, Patricia Pierce , Helma Ward, Janine Bowechop, Kirk Wachendorf. Voices of a Thousand People (Lincoln, NE:University of Nebraska Press, 2002).
Library of Congress, American Memory, American Indians of the Pacific Northwest - Photographs of the Makah Indians at http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/S?ammem/aipn:@field%28SUBJ+@od1%28Makah+Indians%29%29
Makah Nation Homepage at http://www.makah.com/
Marr, Carolyn, " Assimilation Through Education: Indian Boarding Schools in the Pacific Northwest" at http://content.lib.washington.edu/aipnw/marr.html
Miller, Robert J. "Exercising Cultural Self-Determination: The Makah Indian Tribe Goes Whaling," American Indian Law Review, 25 (2000–01)
Olympic Pennisula Community Museum, "Makah Exhibit" at http://content.lib.washington.edu/cmpweb/exhibits/makah/index.html
Quimby, George I. "James Swan among the Indians" at http://content.lib.washington.edu/cdm4/document.php?CISOROOT=/lctext&CISOPTR=1517&CISOSHOW=6864
Renker, Ann "The Makah Tribe: People of the Sea and the Forest" at http://content.lib.washington.edu/aipnw/renker.html
Twelfth Grade Civics
Twelfth Grade Economics