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n. pl. Makah or Ma·kahs
1. A member of a Native American people inhabiting the Cape Flattery area of northwest Washington.
2. The Wakashan language of the Makah.
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Swan (6), one of the early settlers in the Washington Territory, wrote in his ethnographic monograph on the Makah Indians (Swan, 1869:29): "The dogfish (ya-cha) Acanthias suckleyi, is taken in great quantities for the sake of the oil contained in the liver, which forms the principal article of traffic between these Indians and the whites...The method of extracting as practiced by the Makahs is to collect the livers, which are put into a tub and kept until a considerable quantity has accumulated.
For the Makahs to take a few whales within this quota is not biologically significant.
I had written a poem about our tribe just called "The Makahs" and decided to read it to a group of high school kids during a cultural program.
While I watched for whales I pondered a PBS McLaughlin Report I'd seen, in which the host had asked, in response to the killing of a gray whale by Makah Indians, "For a liberal, which is more PC--Native rights or the defense of whales?" The answer, from the "liberal" panelist Clarence Page, was, "We shouldn't be killing whales--we should be studying them." (He also said that he wouldn't tell the Makahs what they should do.) The Makah whaling situation is very different from that of Cook Inlet, but both provide a test of the kind McLaughlin posed--how non-Natives feel about Native people continuing (or resuming) traditional activities that involve killing animals ("intelligent" whales, "cute" baby seals) we've invested with greater value than, for example, catfish or steers.
Following a 70-year hiatus from whaling, the Makah Indian tribe are attempting to restore a part of their culture that once was a permanent fixture in the legacy of their forefathers.