Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Makah Nation and Cape Flattery

On our way to the northwesternmost point of the contiguous United States, we stopped at the Makah Museum in Neah Bay, Washington. Understandably, we could not take photos of the exhibits in this museum that told the story of the Makah Nation.
In 1970, storms along the northwestern corner of Washington at Cape Alava tore away sections of land to reveal a paddle, an inlaid box, and some house planks. An archaeological dig uncovered a village that had been buried by a mudslide some 500 years earlier. The results of the next 11 years of study were more than 55,000 artifacts and 40,000 structural fragments, revealing a rich picture of life between 400 BC and 1700 AD for the ancient Makah:
In addition to providing evidence of the cultural history of the Makah, the finding of remnants of gill nets was later used in Washington State court cases to prove the historic use of nets and allow the Makah to use them contemporarily.

Whales formed the heart of the tribe's culture, and there are many artifacts and displays that tell the story of how vital the whale was to the survival of the community. Because of the importance of whaling, the Makah ceded hundreds of thousands of acres of its traditional lands in a treaty in 1855 in exchange for the treaty-reserved whaling rights.

And it is on this reservation that the trail to Cape Flattery is located. From a brochure about the Cape Flattery Trail: "The Makah Tribe's long-awaited renovation of the Cape Flattery trail is complete.
"For years, sightseers from all over the world have hiked through a muddy, poorly maintained trail--and risked plunging off dangerous cliffs to see one of the most breathtaking views on the Pacific Coast.
"Those who could not navigate the trail before, now can reach their destination via a 20- to 30-minute walk across a combination of cedar boardwalk and groomed earthen trail" (

Along the trail are points that provide views of rock formations and the shoreline. I took time to admire the cape's abrupt contours of sea stacks,

caves, and forbidding sheer cliffs.
A hostile environment of strong currents, swift breezes, and frequent storms are the forces responsible for creating this stunning landscape.
"At the end of the 3/4 of a mile hike over a picturesque trail with bridges across wetlands,
one will enjoy the views of Tatoosh Island
and its lighthouse,
Vancouver Island (in the distance), and
the open sea. The air is so clean that scientists from the University of Washington collect air samples from Cape Flattery--it's the purest air they've found anywhere.
So, I took a deep breath and made the uphill return trip
through a mist-drenched forest of Sitka spruce.

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