mercredi 24 juillet 2013

People of the Cape (qʷidiččaʔa·tx̌)….An Elder Visits

I am associated with the North American Indians, and over the course of time, have met some excellent Nurses.. MS and LL at Hocank, CP at Yankton and DG at Yakima. I have to say that the excellence of the Indian Health Service rests on the hardwork of these nurses and other non MD professionals within the system. It can be truly said that the system wont run this smoothly without them.

Received an email from DG at Yakama, asking my opinion about gifts given to her in the past by an Elder of the Makah tribe who has since passed over to the other world. She wanted to know whether it is appropriate to return them to a custodian within the tribe.

She had been seconded to the Makah Days celebrations in 1999 where the ceremonial hunt of the whale was rumoured to become confrontational between the Indians and the Non Indians who opposed to the whale hunting. Makah historically had killed one whale within the context of their ceremonies and celebrations. The ceremony passed without incidence and during the Makah days she met a Makah elder . He like many Indians of his generation was jovial, friendly, hospitable and willing to share the culture. Over the years they became friends, DG used to drive the day long trip over the weekend to spend time with her good, compassionate and wise friend from the Makah Tribe. As is the custom among the Indians, the elder gave my friend Makah handcrafts,  facsimiles of their famous canoe, leather jacket with makah motive sewn into it, and also a regular correspondence with news exchanged between the two. Ten years ago, the elder passed away and my friend guarded the gifts. She wanted to return to the tribe the gifts, in case it would be of some use. But who to write to ? She wrote to a sister of the Elder, who did not reply. A mutual friend informed her of the existence of a MAKAH museum and gave the name of the person who could be contacted.

They are also known as the People of the Rock Shelf and Sea Gulls .

Any one who have visited them and one of their villages at Neah Bay would immediately know how appropriate is the name for them, in this piece of land where they have lived from time immemorial.

From their strategic position at the entrance of the Straits of Juan de Fuca, they had watched outsiders come and go. Their museum contains the remains of their ancestral village at ozette which was buried in a landslide 500 years ago. Inn 1970, a tidal erosion exposed a group of these 500 year old homes and thousands of artifacts that helped re create the Makah life long before Europeans set foot on this continent. It is well worth a visit.

On arrival at Neah Bay, a four hour drive from the ferry that deposits you in Kingston, after a short driver from Seattle, one is confronted with a pristine port, full of fishing villages but without the trappings of modern day tourism.  Unlike many other ports this is entirely within an Indian reservation and thus subject to the laws of the tribe. The nature reigns here without much interruption. At the height of summer the temperature did not rise above 70 F and there was always this reminder that the mighty pacific ocean is just around the corner.

We soon found out why the letter to the sister had gone unanswered, she too had passed away and the lone surviving brother was in a hospital in Seattle. After consulting with him, it was decided to go and see the lady in charge of the museum, whose name had already been given to us.

After hearing our story, she shared her own recollection of her uncle, who this elder turned out to be and she was glad to receive memorabilia pertaining to him. We felt that they belonged there and were glad that they had returned home. These were gifts to my friend but as she explained, if she was not around, others would have thrown them out of ignorance
They celebrate Makah days towards the last weekend of August each year and they expect visitors at that time. The rest of the year, apart from intrepid travelers, the area is not on the radar of tourists, and as such there are no developed tourist facilities or dining establishments. For those who area  little adventurous, Neah Bay and the land of the Makah people would reward you with pristine scenery and some of the friendliest people in all of America