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The Makah Nation

The westernmost tribal lands found in the continental United States belong to the southernmost people who speak a dialect of the Wakashan language, the Makah (ENAT, 121-122). Although different from their neighbors who are mainly Coastal Salish or Haida peoples, the Makah do share many similar elements of culture, art, and living conditions.

The culture and history of the Makah people can be seen in the elements of their tribal flag.

The flag is white and bears a red and white thunderbird with black accents in the center. The artistic style of the thunderbird recalls the artistic style found throughout the northwestern United States. It can remind the viewer that the Makah, like many of their neighbors in western Washington State, were carvers of totem poles.

The thunderbird, one of the most powerful of creatures in Native lore holds a black whale in its talons. The whale recalls the heritage of the Makah people as expert whalers. Unlike many northwestern tribes who simply took advantage of beached whales, the Makah actively hunted whales. The Makah used 18 foot harpoons tipped with mussel shell blades and bone points (Ibid.).

To either side of the thunderbird is a black and white serpent with red tongue. Arcing over the central device in red capital letters is the legend "Makah Indian Nation" while beneath it are the names of the five villages of the Makah Nation in black. The five villages are: Dia'ht, Wa'atch, Osett, Tsoo-Yess, and Ba'adah (Letter from Leonard "Bud" Denney, March 24, 1997). The flag dates back to 1968, but the exact date of adoption is unknown according to the Makah Tribal Secretary and mother of the designer, based in the Makah capital of Neah Bay, WA.The designer,"?AYIT" (that's a glottal stop ? minus the period) pronounced "eye-it", having the European style name Bobby Rose, designed the flag when she was fourteen years old. Today, she is anartist, the wife of a whaler, a cook for the local Potlatch ceremonies and, I believe, her greatest pride is - grandmother.

Don Healy, Bisbee, Az 85603