Makah Cultural and Research Center Online Museum

Wealth of Design

Whale saddleWinter brought the spirits closer than any other time within the yearly circle of their movement. It was the main season for ceremonies.

The Makahs, as any other Indian peoples, didn't separate function and economics from the spiritual realm. Life was a whole, no activity was apart from that wholeness, therefore spiritual well-being entered every act. Illness-or an unsuccessful hunt, or a poor salmon run or berry harvest-came when the harmony was temporarily broken. Ceremonies could restore the harmony; they also called attention to its maintenance and to the roles of played by various families and individuals, particularly those of high rank.

Objects, which were language expressed through symbols, helped promote the harmony. This was true of things used in ceremonies and in everyday activities. Boxes and serving dishes, clubs and spindle whorls became greater than themselves, because of what today is called decoration, but then much more. Carving and inlay tied function to spirit. They expressed family identity and filled objects with the power of the spirit-creatures represented.

Regalia carried this significance. So did tools and implements ad household furnishings.

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All content for this exhibit is © Makah Cultural and Research Center.

The Community Museum is a project of community organizations and Tribes across the Olympic Peninsula, and the University of Washington.
Support for the project comes from the Institute of Museum and Library Services and Preston, Gates and Ellis, LLP.