NEAH BAY — The annual Makah Days festival is a celebration of family, both individual and cultural.
“What Makah Days means to me is a time of being involved in culture and family ties,” said Micah McCarty, Makah tribal council chairman.
The three-day celebration that begins today is often a time for family reunions, with family members who had moved away coming home to Neah Bay, which is at the western end of state Highway 112, for a visit.
“There are a lot of family reunions, a lot of pride in being Makah,” McCarty said.
The Makah, who live at the most northwestern point of the contiguous 48 states, are Nuu-chah-nulth, and their closest tribal relatives live on Vancouver Island in Canada, so Makah Days is also a reunion of people.
A host of Canadian canoes were already drawn up on the beach off Bayview Avenue on Thursday, said Rose Jimmicum, Makah Days organizer.
Said McCarty: “Our continued relationships with surrounding canoe societies in the U.S. and Canada are all part of the fabric of what Makah Days has become today.”
The first Makah Days Celebration was Aug. 26, 1913, the day the first U.S. flag flew over Neah Bay.
Today, Makah Days celebrates both the ancient native tradition, which has been a way of life for more than 4,000 years for the sovereign nation, and the citizenship of the Makah in the United States.
“We’re very proud of who we are and where we came from,” McCarty said.
At the same time, “as U.S. citizens, we have a very proud and honorable history of service in the armed services.”
Vendors, salmon bakes
Almost 100 vendors will sell everything from fry bread and Indian tacos to native arts and crafts during a street fair on Bayview Avenue that opens at noon today and at 9 a.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Two traditional salmon bakes are planned, one Saturday and one Sunday. Both will be near the senior center on Bayview Avenue.
Canoe races are planned all three days, as are traditional dances.
A dozen teams are lined up for the softball tournament that runs today through Sunday.
Slahal games, a traditional bone game, also will go on all three days.
Among the highlights of the celebration will be the grand parade Saturday, when an hourlong procession of royalty floats from around the North Olympic Peninsula and other participants will move down Bayview Avenue from the Makah Cultural and Research Center to the senior center.
Elders Charles Claplanahoo, age unknown, and Mary Greene, 94, will be honored as the Makah Days grand marshals during the parade.
Another highlight will be the Makah royalty coronation tonight.
During a talent show that begins at 7 p.m. in the new community gym, royalty in eight categories will be recognized.
Two are competing for the title of Makah Days queen: Samatha Wilson, 16, and Elizabeth Smith, 20.
Also in the royalty are three baby queens and two baby kings — which are children up to 5 years old — one princess, one junior warrior, two junior misses, one warrior and one Makah Miss, Jimmicum said.
The royalty contestants sell tickets for a raffle that will award cash prizes of $500, $250 and $150 in each category.
Woven baskets, hats and jewelry donated by the royalty candidates also will be awarded in the raffle.
The drawing for the raffle will be during tonight’s talent show.
Fireworks will start at about 10 p.m. today and can be viewed from Bayview Avenue or from the beach.
At noon Saturday will be traditional dances by Makah youths.
“Our children start from a young age to learn to dance,” Jimmicum said.
Those lessons help the children connect with and continue the Makah culture, she said.
There is no admission for Makah Days events.
A $10 use permit is required for other activities, such as hiking, camping, fishing or visiting Cape Flattery, Shi Shi or other trails and beaches.
Permits can be obtained at Washburn’s General Store on Bayview Avenue.
“It’s a real family-oriented experience, a profound experience,” McCarty said.
“It’s such a special occasion that it’s hard to describe how special it is.”
Here is the schedule for Makah Days this weekend.
■ Noon — Street fair opens on Bayview Avenue, traditional salmon bake begins at senior center, and softball tournament begins at the Neah Bay High School field.
■ 3 p.m. — Youth canoe races.
■ 7 p.m. — Talent show and coronation of Makah royalty in new gym.
■ Dusk, about 10 p.m. — Fireworks on beach off Bayview Avenue.
■ 10 p.m. — Slahal games, a traditional bone game, community hall.
■ 10:30 p.m. — Modern dance for youths, old gym, followed by a Native American comedian at the new gym.
■ 9 a.m. — Street fair opens; softball tournament continues.
■ 10 a.m. — Grand parade from the Makah Cultural and Research Center to the senior center on Bayview Avenue.
■ 11 a.m. — Flag raising at senior center.
■ Noon — Salmon bake, traditional Makah dancing by youths and men and women’s canoe races.
■ 1 p.m. — Slahal games continue.
■ 2 p.m. — Youth sports fundraisers and games for students in sixth grade and above.
■ 7 p.m. — Traditional Makah dancing by adults, community gym.
■ 9 a.m. — Street fair opens.
■ 10 a.m. — Men and women’s canoe races.
■ Noon — Salmon bake; youth sports fundraisers and games for students in fifth grade and under.
■ 1 p.m. — Finals of softball tournament and slahal tournament.
Reporter Arwyn Rice can be reached at 360-417-3535 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Managing Editor/News Leah Leach can be reached at 360-417-3531 or email@example.com.