NEAH BAY(Nov. 15, 2007)–For the past several summers, Makah tribal member Polly McCarty has experienced the daily rhythms of her Neah Bay home as a natural resources interpreter for visitors from all over the world.

McCarty works five days a week perched on the lookout at Cape Flattery, the farthest northwest point in the Lower 48 states. The Cape draws thousands of visitors each year and the Makah Tribe hopes to enrich their visit with descriptions of the cultural and natural resources they see.

“There are things I heard from my elders and ancestors that I’ve gotten to experience for myself being out here so many hours each day,” said McCarty. “For instance, when there was a tropical storm hitting Hawaii, I noticed the sea lions weren’t out on the rocks and the sea birds were quiet and not active at all,” she said. “I knew about the tropical storm from TV, but my ancestors knew about it from watching the animals and birds.”

McCarty is willing to impart these kinds of insights to those who ask, but not every visitor wants to know. “There are some folks who think they know it all and it’s not worth trying to correct them. But there are many who really want to know and listen.” McCarty helps visitors identify some of the numerous seabirds, points out sea lions on rocks and talks about the cultural significance of Tatoosh Island, half a mile offshore of the Cape.

This is the seventh summer the Makah Tribe, in partnership with Olympic Coast Marine Sanctuary, has provided tribal members as interpreters seven days a week at Cape Flattery Trail. “We’re really looking to expand these opportunities to have one-on-one interaction with visitors about our natural resources, history and culture,” said Janine Bowechop, Makah Cultural and Research Center (MCRC) director. “It’s so much better than having a third party re-interpret our culture.”

One of those opportunities came as the result of road construcition on the route to Cape Flattery. The tribe provided a shuttle bus and a knowlegeable Makah driver for the 20-minute ride to and from the trailhead. School bus driver Melonee Thompson kept up a steady chatter about the tribe, the village and natural resources surrounding them. Darryl Markishtum sang several of the more than 60 songs he knows in the Makah language and shared a story about each one. Markishtum was a member of the whaling crew that successfully harvested a single gray whale in 1999 and provided expert, accurate information about the hunt to visitors.

“Visitors have really enjoyed having contact with Makah tribal members and all the information they provide,” said Bowechop. More than 200 people a day took advantage of the shuttle, with the number swelling to nearly 400 on the busies days. Next summer, the tribe plans guided canoe trips that will require some paddling by the visitors. “There is so much natural and cultural history to talk about right here in the bay,” said Bowechop. “We’re also adding artist demonstrations at the museum. Both activities will complement the museum tours and interpreters at Cape Flattery.”

“The goal is to provide as much direct contact between tribal members and visitors as possible. We don’t want to just charge admission and never talk to them again,” said Bowechop. “We’re trying to maximize the opportunities to tell our own story.”

-End-


For the past several summers, Makah tribal member Polly McCarty has experienced the daily rhythms of her Neah Bay home as a natural resources interpreter for visitors from all over the world.

McCarty works five days a week perched on the lookout at Cape Flattery, the farthest northwest point in the Lower 48 states. The Cape draws thousands of visitors each year and the Makah Tribe hopes to enrich their visit with descriptions of the cultural and natural resources they see.