Makah Legends

These Makah Legends are similar to the traditional stories of related tribes like the Nootka and Kwakiutl Legends.

The Makah Indians originated on the Pacific Northwest Coast in Washington State. According to archaeological findings, the Makah people have inhabited the Neah Bay area for more than 3800 years. The first written historical records of the Makah date from 1860. Their territory extends 15 miles on both sides of Cape Flattery, located south of Vancouver Island.

The Makah Indians believe the world is filled with powerful spiritual forces. These forces are not beings, but rather sources of power that can be used for good or evil purposes. The Makah are not concerned with the afterlife or abstract morality but rather focus their attention on how to improve their present lives. 

Common Characters in Makah Legends

Hohoeapbess (also spelled Ho-ho-e-ap-bess, or the Two Men Who Changed Things): Twin Transformer characters, brothers of the sun and moon, who brought balance to the world by using their powers to change people, animals, and the landscape into the forms they have today. 

Raven: Raven is the culture hero of the Makah and other Northwest Coast tribes. He is a benevolent figure who helps the people, but at the same time, he is also a trickster spirit and many Raven stories have to do with his frivolous or poorly thought out behavior getting him into trouble. 

Basket Ogress (Sxwayo’k!u, Sxwaysh’klu, or Sxwayok in the Makah language): A giant cannibal monster who catches human children and carries them off in her enormous pack basket.

Haunting Spirits: The Makah believe that physical beings return to the world after death as spirits and would haunt the places they were attached to before their deaths. The Makah have a ritual tradition of burning an individual’s personal possessions after death and throwing them out onto the beach.

Some of the possessions can be given to non-family members and strangers who are not likely to be haunted by the deceased individual. The personal belongings cannot be kept in the family, according to Makah tradition.


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Makah Creation Legend

The Makah Indians live on the farthest point of the northwest corner of Washington State., used to tell stories not about one Changer, but about the Two-Men-Who-Changed-Things. So did their close relatives, who lived on Vancouver Island, across the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

When the world was very young, there were no people on the earth. There were no birds or animals, either. There was nothing but grass and sand and creatures that were neither animals nor people but had some of the traits of people and some of the traits of animals.

Then the two brothers of the Sun and the Moon came to the earth. Their names were Ho-ho-e-ap-bess, which means “The Two-Men-Who- Changed-Things.” They came to make the earth ready for a new race of people, the Indians.