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68 nine Recovering Lost Property: Ozette, Tatoosh, and Waadah when i first began working with the makahs, i heard vague allusions to Ozette, but didn’t know what it was. In time I learned that it was one of the five major Makah villages, although no Makahs lived there now. While Ozette seemed only a distant memory, many Makahs traced their ancestry to the village, and the oldest Makahs recalled growing up there, about twenty miles south of the reservation along the Pacific coast. In 1967, the tribal council called on me to help them protect the Makah character of Ozette in the face of a proposal to incorporate it into the Olympic National Park. Once the village site became part of the national park, the Makahs would not be able camp, fish, or hunt there. The Makahs had strong feelings about this tiny, 719-acre parcel of land. They saw it as Makah property that others were trying to take from them. The history of Ozette revealed a familiar pattern of bureaucratic ignorance and stubbornness. U.S. officials had always known that Ozette was a Makah village. After all, one of the signers of the Makah treaty with the United States was Tse Kow Wootl, described in the treaty as a Makah chief from Ozette. But since the boundaries of the Makah reservation did not include Ozette, the Makahs living there were technically landless Indians. This didn’t bother the Makahs then at Ozette, who intended to keep living there as they always had, but it seemed to bother the Indian Bureau. The bureau had responsibility for Indian communities that didn’t fit into any legal categories. So the Indian agent at recovering lost property 69 “Osette” requested that a reservation be established by executive order for the Indians living there. By the magic of bureaucratic fiat, they came to be designated “Ozette Indians.” Voilà! There was now a new Indian tribe. And in 1893 an executive order was promulgated establishing a reservation for the “Ozette Indians.” But the bureaucrats of the Indian Bureau had no intention of letting the Makahs at Ozette live as they always had. Soon after the Makah treaty was signed in 1855, the government established a school at Neah Bay. While many Makahs wanted their children to be educated at the white man’s school, others did not. The government then ordered compulsory school attendance, and parents who did not comply were arrested and jailed by order of the Indian Bureau superintendent. By 1860, the agency had turned its attention to the children at Ozette. No one proposed establishing a school there. Instead, parents were informed that their children must be sent to Neah Bay. This meant that the children would have to live with relatives in Neah Bay and return home only on weekends. Few Makah parents wanted to be separated from their children , but after the government agent threatened arrest, they reluctantly complied. The result was foreseeable—over time, families left Ozette and moved to Neah Bay, and Ozette’s population dwindled. By the time the Ozette reservation was established in 1893, there were only sixty-four people living there. By 1905, the number had dropped to thirty-six, and by 1937 only one Makah continued to live there.1 Where did they go? Almost all went to Neah Bay. But even after the last Makah left Ozette, the land remained legally an Indian reservation. Under the law, Indian lands don’t automatically undergo a change of status when Indians no longer make it their permanent home. Makahs continued to visit and camp at Ozette. But by the middle of the twentieth century, many non-Indians had discovered the beauties of Ozette. In the popular press it was treated as the home of a vanished tribe. Sunday newspaper supplements routinely carried articles with titles like “The Mystery of the Vanished Ozettes.” Well, there was no mystery at all. Not only the Makahs, but also anthropologists and historians knew that all the residents of Ozette had gone to Neah Bay because they were Makahs; they had family there and they all spoke the same language. It was probably inevitable that sooner or later some group would propose taking the Ozette land. The most interested party was the 70 recovering lost property National Park Service because the Olympic National Park already abutted the Ozette reservation to the south. Many hikers, nature lovers, and members of a park support group called Olympic Park Associates saw...


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