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OZETTE was the largest of five Makah towns at the Pacific corner of Washington State, the ancient home of the unique Chimakum language. About a thousand years ago, Nootkan speakers from southern Vancouver Island moved across the Strait of Juan de Fuca to become the Makahs.

Near a seal rookery and offshore reef, Ozette had a population of 200 in fifteen houses in 1870. Its size dwindled as Deah (modern Neah Bay) became the hub of the Makahs' federal agency and school.

Ozette has earned a special place as the "American Pompeii" because a massive mudslide buried at least four shed-roof houses and a beached whale about a.d. 1500. These crushed dwellings provided details about construction, from their leveled floor to their standing framework of posts, beams, and side bunks for attaching removable wall planks. Inside, risers served as beds, seating, storage, and shelter (for ill-fated puppies). Families lived in each house by rank, with nobles in the back, commoners along the sides, and slaves exposed at the doorway.

Between 1970 and 1981, using garden hoses to wash away dirt, archaeologists and Makahs exposed 50,000 artifacts and a million plant fibers, including 6,000 weaving fragments of baskets, clothing, mats, and cordage. Thanks to quickly devised special preservation techniques, these remains are now proudly displayed in a tribal museum at Neah Bay.


Wessen, Gary. "Prehistory of the Ocean Coast of Washington." In Handbook of North American Indians. Edited by William C. Sturtevant. Volume 7: Northwest Coast, edited by Wayne Suttles. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution, 1990.


See alsoTribes: Northwestern .

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