"Verna Bowechop-Bunn lives as far west as it is possible to go in the continental United States, and nearly as far north, in the tiny town of Neah Bay, Washington, on the Makah Indian reservation. The reservation sits at the northern tip of the Olympic Peninsula, pointing like a finger into the Strait of Juan de Fuca, which separates the U.S. from Canada’s Vancouver Island.
For the Makah, living by the sea has always meant living from the sea—and the bounty of fish and shellfish found in the strait. For centuries, until the 1920s, the Makah were known as expert whalers who stalked their prey from large canoes, advancing to throw their harpoons from close range, then paddling furiously to avoid a gray whale’s thrashing tail.
Bowechop-Bunn has lived on the reservation all her life. Now 83, she grew up in the 1930s, when “we had that Depression and there was no employment,” she remembers. “It was hard times so our people lived more or less from the ocean.”
As traditional hunters and gatherers, the Makah people were active, says Elizabeth Buckingham, the tribe’s health director. “Fisherman stay healthy and lean, however in the modern age, most of us make a living doing sedentary work,” she says. “It’s no longer necessary to have a strong, healthy back to get your food and the things you need to live.”"
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