Bordered by the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Pacific Ocean, pre-contact Makah held a vast area of inland and coastal territory. These richly forested lands and the seas which teemed with life offered early Makah a wealth of natural resources. The Makah skillfully utilized the bounty of the sea. From seals to salmon to whales, the sea was - and still is - a large part of the livelihood of the Makah. Makah lands also encompassed the islands of Waadah, Tatoosh, Ozette, Cannon Ball, the Bodeltas and the islands on Lake Ozette. Their inland holdings were equally vast and reached as far east as Lyre River and as far south as the lands they shared with the Quileute.
Within this territory, the Makah had many summer and permanent villages. The five permanent villages, the Waatch, Sooes, Deah, Ozette and Bahaada, were located along the shore of the northwestern-most point of the continental United States. In the early 1800s these villages were home to between two thousand and four thousand Makah. Each Village contained several longhouses composed of cedar planks and measuring approximately 30 feet wide and 70 feet long.
The Makah and their extended family would share these structures and it was common to have several generations living in each of these massive structures. During the summer people traveled to various summer
residences, such as Kidickabit, Archawat, Hoko, Tatoosh Island, Ozette River and Ozette Lake. These summer camps were closer to the traditional fishing, whaling and gathering areas of the Makah. The early Makah had a keen understanding of their environment and a great respect for the plants and animals which sustained them through the cold, dark and stormy coastal winters. As people acclimated to the seasons, they knew when and where to hunt and gather food and materials in balance with their lifecycles. They observed the common indigenous cultural tradition of using nearly all they took from the land and sea. The Makah were highly skilled mariners, using sophisticated navigational and maritime skills, they were able to travel the rough waters of the Pacific Ocean and the swift waters of the strait of Juan de Fuca with relative ease. They used various types of canoes. Carved from western red cedar, there were canoes used for a myriad of purposes, each one specifically created for that task. There were war, whaling, halibut, salmon fishing, sealing canoes and large cargo canoes. There were even smaller canoes which children used for practice. The canoes had sails so that paddlers could use the wind to their advantage. When they landed, it was done stern first so that, if necessary, the paddlers could make a quick exit. The canoes and their contents were never disturbed as the Makah
were taught from an early age to respect the belongings of others. The Makah were tireless paddlers and traveled great distances to obtain food or trade their wealth.
Various fish and marine mammals served as staple foods in the early Makah diet and remain so even today. Halibut were caught, dried or smoked and stored in large quantities to be used in the winter. There were varieties of bottom fish caught year round. Porpoise and fur and harbor seals were eaten fresh or smoked and their skins were cured and used for whaling floats. Seal blubber was rendered into oil which was consumed as a condiment at every meal. Sea otters were a valuable item for trade.