In October, Crooked Trails brought a group of students from Western Washington University’s Recreation department to the Makah reservation in Neah Bay to look at community-based tourism. Here is WWU student Kayleigh King‘s firsthand account of the experience:
As ecotourism students, an essential part of the educational experience is first-hand interaction with a community in need of developing sustainable tourism, both as a form of revenue and cultural exchange. That is exactly what was in mind as Crooked Trails teamed up with Western Washington University’s Recreation Program to offer a three-day trip to Neah Bay in which ecotourism students had the opportunity to paddle traditional canoes, hike to famous geographical points such as Shi Shi Beach and Cape Flattery, and engage in conversation with tribal elders.
The preparations for this trip had me nervous. As a class, we were assigned multiple readings and even had a guest come in and speak about native customs. Personally, I was afraid of carrying myself in a way that might offend a member of the Makah nation. Their history is so rich from the discovery of Ozette to the ancient tradition of whaling and the controversy that comes with it.
After a five and a half-hour drive and 45-minute ferry ride later, we had arrived at our destination of the Ho-Buck cabins in Neah Bay. These lovely, well-equipped accommodations sat right along the shoreline, allowing us unlimited access to the beach that stretches down the coast.
Our meeting with Crooked Trails guide, Todd, was invaluable to our experience. We were introduced to further history and customs to be aware of, as well as shared our personal goals and intentions for the trip. After this meeting, we all felt confident in our ability to interact respectfully and successfully with the locals.
Throughout our two and a half days in Neah Bay we engaged in the local culture by participating in various discussions and planning activities, visiting the museum, sharing breakfast at the Senior Center, hiking, and by learning the ways of traditional paddling.
Despite the stormy weather that accompanied us on our trip, it was truly an eye-opening and educational endeavor. Our hosts welcomed us with open arms and introduced us to their traditional ways of life. Speaking with tribal elders was invaluable to our experience in that we were able to hear first-hand stories about Ozette and whaling rights. All that they asked of us was to take our new knowledge with us to share.
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