Sunday, August 29, 2004

Makah Days

Makah Days happens in Neah Bay the last weekend of August. People greet each other with "Happy Makah Days!" which gives it a very holiday feel.

We went up Friday because we wanted to see the Fireworks -- I'm capitalizing it because the Makah do fireworks right. BUT of course we got our information a little scrambled, and ended up on the wrong side of the harbor, where the 4th of July Fireworks had been held.

The Fireworks were on the other end of town this time, because a lot of people were camping on the beach (this IS a pow-wow, and folks are in from all over), and there would be too many kids and dogs to wake up and too much Gortex to set on fire.

So the Fireworks were a little distant and misty, but Dan said that was good enough for him. Fireworks are not a big deal with him, after Vietnam and all. He LIKES fireworks, but he kind of got a lifetime's worth.

We went back the next day, and ended up spending most of our time at the Slahal, or Bonegaming.

Dan just now said, "Boy, I had a GOOD time last night."

Because he got totally hooked watching and listening.

You never heard or saw or felt anything so wild, loud, intense -- if you
crimped a Coke can, you could feel the vibrations in the metal.

The games was imported from the great plains around 1900. It's meant to be played
outside -- the west coast plays it inside, and the volume of drums and yells
and singing is unbelieveable. Take the plains-based Lakota yell, men's base and women's nasal ululation, and put it in a longhouse! Ow.

Yes, the Makah have Indian gambling -- but it's not the tourist version. It's Slahal. It's what they do in place of Bingo.

You need stamina, VOICE, concentration, shamanic power and CASH. There were twenties all over the floor. It was $125.00 to register for the tournament. That was scary to a bunch of Alaskan guys who showed up and asked me, and when I told 'em they turned around to each other -- "Dis is SERIOUS, man! Dese people play for real!"

The meanest competitors are -- to quote a boy -- elders and women. Elders because they've been playing for a lifetime, and women, because they cheat ("Cheat" is the male term for fast hands and good moves). The loudest drum was a guy with a wicked elastic beater-stick -- but the loudest voice was a young woman. And there were two elder ladies who were just EVIL. The winning circle was the one with all the elders.

There WAS one young team, with the loud-drum guy and the loud girl. They had good moves, too. We didn't stay late enough to see 'em go up against the elders.

These things go 'till 3:00 am, and when it's over, you're deaf.

If you're losing to the elders, you say, "I'm respecting my elders, is what I'm doing. Yeah, that's it -- I'm respecting my elders."

I was itching to try it, and Dan got so into the beat I could hardly drag him away. Oh, please, don't let us end up blowing the utitlities and tax money on Bonegaming...

Oh, and now I am officially Weird Girl in both Clallam Bay AND Neah Bay, because, as the Makah were telling each other incredulously and with shudders -- "She eats BULLHEADS!" The local food prejudice, and I broke it.

Hey, that bullhead was nasty hooked and dying, so I decided to eat it. Well, I'd seen photos on how to clean bullheads, so what was the big deal? They have green flesh like a Cabazon, that cooks up lovely and white and tasty. A lot of meat for a little fish, and very very good. Okay, their guts are kinda nasty, but they clean up nice.

But NOOOOOO, I'm still Weird Girl for eating bullheads.

Dan eats 'em too!!!

No comments: