Makah Tribe

Makah Tribe

Funding Received: 2013
Neah Bay, WA
Funding Period: 1 year and 5 months
August 1, 2014

By Errin Walker
Brief Background
The Be?is Gathering Place involves constructing an open floor plan building that will provide a venue for cultural gatherings and a display of Makah art. An artist studio, to be used for creating art and showcasing art is also incorporated into the structure. The project site is located on the Makah Reservation at the south end of Hobuck Beach bordering the Pacific Ocean. The vistas and the surrounding area are breathtaking and an important location historically and spiritually for the Makah Tribe.

Makah logo

As 2014 has progressed, the project has met with some interesting challenges. Over the winter, the planning team came up with a plan to coordinate the construction of the structure with a log home builder and our local Housing Department staff. Our plan was to keep as much of the project local to provide the most benefit to the local Neah Bay community where jobs are scarce. After many conference calls and meetings, we determined that the roofing and the concrete slab of the building would be constructed and installed by our local Housing staff and the log home builder would take care of the wood in between, including the cedar columns, fir headers, and concrete footings. The two would coordinate the work schedule and tasks between them and we would have a construction partnership. The actual build out for the site amenities, to be completed by the Makah community volunteers in conjunction with the volunteers from Pomegranate Center (a non-profit based in Issaquah, WA) has been postponed until we finish the concrete work later in the fall. We have decided to build the structure with footings only under the cedar columns in the meantime, with the plan to pour the concrete at a later date to accommodate current budget limitations. The site amenity projects consist of cedar benches with carvings, fire pits made from recycled concrete, concrete tables and additional benches, native landscaping relocations, and improved access to the beach.

Recent Wins
The project lead artist, Bill Martin and his two apprentice carvers have begun work on the cedar columns. Large diameter cedar, with few knots are very difficult to acquire. It took much longer than we anticipated to locate acceptable logs for the columns, but thankfully the remainder of the wood in the structure is fir (and much easier to source). We were able to secure use of the site’s former Teen Center for conditioned space and a secure location for the carvers. The carvers have been working hard to learn new skills and produce beautiful carvings designed by Bill based on traditional Makah culture. The apprentice program has been so successful that we are currently exploring ways to include a second program for carving the benches that will be stacked within the main building. There are two additional carvers working on gateway totem poles. The totem poles will feature carvings based on traditional Makah legends and stories. One of the artists, Micah Vogel, plans to go ‘crazy’ with the abalone features on the cedar as accents.

Bill Martin prepares the columns for carving.  First he applies his design, then carves, and finally adds finishing materials and paint. Bill Martin prepares the columns for carving. First he applies his design, then carves, and finally adds finishing materials and paint.[/caption]

At this time, three additional sources of revenue are currently being explored. The planning team will continue looking for other avenues to complete the concrete slab and the site amenities for the project. The slab is an important component, both for durability and to showcase an acid wash Makah design. The Planning Team opted to conduct traffic counts at the site prior to construction. They attempted to do so with battery operated counters, but those proved to be faulty and in the end the work had to be done manually. The counts will be used to collect information about usage of the site currently and they have also been useful for educating users about the upcoming project and to recruit them as volunteers for the build out week.

The most important lessons learned so far are the benefits of including many community partners. As a new resident in the community, I am now able to pick out specific details in the Makah art that reveal the artist by style, features and material. This project has been a great way to pull together administrative departments, community members and artists to create a project that everyone will enjoy.