New Books Network

In 1999, the Makahs went out on the Pacific for their first whale hunt in over seventy years. The event drew protests from animal...

In 1999, the Makahs went out on the Pacific for their first whale hunt in over seventy years. The event drew protests from animal rights activists and local (mostly white) Washingtonians. But to the Makahs, the event was a cause for celebration. Why did the whale hunt hold such divergent meanings for different people along the Northwest Pacific Coast? Joshua Reid, Associate Professor of History at the University of Washington, attempts to answer that question in The Sea is My Country: The Maritime World of the Makahs (Yale University Press, 2015), which won the Caughey Prize from the Western History Association in 2016, along with several other awards. For centuries, the Makahs valued maritime space as a central part of their homeland. Europeans empires, and later Americans and international institutions, tried to impose their own notions of spatial control and hard borders onto the Pacific Northwest borderland, but often ran up against Native power. The Makahs have repeatedly adapted to changing political and economic circumstances, adopting what Reid calls a “moditional economy” as a means of handling newcomers who tried to commandeer their homeland and its rich seas. The Sea is My Country is a book about Indigenous adaptability and dynamism as well as changing human relationships to maritime ecologies.