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Killing Canoes

The Makah are people who live close to the sea. For over 2,000 years they hunted grey whales off the unforgiving coast of Cape Flattery until the whales were hunted near extinction by other men whose only wisdom was greed. It was a dangerous occupation. Boats could be stove in by a whale’s flukes, capsize or break apart in heavy weather. Entire crews could be lost and villages devastated. Two millennium of seamanship taught the Makah that their boats were more than tools—they were sentient, capable of loyalty or betrayal, and accountable. A boat that betrayed its crew to their death and survived itself was traditionally burned. One boat, however, was spared.

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