Updated: May 17, 2022
NOTE: OCH offers deep condolences to the Makah Tribe in the wake of Vincent Cooke's recent passing. Vincent was a strong leader in the community and wonderful OCH partner. His passion, contributions, and efforts to support the health of the Olympic region set an example that we will continue to look up to.
The Makah Tribe, located in Neah Bay at the most northwestern tip of Washington state, is home to an estimated population of 2500 people. Surrounded by dense forest and bordered by the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Pacific Ocean, Neah Bay is very rural and remote, with the closest city being a little over 80 miles away.
In the Spring of 2020, during the initial COVID-19 lockdown, community members realized a surprising number of Tribal members were experiencing homelessness. Tribal Elders and other leaders including Vincent Cooke, General Manager of the Makah Tribe and Dr. Libby Cope, Health Director of Sophie Trettevick Indian Health Center, took immediate action. Community members with a housing need were immediately housed in unused resort cabins. Next, the Tribe gathered three single wide FEMA trailers to be used as tiny homes. Ultimately, through community-wide input, the tiny home neighborhood was named the “Makah Village of Hope”, a shining example of creativity and determination to house those in need.
“Housing has been a source of not just emotional stress but also literal, physical stress” states Dr. Libby Cope. “It’s not that rent is high, there’s literally just not enough homes. A lot of people are leaving Neah Bay because of lack of healthy housing which then in turn, effects the workforce.” This became more evident as leaders started tackling housing. The village has come to life by combining CARES Act as well as OCH COVID-19 Recovery funds. The Makah Housing Authority continues to seek other funding opportunities and many funding sources come with prohibitive restrictions.
Currently, the village houses 8 adults and 3 children among 3 single wide trailers. With the addition of 3 more tiny homes on the way, individual Tribal members and families on wait lists will soon be housed safely. “Tribal members used to live in longhouses, which are wooden cedar structures. – They used to house 3 to 4 extended family members living in the homes,” says Vincent Cooke . By providing these temporary housing options, they go back to a way of how the Tribe used to be by housing multi-family members together and in turn, Tribal members helping each other.
Ultimately, the Tribe plans to expand the Village of Hope by adding additional structures, a community garden, and space for children to safely play. The space will honor the traditional ways of the Makah Tribe and become a permanent resource available to the community, "The homes will be transitional until we are able to build homes for the families. We plan to help them build their credit so they can then purchase a home for themselves," says Vincent.
The Makah Tribe's resourcefulness, creativity, and dedication to serving the community is an inspiration to OCH. Vincent shared, "That has always been a part of the Makah culture, to take care of their people and their needs."
Keep up the great work Makah Tribe! OCH is inspired by your commitment to creating dignified health solutions.