Cat. 3, Activism 10 – BL-52 – Makah Whale Hunt

Cat. 3, Activism 10 – BL-52 – Makah Whale Hunt

Ch. 52 –  Makah Whale Hunt

In 1998, the Makah Indian band in northwest Washington state began making noise of wanting to revive whaling, which had been discontinued for 70 years. In other words, three generations of Makahs had not needed nor experienced nor depended on the tradition, so much so that they had forgotten how to butcher a whale after they had killed it.

They clamored for it for several unstated reasons:

  1. They wanted to use the whale to assert themselves as a people,
  2. They wanted to use the whale to demonstrate their power over other living things,
  3. They wanted to use the whale as a focus for their tribal purpose,
  4. They wanted to use the whale to raise their tribal profile, and
  5. Japan had been pumping in big money for them to do it, and they had no problem taking it.

Between 1998 and 2000, a loosely organized band of local anti-whaling activists, including Susan Hudgens, Dian Hardy, Dan Spomer, Josh Harper, Jonathan Paul, Jake Conroy, Allison Lance, Cheryl Seiler, Lisa Distefano, Jim Robertson, the World Whale Police, Stop Whale Kill, the Westcoast Anti-Whaling Society and myself, among others, individually and collectively, on land and in water, fought the Makah on behalf of the Grey whales, who were endearingly trusting of humans.

I myself went to Neah Bay, the Makah’s stronghold, to see what I could do, and found myself in the unique position of being mistaken by Makah tribal members to be a tribesman from another band, and called “brother”. I got myself an inside look of the band, but did not see any intervention opportunity.

Another time I squared off against Tom Happynook, hereditary chief of the Nuu Chah Nulth natives on Vancouver Island, BC, Canada, and head of the World Council of Whalers – two columns each in the editorial page of the Vancouver Sun, and a full hour of radio debate against him hosted by Rafe Mair on CKNW.

To make a long story short, the Makah, given the protection of the wide berth of an exclusion zone imposed by the law, enforced by the Coast Guard, succeeded in killing one young female Grey whale, right before our tearful eyes.

After that, we challenged them on the issue of an environmental assessment, which they should have done, but had not, and this held them up for years.

In 2007, the Makah went out again, this time illegally, and killed another Grey whale.

And the war continues.

*     *     *



VICTORIA, B.C. (AP) — Anti-whaling protesters targeted tourists in an effort to rally public sentiment against a planned whale hunt in Washington state.

Boats with the newly-formed Westcoast Anti-Whaling Society on Sunday displayed signs reading, “Stop the Whale Hunt” and “Wounded Whales Feel Pain” as the Coho ferry pulled into port.

The Makah tribe will begin the hunt for a gray whale — the first in 70 years — in October.

Well-known environmental activist Anthony Marr, of the Western Canada Wilderness Committee, led the protest.

“Generating broad-based public opposition to the Makah hunt is pivotal in that it could be used as a can-opener for all kinds of ‘cultural whaling’, including  whaling conducted by the ‘culture’ of Japan,” Marr said. …

*     *     *

October 5, 1998
Alberta Report (pro-hunting)


Despite a plentiful supply, Greens vow to stop an Indian whale hunt

If nothing else, animal rightists cannot be accused of prejudice: they favour beasts over men, whether the latter are black, white or red. Indians rank high in the pantheon of political correctness, but not as high as whales. So Washington State Indians intending to kill the massive mammals for food were at a disadvantage, even before it was revealed that their “traditional” hunting method depends on a distinctly modern weapon – the machinegun.

The controversy is especially upsetting to Tom Happynook of Victoria, chairman of the World Council of Whalers, who says similar hunts are being planned in British Columbia. “We’re up against urban people who don’t even know milk comes from a cow,” he charges. “What right do they have telling us what to do? Natives in coastal communities are eating corned beef hash out of cans and Kraft Dinner. We just don’t have any money.”

The culture clash erupted in August, when the 1,400-strong Makah tribe of Neah Bay on the Olympic Peninsula announced they will hunt up to five grey whales each year starting October 1 under an agreement authorized by the International Whaling Commission and the U.S. Commerce Department.

The grey whale suffered near-extinction in the 1920s, but today is no longer on the U.S. endangered species list; more than 20,000 swim up and down the West Coast twice yearly.

Keith Johnson, president of the Makah Whaling Commission, said that resuming his tribe’s historic October hunt “is a link to the past and it validates us, who we are as a people and a culture.” He added that the hunt will bring badly needed food to the dinner tables of his people, who along with non-natives have suffered job losses in local logging and fishing industries because of environmental sanctions.

No sooner was the announcement made than Project Sea Wolf, an anti-whaling offshoot of California’s Sea Shepherd Society, staged a protest meeting in Victoria on August 29. Eco-pirate Paul Watson, the society’s founder, was scheduled to speak but was replaced at the last minute by understudy Michael Kundu of Seattle. He told 70 sympathizers that the Makah does not require freezers full of whale meat and should go to Seattle if they want “amenities”. “They get government subsidies,” he argued. “They don’t need this to survive.”

Mr. Kundu then played a video of a protracted whale killing. He insisted that if the hunt is allowed to proceed, it would set a precedent and encourage more whaling around the world…

… Given the current climate of tension between natives and non-natives over treaty claims, Mr. Kundu’s remarks strike Mr. Happynook as ill advised. “He is deliberately and needlessly trying to cause bad feelings,” he declares. “The reality is that people can still go whale-watching, do research, whatever, but somewhere in this equation the whalers are going to fit in.”

The dispute escalated September 13 when an ad-hoc group called the Westcoast Anti-Whaling Society consisting of a fishing boat, several whale-tour operators and other boaters congregated in Victoria’s Inner Harbour with placards reading “Wounded Whales Feel Pain.” Leading the protest was Western Canada Wilderness Committee campaigner Anthony Marr, who in the past has lobbied to end bear and tiger hunting.

Mr. Marr accused the Makah of being inhumane, claiming the whales die a lingering death after being first secured by a hand-thrown ceremonial harpoon and then riddled with bullets. “Five hundred AK47 rounds might be pumped into a whale as per the Russian Chukotka natives with their own Grey whale hunt. Even so, it can take a whale 30 minutes to two hours to die,” he said. Not so, says Makah member Jimmy Thompson.

“What we intend on doing is using the machinegun to sever the whale’s spinal cord, which will kill it instantly unlike in the past when a whale could tow our canoes around for days on end,” he explains.

Mr. Thompson echoes the sentiments of other Indian hunters by remarking, “People like Marr are not interested in us evolving, they’re just trying to assimilate us. That’s been tried before, and we won’t allow it.”…

— Robin Brunet

The Vancouver Sun
Fri 09 Oct 1998
BYLINE: Anthony Marr


An environmentalist argues that no one, neither Japanese nor Makah, has the right to kill any of this intelligent species, whether for commercial or ceremonial reasons

I respect aboriginal rights, but I respect even more the right of the whales to live, and live in peace and harmony with humans.

Grey whales annually migrating up and down the North American coast, as well as those that live in our waters, have been living in peace and harmony with humans for more than 70 years.

They’ve come to enjoy human company and allow us the privilege of touching them. Whales and dolphins have been documented as saving drowning humans.

I have no doubt that whales are not only sentient but intelligent. Even small cetaceans like dolphins have brains larger and more convoluted than our own. They have sophisticated social and behaviour patterns, complex languages and even distinct dialects. The songs of the humpback change from year to year.

The Japanese and Norwegians are strong backers of the Makah’s “right’” to kill whales. They have given at least $10,000 US for the Makah’s whaling campaign.

These pirate whaling nations are not acting out of interest in the Makah as a people or respect for aboriginal rights. They are using them as a can opener to restart whaling for “cultural need”. Once the Makah succeed in taking their first whale, the Japanese and Norwegians can then claim the right to whale for “cultural needs” of their own.

Tom Happynook, a Makah relative and figurehead of the World Council of Whalers, says the Japanese are justified in continuing to kill whales and dolphins for so-called “scientific” reasons in the face of a global whaling ban. Maybe he can tell me how much science is involved in consuming a plate of whale sushi.

Perhaps the Makah whalers are not aware that they are being used as pawns in a high-stakes global game, or perhaps they don’t care, as long as they profit from it. They claim no commercial interest, but before engaging their current public relations team, they said that each grey whale would bring them in excess of half a million dollars US.

The Makah whalers-to-be also say, “It’s not a hunt, but a gift from the ocean.”

I would accept this if it refers to a group of whales that beached themselves in spite of human efforts to return them to the sea. But for people to go out and kill them by a means more cruel than the explosive-tipped harpoon, then drag their carcasses ashore, is sheer pillage and murder.

The proposed “traditional hunt” involves the use of a hand-thrown harpoon first – to satisfy the “ceremonial” clause within permit parameters – then, how humane of them – a .50-calibre, anti-tank gun to finish the job.

In the Makah Manifesto published in a Seattle newspaper, the whalers assert that death will be instantaneous. But the Russian Chukotka native band, using AK47s, mind you, has been known to fire more than 500 rounds into a single whale that still took up to two hours to die.

This brings forth the issue of what Canadian authorities would and should do if a wounded whale enters Canadian waters. The policy is to allow hunters to pursue wounded whales to finish them off, which is tantamount to welcoming an assailant into your house to finish off a wounded friend who had come for refuge.

The whalers charge anti-whalers of being racists whose agenda is to put their cultural tradition into a museum. The opposite is true. Living traditions evolve with the times. It is they who are citing the treaty of 1855, signed when whales were thought to be fish, and before Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species was published. They have evolved since then into a non-whaling culture, and kudos to them. But now, indeed, they are putting themselves back into a museum.

Although it was as late as the 1950s that orcas were still shot on sight, we too have evolved with the times. Today, we would be appalled if orcas were fired upon. Why then should grey whale shooting be condoned, and revived?

As a Chinese-Canadian, tradition to me is not sacred. It often stands in the way of human intellectual and spiritual evolution. As the director of the BET’R campaign, the first thing I did was to challenge the Chinese tradition of using bear gall bladder and tiger bone for medicine.

I urge everyone to examine their traditions and shed those elements that are no longer consistent with today’s environmental and humane principles. I ask the Makah people to follow the lead of their own Alberta Thompson and voluntarily forego whale-killing as a treaty right.

Finally, I must make one thing clear. I am against killing whales, period. Even one whale killed is one too many, for any reason, by anyone, be they Japanese, Norwegian, Russian, or Makah.

*     *     *

The Vancouver Sun
by Craig McInnes and Doug Ward


VICTORIA — B.C. will not sign any treaty with native Indian bands that includes the right to hunt whales, Premier Glen Clark declared Monday after the Makah tribe of Washington state made their first kill. Clark said whaling falls under federal jurisdiction, but it would be “outrageous” if a band were to be allowed to kill a whale.

The Makah killed a grey whale Monday morning, first harpooning it, causing the mammal to dive, then firing at least two shots into it at close range from .50-calibre rifles when it resurfaced several minutes later.

Two B.C. coastal native groups have claimed a hereditary right to hunt whales.

“We will use whatever leverage we have at the bargaining table and the treaties to ensure that there is no whale hunt in British Columbia.” Clark said he was repulsed by the killing of the whale Monday, a reaction he believes most people will share.

But Aboriginal Affairs Minister Gordon Wilson was less certain that B.C. natives could be prevented from whaling. “It may well be that the rights that they have under Sparrow with respect to salmon may have similar application to harvesting of whales. That’s something we have to look at,” Wilson said. The Supreme Court of Canada ruled in 1984 that Reginald Sparrow, a member of the Musqueam band, had an aboriginal right to fish for salmon that superseded the right of the federal government to regulate the fishery.

Wilson said the current position is to refuse to approve any treaty that includes whaling, but if natives go to court to establish a right to hunt whales, that could change. “One obviously has to respect the law, but it’s purely hypothetical at this point.” He stressed that no band claiming a hereditary right to hunt whales has yet brought the issue to the treaty table. “Our view is that they don’t, they’re going to have to prove that they do and if they choose to pursue it, I guess they’ll have to do so in the courts,” Wilson said.

Liberal leader Gordon Campbell called the whale kill “an appalling, senseless, wasteful, disgraceful act.”

“I certainly don’t want it happening in British Columbia for any purpose, whether it’s commercial or ceremonial or customary.” Campbell said he had legal advice that natives do not have an aboriginal right to hunt whales. “I think it’s a brutal and archaic practice. I think that it should be stopped.”

Clark’s remarks were criticized by Nelson Keitlah, co-chair of the Nu-Chah-Nulth Tribal Council, which represents 13 bands on the central and north coast of western Vancouver Island and wants to negotiate whaling rights in its treaties. “Colonialism hasn’t really left us, has it?” said Keitlah. “He [Clark] is saying what we should eat and what we shouldn’t eat.”

Keitlah also said that it was improper for the premier to determine which issues will be on the bargaining table in the Nuu-Chah-Nulth treaty talks.

“We are in treaty negotiations and that is one of the issues that will be there. It’s not on the table. But upon our insistence it will be.”

Keitlah said that whaling is important to his people for food but also for cultural reasons. “It’s part of reaching for that epic where capturing a whale is the ultimate for any of our hunters.” Keitlah said that members of his band are proud of the whale killing carried out by the Makah. “This is a historic day for our people. We want to send our congratulations to the Makah nation. It’s been 70-80 years since it was last done.”

Keitlah, who is based in Port Alberni, said it was whaling by white men that seriously reduced whale stocks — not whaling by native people.

“We had nothing to do with their [the whales’] demise. But all of a sudden people are upset when we want to take one.”

The Ditidaht and Pacheedaht bands, located about 120 kilometres northwest of Victoria, also have significant cultural ties to whaling.

Anthony Marr of the Western Canadian Wilderness Committee, said the anti-whaling campaign is not aimed at aboriginal rights. “We are not pointing fingers at the native people. We are just against whaling, period. We also fight Japanese whaling and Norwegian whaling,” Marr said it was “ludicrous” to describe Monday’s whale killing as a revival of tradition. “How traditional is a power boat, or a .50-calibre gun?”

Marr said that the Makah’s whale hunt has little to do with the band’s food needs. “It’s something they’ve chosen as a vehicle to assert themselves as a self-determined people.

“If they want to do that — all power to them. But if they do it at the expense of a whale, they should first of all consider the self-determination of the whales.”…

*     *     *

Open letter to President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore of the United States of America (and applicable to all presidents and vice presidents, past and future)

Dear Mr. President and Mr. Vice President:

On February 11, 1997, you wrote a letter to the U.S. Congress citing Canada as having “conducted whaling activities that diminish the effectiveness of a conservation program of the International Whaling Commission”, regarding the granting of whaling licences to the Canadian Inuits without IWC approval. We as Canadians take your point well, and pledge to pursue the matter with our government.

This letter, however, concerns the killing of a Grey whale by your own Makah tribe.

In the same letter to Congress, you also wrote: “I understand the importance of maintaining traditional native cultures, and I support aboriginal whaling that is managed through the IWC.” On this, we beg to differ, and hope that you will re-evaluate the basic philosophy behind this statement.

First, we question the word “traditional”. Obviously this is a key word distinguishing aboriginal whaling from non-aboriginal whaling, and must itself therefore be clearly defined. In particular, should traditional whaling employ definitely non-traditional equipment such as motorized watercraft and modern firearms? We believe that the vast majority of Americans and Canadians would say a resounding “NO!”

More basically, and especially applicable to the Makah, is the question of traditional need, namely food, clothing and fuel. The Makah have done without whale-derived food, clothing and fuel for over seven decades. High on their list of reasons is to use the killing of whales to solve their people’s alcohol and drug abuse problems. Kindly show us the traditionality of this reason.

Even more basic than this is whether all elements of traditional aboriginal culture are to be held sacrosanct. If so, then even slavery should be revived. If not, then why should killing whales be so unquestionably honoured?

Ultimately, we believe that as civilization advances on to a new millennium, killing sentient, intelligent, peaceful and trusting creatures like whales and dolphins can no longer be justified, for any reason, by anyone, be they Japanese, Norwegian, Russian, American (Makah), or, yes, Canadian (Inuit). This means that within or beyond IWC parameters, whaling must end.

We ask you to please re-examine the basis of your thinking, which the vast majority of your citizens, judging by their overwhelming opposition to the hunt, obviously have done.


Yours sincerely,
Anthony Marr

*     *     *


In response to an admonition re. Greenpeace
by Anthony Marr

Let Greenpeace oppose Japanese and Norwegian whaling. We do too and we support them in that. Greenpeace is a HUGE organization, so let them save the thousand or so whales slaughtered by Japan and Norway.

We are not Greenpeace. We are free agents, and are free to oppose whatever we want. We are not huge, so let us try to save the 20 ear-marked for the Makah and kindly do not belittle and try to talk us out of it. If Greenpeace wants to help out, terrific. If not, we’ll do what we can.

Each whale is sacred to us. Japan killing a thousand does not justify the Makah killing one.

Please do not be so naive to believe that Makah whaling is subsistence whaling. Not even the Makah themselves believe that. Only Greenpeace believes it, or at least say they do. If whaling is for subsistence for the Makah, then after 70 years not having whaled, they should have long starved to death. Subsist, when they’re drive 4X4s and state of the art motorized watercraft? Give me a break!

The Makah have been talking with the Japanese for years about trade potential. Tom Happynook of the WCW (World Council of Whalers), who is also a Nuu Chah Nulth chief, openly talked about interest in commercial whaling in newspapers last year (Vancouver Sun, for one), and has been travelling the world inciting similar “subsistence” whaling in other aboriginal cultures. The Nuu Chah Nulth – Makah relatives – are pushing for reopening whaling themselves, resulting in the unprincipled Canadian government to consider condoning the marketing of grey whale meat. With the Makah as can opener, Japan is looking into grey whale “harvesting” themselves.

In 1997, the Makah did NOT secure permission from the International Whaling Commission to resume subsistence whaling, say some key people of the IWC itself.

Regarding “the Makah being a sovereign nation”, what is the US Coast Guard doing in the middle of it then? They use that label expediently, then hide behind the US skirt when the heat is up. Shame, shame.

I’m not an American, so can view that 1855 treaty with some circumspection. 1855 is 4 year BEFORE Charles Darwin even published his Origin of Species. Whales were still considered fish and the treaty uses “fisheries” to cover whaling. Come on, grow up! No treaty should last until the end of time, just the end of the times. The times for whaling are dead and gone.

Anti-whaling does not need to be single focused. If YOU want to focus on Japanese and Norwegian whaling, fine, and I wish you and Greenpeace success. But leave the Makah whale hunt to us, thank you very much

*     *     *

Times Colonist (Victoria) Tue 25 Apr 2000
by Anthony Marr


Contrary to popular belief, the Makah do not have the approval of the International Whaling Commission to hunt grey whales, and therefore their whale hunt is illegal.

In 1998, Dr. Ray Gambell, secretary of the International Whaling Commission, said, “The IWC has specifically not passed a judgment on recognizing or otherwise the claim by the Makah Tribe, since the member nations were clearly unable to agree.”

The Australian delegation said, “The Australian delegation made it clear that it accepted the Chukotka Natives’ request and claim that they clearly met the requirements… whereas the request and claim of the Makah people did not. This view was endorsed explicitly by a clear majority of the delegations. After a lapse of some 71 years of whale hunting by the Makah … the requirements of the amendment are not met, nor have they been met on cultural grounds.”

And on the United States’ claim that the commission has adopted a quota that allows a five year aboriginal subsistence hunt by the Makah, “The Australian delegation explicitly rejects these claims as false and giving an entirely erroneous interpretation.”

To qualify for subsistence whaling, CONTINUANCE is a crucial factor, which Makah whaling clearly does not have. The IWC has not changed its position.

*     *     *




Activists are keeping an eye on the Makah natives in Washington state again. They have resumed their hunt for a grey whale today, the first time the Makah have been on the water since May the 12th. Anthony Marr of the group HOPE-GEO is concerned the Makah may try to avoid using a harpoon and the canoe as they try to kill a grey whale. “The monitoring by on-the-water groups like Ocean Defence International and World Whale Police has become even more important than before because there is no TV coverage today. The Washington state TV stations have been saying that they were running out of helicopter money. Without media scrutiny, the whalers would be sorely tempted to bypass the canoe and the hand-thrown harpoon which have proven ineffective so far, and go straight for the .50 calibre rifle fired from a motorcraft, and the whales wouldn’t have a chance. If the hunt is inevitable, then this would in fact be the more humane way to go, but the hunt should not proceed in the first place, Marr said.

Marr says further that the Makah appear to be violating their own guideline of not targeting resident whales or mothers with calves in their migration to the Bering Sea.

*     *     *



Seattle Times

By Ross Anderson

Animal-rights activists are pressuring the Green Party to drop its vice-presidential candidate, a Native American who supports the Makah Tribe’s treaty right to hunt whales. But there are no signs the party plans to do so.

In letters and e-mails to the party, critics argue that Winona LaDuke, an Ojibway Indian from northern Minnesota, should withdraw from the Green Party ticket because she supports Makah whaling.

“If we have somehow lost ground on the issue of whales, then it must be retaken and fortified,” said Stuart Chaifetz, a Green Party congressional candidate in New Jersey. “We must take a clear, hard stand against the killing of whales.”

For many Green Party members, Makah whaling presents a conflict between two tenets of liberal politics: Native American treaty rights vs. protection of wildlife.

During the past two years, the Makahs have resumed their hunt for gray whales, a treaty right they had not exercised since the early 1900s. The tribe has killed one whale in that time. The Makah right to continue whaling was part of the tribe’s 1855 treaty, in which it gave up claims to vast lands on the Olympic Peninsula.

Green Party leaders in Washington, D.C., did not return phone calls. But a spokesman for LaDuke has said she “supports the Makahs’ right to take whales under their treaty rights.”

Animal-rights activists, some of whom are involved with the party, say LaDuke’s stance essentially reinforces “premeditated murders of whales” and warn that her stance could clear the way for more kills by other traditional cultures.

Green Party leaders in the Northwest concede the issue is difficult, but they insist it is not causing any rift in the party.

“I’ve heard no reports of people leaving the Green Party because of this issue,” said Robin Denburg, campaign manager for Green congressional candidate Joe Szwaja.

Szwaja, he said, “is a strong supporter of environmental protection and of Native American treaty rights,” so takes “no position” on Makah whaling.

The issue has been pushed largely by Anthony Marr, an animal-rights activist in Vancouver, B.C. The Canadian insisted that LaDuke take a stance against Makah whaling and is determined to hold her accountable for it.

“By putting a human cultural concern over a biological/ ecological concern, the Green Party is not living up to its name and central purpose,” Marr said. “The party is taking a lot of flak on the issue. But they’re trying to keep it quiet, and I know why.”…


*     *     *     *     *

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *