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By Shawn Blore
Paul Watson, on the other hand, doesn't find
it ridiculous at all. Though Watson
Native causes in the past, he said,
case his loyalty goes to the whales.
represent other tribes," said
"including the whale nations,
have rights too. I will not easily
the killing to resume."
Should the Makah ever attempt to engage
whaling, Watson said, he plans to outfit
a ship with a sympathetic crew of American
Natives and have it do escort duty
grey whales as they migrate past Neah
The prospect of a high-seas confrontation
would have TV networks around the world
It's the kind of publicity Watson normally
thrives on. His campaigns are designed
bring the light of international media
to bear on those who prefer to carry
their deeds unseen. Unfortunately for
the Makah seem to be enjoying the spotlight.
Early in the year, Dan Greene went
extended Euro-junket to explain the
position on German TV and radio; German
TV picked up the tab. Sones has done
with Japanese TV crews. Hollywood has
pitching the idea of a movie-of-the-week
deal to the tribal council. "It's
us to the forefront of international
national news," said Sones.
Not only have the Makah managed to
own in the public-relations battle
and Sea Shepherd, they got a huge boost
Greenpeace declared itself officially
in the debate. The organization that
itself by, among other things, buzzing
ships no longer concerns itself with
fate of individual grey whales. It's
survival of the species that matters.
a result, Greenpeace sees little to
from the Makah. "I don't think
believes the Making taking five little
is going to harm the species,"
Gerry Leape, the lead anti-whaling
for Greenpeace, from Washington, D.C.
Greenpeace has stopped short of endorsing
the Makah's plan, but its lack of protest
is about as ringing an endorsement
tribe could possibly hope for. Nonetheless,
even Greenpeace has one nagging qualm.
have no objection to a subsistence
said Leape, "but I think you'd
stance change very quickly if the Makah
Leape had best be nimble, because the
definition of "subsistence"
more than elastic enough to stretch
a bit of commerce. "People don't
said Sones "that historically
we harvested, like whale oil, were
with a huge trade. These were resources
commerce, and not just resources to
This same argument has been made by
communities across North America, including
B.C.'s lower Fraser River Sto:lo Nation.
The idea that Natives hunted or fished
whaled solely for their own consumption,
they argue, is a delusion, the product
a falsely idealized view of traditional
life. Natives always traded, the argument
goes, so in demanding a share in a
fishery, as the Sto:lo have done, they
just reasserting traditional rights
Certainly, in the case of the of the
and the Makah, archeological evidence
historical records show that both peoples
traded their surplus catch far and
But the Sto:lo have been frank about
plans. They wanted a commercial salmon
they got one. The Makah have been maddeningly
coy. Is this hunt going to be merely
kill, like the Canadian Inuit's take
endangered bowhead whales this August.
is this a commercial whaling station
making? It's a question the Makah refuse
to answer clearly.
Assistant fisheries manager Sones has
that the five whales expected from
year's hunt will probably be consumed
the reserve but what happens in subsequent
years is anybody's guess. "If
changed In the International Whaling
and they reinstated commercial harvest
countries like Norway or Japan, I'm
our petition may change," said
The fact that whale meat wholesales
for about $80 a kilo, or upwards of
dollars a grey whale, would give the
little band quite an incentive to go
the commercial whaling games.
When asked whether or not the Makah
plans to sell whale meat, fisheries
Dan Greene was even less circumspect.
if we do," he asked rhetorically,
So what, Indeed? It wouldn't be the
time an ostensible "subsistence"
hunt has grown and acquired a commercial
character. In 1993, Greenland aboriginals
were awarded a subsistence quota of
whales a year for three years. In 1995,
were back, asking that the yearly quota
raised to 255 whales. The Greenland
organization also wanted permission
the whale meat. Greenlanders, they
have the same right to cars, flush
TV sets, and CD players as other nations,
as well at the same right to make use
their limited resources to acquire
amenities. And although they have a
chopping up whales for export is not
what comes to most people's mind when
hear the words "subsistence hunt".
Nonetheless, in the weeks leading up
IWC convention in June, it looked as
tacit approval and the backing of the
government would be enough to get the
their quota. Greene was certainly confident.
"The IWC has never denied a subsistence
quota. Ours will come through,"
Greene. But at the Aberdeen meeting,
voice was raised in opposition, this
from the within the tribe itself.
Alberta Thompson, a 70-year-old Makah
was flown to Aberdeen by an ad-hoc
of anti-whaling activists. Her message
the delegates was much the same as
she had for the Straight some weeks
the conference: the Makah subsistence
it a sham pure and simple. "Subsistence
means you'll die if you don't' get
says Thompson, " so how can this
For an example of real subsistence,
pointed to the example of a woman she
at an aboriginal women's conference
an Inuit who depended on caribou for
livelihood. "That woman was living
like her ancestors did 3,000 years
said Thompson. "That's subsistence."
The Makah hunt, on the other hand,
is purely a commercial venture. "The
attitude of the people pushing this
is 'How much can we get for each whale?'
They're in it for the almightily dollar.
And you know, to me, killing a whale
money is a crime."
Thompson's opposition dealt the Makah
a killing blow. Here was a living,
Makah elder giving voice to the same
that many delegates themselves had
"A lot of the delegates were looking
for an excuse to vote against the proposal,"
Greene said after the meeting. "She
gave it to them."
Thompson's interference was particularly
galling to Greene and tribal counsellor
because, despite Thompson's age, neither
Greene nor Parker consider her an elder.
In fact, the two have nothing but contempt
for Thompson and her views. Their reasons
are cultural. Two hundred years ago,
days before European contact, Makah
was a rigid hierarchy of nobles, commoners,
and slaves. Social status determined
Nobles hunted whales. Commoners hunted
or fished. Slaves did what they were
They were the only class that could
purely on an aristocratic whim.
Greene claims descent from a whaling
So do Parker and the other members
governing tribal council. Thompson
descent from a sealing family, but
was met with derision by Greene. There
nobles, said Greene, and there were
Thompson, he claimed, belongs to neither
class. That leaves only slaves. Given
social status, Greene believes Thompson's
opinions should properly have bean