The longtime Northwest controversy (discussed by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer) over the Makah tribe’s whaling is rooted, like so many contemporary Indian issues in the Northwest, in the treaties of 1855, now 150 years old.
I side with the Makah. The five or fewer gray whales they intend to hunt each year are from a now healthy population numbering in the tens of thousands. Aside from sentimentalism about marine mammals, I can’t see a single compelling reason to effectively abrogate the Makah’s treaty rights by denying their application to resume the hunt.
The notion that recognizing the Makah’s right to hunt whales will create a precedent for a widespread return to commercial whaling seems preposterous. The Makah are the only group in North American with an explicit right to whale in their treaty. And they have a 1,500 year history of whaling responsibly.
It seems to me that the Makah whaling issue is controversial primarily because it is a wedge: It separates advocates for sustainability from animal rights activists.
What do you think about Makah whaling? I’m curious where Gristmill readers stand.