Makah tribe members sentenced for illegal whale hunt
The five members of the Makah tribe who participated in an unsanctioned hunt of a gray whale last year were sentenced earlier this week. The Makah tribe, whose reservation is located in northwestern Washington state, is the only tribe in the country with treaty rights to hunt whales. However, the long, arduous process of obtaining a waiver to actually conduct a legal hunt has fueled the profound frustration of some tribe members; the Makah’s last legal hunt was in 1999. The five whalers who conducted their own whale hunt last September said it was anger over the long waiver process that drove them to do it. In March, three of the whalers pleaded guilty to illegal whaling and this week received lighter sentences than the two tribe members who went to trial. The whalers who pleaded guilty were sentenced to two years of probation and over 100 hours of community service each. As for the two who went to trial, one of the whalers was sentenced to 90 days in prison and the other, who the judge saw as remorseless, received the harshest sentence of five months in federal prison.