Why The Makah Indians Hunt Whaless

Why the Makah Indians hunt whales:

“Whales provide us with the food for our bodies, bones for our tools and implements and spirits for our souls.” “We haven’t hunted the whale for 70 years but have hunted them in our hearts and in our minds.” “Whales are a central focus of our culture today as they have been from the beginning of time.”

This has been a tradition of the Makah Indians for more than 2000 years. They had to stop in 1926 due to the scarcity of gray whales. But their abundance now makes it possible to resume their ancient practice of the hunt.

They have had an intensification of interest in there own history and culture since the archeological dig at their village of Ozette in 1970, which uncovered thousands of artifacts bearing witness to their whaling tradition.

Whaling and whales have remained central to Makah culture. They are in their songs, dances, designs, and basketry. Their social structure is based on traditional whaling families. The conduct of a whale hunt requires rituals and ceremonies, which are deeply spiritual. And they believe hunting imposes a purpose and a discipline, which they believe, will benefit their entire community, especially the young, whom the Makahs believe to be suffering from lack of self-discipline and pride.


Why the Makahs have they right to hunt gray whales:

Before entering into negotiations with the Makah for cessions of their extensive lands on the Olympic peninsula in 1855, the United States government was fully aware that the Makahs lived primarily on whale, seal and fish.
When the United States Territorial Governor, Isaac Stevens, arrived at Neah bay in December of 1855 to enter into negotiations with the Makah leaders, he was met with strong declarations from them that in exchange for ceding Makah lands to the United States they would be allowed to hunt whale. They demanded guarantees of their rights on the ocean and specifically, of the right to take whale. The treaty minutes show Governor Stevens saying to the Makahs: “The Great Father knows what whalers you are--- how you go far to sea to take whale. Far from wanting to stop you, he will help you – sending implements and barrels to try the oil.” He went on to promise U.S. assistance in promoting Makah whaling commerce. He then presented a treaty containing the specific guarantee of the United States securing the right of the Makahs to continue whaling. Article 4 of the treaty of Neah Bay, 1855 states “ the right of taking fish and of whaling or sealing at usual and accustomed grounds and stations is further secured to said Indians.” This treaty was ratified by Congress in 1855 and has since been upheld by all Courts and the Supreme Court.


Will whaling by the Makah affect the gray whale population?

Whale scientists have closely observed this species for many years and in 1993 determined that the gray whale population had exceeded the numbers existing before industrial whaling on this species began. In 1994 the gray whale was removed from the endangered species list. The 1996 population estimate was 22,263 whales. This population continues to increase at a rate of about 2.5% per year, despite continuous harvesting of about 165 gray whales a year by Russian Aborigines – the Chukotki, for the last 30 or 40 years.
The Makah hunt would be an infinitesimal expansion of global whaling – up to five a year out of approximately 1,000 killed worldwide. No reputable biologist or whale scientist has suggested that the Makahs taking five whales a year will present any conservation threat whatsoever to the gray whale stock.
In fact no one can legitimately argue that this is a conservation threat, which is one of the primary reasons why two of America’s leading conservation organizations have refused to join in the attack on Makah whaling: The Sierra Club and Greenpeace. There are animal rights activists within those organizations who are trying to get them to come out against makah whaling. But they have steadfastly refused because they do not see this as a conservation issue, they refuse to be drawn into the animal rights issue and will not oppose indigenous people’s rights.


The Domino Effect.

Animal rights groups have been scaring each other and pumping up