The Makahs’ right to whale is guaranteed by the same treaty in which they deeded the vast majority of their lands to the United States. We took their land; we must honor the treaty.
In past decades, the U.S. attempted to destroy Makah culture by outlawing their language, forcing their children into nontribal schools and prohibiting many of their cultural and spiritual activities. The current effort to end Makah whaling, a practice at the heart of their identity as a people, is just the latest chapter in a long history of cultural suppression.
It is the industrial nations that plundered the seas and forests, and drove whales to the edge of extinction. The Makah hunted whales for thousands of years in ways that allowed both whales and the Makah to thrive. Their environmental practices, both traditional and modern, are based on a deep respect for the animals they hunt — a respect that is wholly lacking in modern consumer culture.
To really heal our planet, we need to develop deeper, better relationships with the creatures that share it with us — including the ones we eat. Instead of forcing the Makah to follow our failed paradigms, we should learn from theirs.
Jon Christiansen, Kenmore