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A Whale Hunt

Essay by review  •  November 10, 2010  •  Essay  •  1,343 Words (6 Pages)  •  886 Views

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Envision the Makah nation before white men came to reduce their lands, diminished their way of life, and contaminate them with new diseases. The Makah tribe was once free to roam along the dark sandy beaches of the Olympic Peninsula and experience the fiery glow of the sinking sun creep into the depths of the vast Pacific Ocean. They are no longer able to undergo this majestic cycle in the same tranquility that their ancestors once did. After dealing with the inequities that were brought upon them by the European settlers, such as being forced to speak a new language and being confined to a minute area of land, that cannot compare to the greatness of the territory where they once lived. On top of that their traditional whale hunt was abstracted from their community. Now with the chance to hunt again, the Makah faced a difficult decision against the opposition. The Makah tribe decided to return to hunting the whale in attempt to restore their culture and traditions. They agreed not to use the hunt for commercial purposes and to hunt the whale in the same way their ancestors did. I think the Makah nation should be able to hunt the whale as means of renewing their culture and pride. The whale hunt provides the Makah with the ability to restore their culture and traditions, provide reparations for America's mistreatment, all while following strict guidelines for the crew and the process of taking the whale.

The Makah's decision to hunt the whale produced hostile reactions among the many supporters of the whale. Protestors from around the world arrived in mass. They were very unsympathetic, rude, and even aggressive toward the Makahs. An example of this is shown by their behavior toward the Makahs:

Very soon, a woman shouted at the crew, 'Real men don't kill animals! Only a coward kills whales! You are a coward and a sissy!' Another woman shouted that the Makah shouldn't have special rights just because they were Indians. Another woman said her soul was connected to the soul of the gray whale. (Sullivan 136)

This shows the emotion that the protestors brought to the controversy against the hunt. Their argument is that the whale is sacred to them too, and that slaughtering the whale is a criminal act.

Everybody involved in the hunt is not perfect, but everybody deserves a chance. It is difficult to see Wayne, the leader of the Whale hunt, as a spiritual person since he has a criminal record and an anger management problem. It is well publicized that Wayne is not the spiritual icon of the Makah:

...the guy who the press had reported to have been in jail, the guy who-as the protestors were now pointing out over and over-had slugged a man, had missed a court-mandated anger management class, was a criminal, was unworthy, a slaughterer of whales. (Sullivan 136)

By becoming a leader of the Makah whale hunt; Wayne has to endure the humiliation of having his life openly criticized as a symbol of the Makahs. It's bad enough that the protestors are unsympathetic and with no realization of what the American culture has done to the Indian.

Throughout the last few centuries Native Americans have been beaten and betrayed, and now they are searching for reparations in the United States government. The disagreeable and painful acts that have been brought upon the Makah have been described as being:

...the influence of whites went beyond trade and disease, both governments set out to contain and destroy the culture of coastal tribes.... coastal groups were confined to small areas of land.... as commercial whaling made their hunt untenable. All over the coast, the tribes were prohibited from speaking their languages. Christianity was forced upon them.... potlatches were banned. (Sullivan 68)

The Makah along with all other native Americans have gone though quite a bit and now they have been offered the chance to hunt the Grey whale as a sign of good will. This chance to hunt again is an opportunity to restore their culture.

A culture that has suffered a loss of heritage and the destroying of their traditions deserves a chance to rebuild it at the cost of a few whales. Sullivan best explains this when he describes how Young Doctor feels about his heritage:

...I wandered into a small side exhibit of the work of Young Doctor, a carver at the turn of the century, who was also a healer and an artist.... A sign said this 'Young Doctor kept singing, kept carving, kept his heart and mind alive with traditions... Young Doctor helped to keep the Makah culture alive by simply inviting his friends and relatives to dinner to sing and keep straight the ancient wisdom. Through companionship and the love of fellowship, he launched his dreams and songs into the future of the Makah people.... We stock our streams with salmon.



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