A whale of a victory

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Hurray and congratulations to the Makahs! Their successful whale hunt off the shores of Washington state in May, a feat of immense dedication and rigorous training, uplifts not only their own community, but everyone who understands the importance of the Native American struggle for survival.

In the face of racist, vulgar and violent harassment against the whole tribe, the whaling crew maintained an intense focus in order to accomplish their task. They knew that at stake was nothing less than the revitalization of the Makah culture.

Their calmness and determination not only carried the day, but stood in sharp contrast to the hysterical, unprincipled carryings-on by those who tried to stop them. The actions of the Makahs provided a real lesson in just what constitutes civilized behavior.

The prime instigator of the attack on the Makahs’ sovereign right to pursue and kill a whale was Canadian Paul Watson, founder of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and ally of Washington state politician Jack Metcalf, a rightwinger who is a consistent opponent of both Indian treaty rights and ecological protection. These are people who operate comfortably in the long, dishonorable tradition of exploitation and genocide against Native Americans — and who would have felt right at home under the banner at a Seattle anti-hunt rally that read, “Save a whale, harpoon a Makah.”

Environmental activists who were drawn into the war against the Makahs by the demagoguery of Watson and his crowd need to educate themselves about the history of Native stewardship of the resources of land and sea over thousands of years. The claiming of gray whales by the Makahs has absolutely nothing in common with, say, Exxon’s fouling of the Prince William Sound with more than 11 million gallons of crude oil — and it behooves those who think of themselves as environmentalists to learn the difference.

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