NEAH BAY, Wash. -- In a trailer with flowers outside, Alberta Thompson sits in a living room adorned with images of the whale. "I don't know why they call it subsistence; subsistence means something we've eaten and can't go without. People here don't want to eat whale meat. Even when it's fresh, it's got a foul smell to it." Thompson scoffed. The 72-year-old tribal elder has been one of a few members of the Makah Tribe speaking out against a plan to resume whale hunting, arguing that it is a waste of a beautiful animal that no one will want to eat. For her outspokenness, Thompson says, she lost her job of 15 years at the senior citizens' center a few weeks ago. A short time later, her dog was found dead several miles from home. Her daughter was forced off a piece of tribal land on which she had been living.
Then an FBI agent visited and began questioning her about her relations with the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, the Los Angeles-based anti-whaling group that has been a leader in the efforts to halt the Makah hunt. When asked why she was opposed to the hunt, she told him, as she tells everyone, about the week she spent in the lagoon in Baja, California where the gray whales migrate each year to calve. She told about sitting in a small boat as a mother whale loomed up beside it, her calf in tow. "It changed me forever," Thompson said. "What the baby conveyed to me, and the mother, was just a spirit of trust. I can't see killing something just
because of tradition, just because it's a treaty right. We don't need it, we don't use it, why should we kill it?"
From: Time's World Watch 11/10/97:
"The International Whaling Commission indirectly granted a Native American tribe, the Makah, the right to kill four whales a year. The panel adopted a proposal allotting a shared quota of whales to the Inuits of Alaska and the Chukchi of eastern Siberia. Under a separate agreement between the U.S. and Russia, the Makah will be allowed to kill four grey whales. The 2,000-member Washington state tribe already had whale-hunting rights agreed in an 1855 treaty with the
U.S. Although the commission banned commercial whaling in 1986 to protect depleted whale populations, it can grant hunting permission to indigenous peoples with strong whaling traditions."
From: The Star Tribune, MI
Clash at Anti-Whaling Demonstration
By PEGGY ANDERSEN / Associated Press Writer
NEAH BAY, Wash. (AP) -- In a simmering dispute that ended with a scuffle and arrests, angry Makah Indians pelted a protest boat with rocks as the two sides bickered over a tribal plan to hunt gray whales. Four protesters were arrested by tribal police following a confrontation that began when they stepped onto Makah land Sunday. Sea Shepherd Conservation Society official Lisa Distefano, group photographer Jan Cook of Seattle, and members Matahil Lawson of British Columbia and Ken Nichols of Hawaii were
arrested on trespassing charges.
They were turned over to the Clallam County Sheriff's Department and released after making statements. It was unclear whether charges will be filed. "It's a sad thing that's happened," said Ben Johnson, chairman of the Makah Tribal Council. "Sea Shepherd has been pushing buttons -- people react. People can only take so much."
The Makah hope to kill a gray whale this fall, reviving a centuries-old whaling tradition. The tribe stopped whaling in the 1920s, after commercial whaling decimated the gray-whale population. The Makah have received international sanction and federal support for a plan to take 20 whales through 2002, a maximum of five per year.
Sea Shepherd contends the hunt is illegal and will lead to wholesale commercial whaling on a global scale. The environmentalists have been anchored offshore here for more than a month. At midday Sunday, the protesters moved in closer to shore and yelled save-the-whale slogans to tribal members, who yelled at them to leave. A tribal ordinance bars the protesters and their vessels from the marina.
Young Makah pelted the 95-foot protest vessel Sirenian with rocks and chunks of concrete, shattering a window in the wheelhouse. A dockside clash that began when Distefano stepped ashore ended with the arrests and tribal seizure of a motorized inflatable boat. "Things escalated to a level that should not have happened,"
Johnson said. "We're just lucky that nobody got hurt."
Copyright 1998 Associated Press. All rights reserved.
Nichols' forehead was scraped and bleeding after he was forced to the ground by a tribal police officer. Commenting later, he said: "I'm sorry there's so much hostility between us." Tribal police Chief Leonard Ahdunko blamed the protesters for the violence, which became more than he and his six officers could handle. "They wanted to provoke it. There's not a lot that I can do," he said.
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