Whale hunting has been a way of life for the Makah Tribe for more than 2000 years. They have traditionally depended on the whale meat to survive as well as they have utilized the whales blubber and oil. The dependence on whale hunting has caused the whale to be an integral part of the Makah culture. The whale is in their songs, dances, designs and basketry. It has given them a disciple and pride in their tribe. Yet for the past seventy years the Makah has been prevented from hunting due to the gray whale, the whale they hunt, being on the endangered list. In 1994 the gray whale was removed form the endangered list opening the possibility of the Makah Tribe to hunt again. Yet this possibility has caused anti-whaling organizations to protest to the killing of the gray whale. A heated debate between the Makah tribe and anti-whaling organizations over the subject of whale hunting has ensued.
Legally the Makah Tribe feels justified in their argument due to the treaty make be the U.S. with the Makahs in 1855, promising the Makahs the right to hunt the gray whale. The treaty minutes recorded Governor Stevens addressing the Makah, "The Great Father knows what whalers you are- how you go far to sea to take whale. Far form wanting to stop you, he will help you, sending implements and barrels to buy the oil." The Makahs feel that if the U.S does not allow them to hunt then the U.S. will have broken a treaty that to them, is as important as our constitution.
The anti-whaling organization, The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, agrees that the Makahs have a valid treaty with the U.S yet still feels that the U.S should rule against the Makahs and their desire to hunt. They realize that this would breech a valid contract so they encourage the Makahs to consider suing the United States for compensation. To the Makahs, this is only a last resort.
This treaty's importance to the Makahs is due, to what they feel as, their need for their culture to be able to hunt. They believe that without hunting integrated into their culture their people have grown restless and lack discipline and pride. The also attribute many of their health problems to the lack of sea mammal meat in their diet. They believe "that the restoration of whaling will help restore that discipline and pride" as well as help physically.
The Makah realize that people are concerned that if they resume whale hunting that the gray whale will suffer the possibility of extension again. Yet the treaty carries stipulations on what and how many whales they can kill. The Makah can only kill up to five adult gray males in migration per year. The are not allowed to hunt a calf or...