Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Tribe Pushing Plan to Resume Whale Hunting

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Tribe Pushing Plan to Resume Whale Hunting

Article excerpt

For 2,000 years the Makah tribe hunters pointed their long, ocean-going canoes into the fog and probed the waves with their harpoons for a whale's big heart.

They called the gray whale "the devil fish" because, once wounded with the sharpened mussel shell point of a harpoon, it would rise up under the boat shattering it and drowning its tormentors.

Back at the village, the whaler's wife would lie wordless on the ground from the moment the canoe left shore until it returned, dragging the still-trembling body of a leviathan to be clubbed to a bloody finish on the smooth sand beach.

The last documented Makah whale hunt was in 1926, when armies of white whalers from the east joined the harpoon-wielding Indians and slaughtered the once plentiful herds. The old canoes, except for a replica or two at the Makah museum, disappeared. The whale oil that lighted the coast from Oregon to Canada gave way to electricity. The Makah forgot even the taste of whale blubber.

Then in mid-July, Dan Greene checked his salmon net near the outer buoy at Neah Bay and found, tangled in the heavy cork line and already quite dead, a gray whale. For decades, custom and practice has been to untangle and discard these inadvertently caught whales, protected by a ream of federal and international laws.

But instead, Greene called up the tribal elders and got them to praying. The fresh whale carcass was hauled onto shroe on the Makah reservation, butchered and distributed to the 1,800 tribe members who call this windy tip of land at the Pacific Northwest home. People ate whale that day, 10 tons of it on the plate and in the freezer. Makah women scoured the town for old whale recipes.

"There are some elders who said this was our answer for whaling, 6that it's time to go whaling again," Green said. "That this one gave itself up to let us see how much everybody wanted to do it. …

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