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- Makah Whaling Update -
Source: Michael Kundu
November 16, 2002

The federal appellate court hearing the Makah hunt appeal may be signaling a federal change, leaning toward preventing a future hunt, based on the grounds that the Marine Mammal Protection Act may in fact supercede any existing treaty laws under which the Makah had previously promulgated their hunt. This is an amazing development!

At the October 29th, 2002 appeal, Circuit Judge Ronald Gould joined the other judges in grilling the tribes' lawyer John Arum, about the intent and future plans of the tribe to possibly commercially harvest whales for foreign export. The appeal appeared to show a clear concern for the anti-whaling philosophy, and suggested that the court may now actually rule to 'test the legal rigour' of the 1855 Steven's Treaty's whaling clause, in light of current environmental and political circumstances. What this all means is still unclear, suffice to say that witnesses of the appeal were dumbstruck to the extent that the judges seemed to favour protecting gray whales. Apparently the tribe's lawyers were also clearly shaken about the aggressive questioning they were subjected to, and certainly considered the prospect that the whaling clause may now not be a 'perpetual certainty' for the Makah people. The tide may indeed be turning against the future of the Makah whale hunt.

Perhaps the most telling statement from the appeal came from Judge Gould as he said ""... the legal principle of whether they [the Makah] are bound by the Marine Mammal Protection Act has to be tested. We have to decide whether they [the Makah] are subject to that law or their treaty gives them a path through that law."

SeaWolf maintains that the unilateral promulgation of the Makah hunt (encouraged behind-the-scenes by the foreign commercial whaling lobby) has now weakened the integrity of all Aboriginal Treaties across the United States. The short sighted decision by a past Makah Council to recommence the whale hunt has; a) shattered the previously broad base of environmentalist support for Aboriginal Rights issues, and; b) has accelerated a nationwide movement by Conservatives to review and re-evaluate the legal and moral standing of Treaty Rights and how they impact non-tribal citizen's rights and government ecosystem protection efforts.

This October 29 appeal may signal a very strong blow against Makah whaling, and a smaller, but substantive, blow against the previously 'sacrosanct' integrity of historical treaties.

SeaWolf will continue to monitor and report on the conclusion of this appeal.