Story at a glance:

  • The Makah Indian tribe in Washington state have a tradition of killing gray whales that dates back centuries.
  • They may earn the legal right to hunt after a 1999 temporary ban.
  • The final decision will be made by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Despite concerns from activists who call whale hunting an outrage, a Native American tribe may soon resume killing them.

The Makah Indian Tribe in Washington state has a tradition of killing gray whales that dates back centuries, The New York Post reported, and now the tribe once again may earn the legal right to hunt after a 1999 temporary ban.

A broadcast of the tribe hunting whales in 1999 shocked viewers from Seattle, according to KING 5, with many calling the hunt an act of violence. 


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Environmental groups sought to ban future whale hunts, and soon after hearings were held in Seattle.

At first, the tribe adhered to concerns about the decline of the gray whale’s population, pausing their hunt for 70 years, but now a judge recommended that the tribe can hunt three gray whales a year.

The whale population is continuing to pick up numbers.

Vice-Chairman of the Makah Tribe Patrick DePoe, who hunted a whale in 1999 when he was 16 year old, said the hunt’s absence was felt.

“It was something missing that I didn’t even know was missing until I was out there with it,” DePoe told KING 5.

While the judge’s decision is a legal victory for the Makah, there are 20 days of a public comment period, KING 5 reported — the final decision on the matter will be determined by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

“I can’t help but reflect on the people we’ve lost over the years trying to get to this point. There are people who have passed on. There are people who have aged to the point where they might not be able to jump into a canoe and take part in something so dangerous,” DePoe told KING 5.

“We have to finish this,” DePoe said. “We have to follow this process through. There is a finish line and there is a group that is ready to jump in and start training as soon as we give that green light.”

Groups like the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, Animal Welfare Institute and Peninsula Citizens for the Protection of Whales are all opposed to the killing of whales.

“For us, it is a win-lose,” Chuck Owens, who founded Peninsula Citizens for the Protection of Whales, said on Saturday, The Associated Press reported. “He’s telling them to save and not harm or even harass the western grey whales but that puts more more pressure on resident whales.”


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Published on Sep 27, 2021