Subject: Case Study:B.C. Indians Plan To Hunt Agai (fwd)

Michael Williamson (
Thu, 17 Apr 1997 14:06:36 -0400 (EDT)

B.C. Indians Plan To Hunt Again

   SEATTLE (AP) -- Commercial whalers in Japan and Norway are
getting behind a group of British Columbia Indians and other
indigenous groups as part of a worldwide effort to revive whaling.
   Leaders of the Nuu-Chah-Nulth Indians told The Seattle Times
they plan to hunt gray whales off the west coast of Vancouver
Island for the first time in 70 years.
   "It is our intention to go whaling again," said Tom Happynook,
a chief of Huu-ay-aht Nation, one of 14 native nations that make up
the Nuu-Chah-Nulth. "We want to bring back respect to the whaling
people and whaling countries."
   The proposed hunt -- which could take place as early as next fall
-- is allied with efforts by commercial whalers in Japan and Norway
who hope to promote what they call "community-based whaling"
among indigenous people for cultural, dietary or economic reasons.
   In Washington state, the Makah Indians are waiting for
permission for a similar hunt from an international commissionthat
meets in October.
   Gray whales usually swim past Vancouver Island in April or May,
heading north toward the Arctic Ocean, then return in September or
October on their way to Mexico.
   In its initial hunt, Happynook said Indian whalers would likely
kill one gray whale, dividing the meat and blubber among tribal
members, and selling the bones to artists or others.
   The Nuu-Chah-Nulth people have not ruled out eventually engaging
in commercial whaling, Happynook said.
   Environmentalists and animal-rights activists, who promised a
protest, fear the Japanese and Norwegian whalers are using the
aboriginal approach as a stalking horse for reviving commercial
whaling worldwide.
   "There is a surprising amount of pressure to increase whaling
around the world that I never would have expected," said Jim
Darling, a biologist who heads the West Coast Whale Research
Association in Torfino, British Columbia.
   "The precedent of starting these local coastal whaling
operations is a good way to accomplish that."
   Tribes like the Inupiat of Alaska, Greenland Eskimos and the
Makah say their traditional dependence on the giant mammals
warrants them an exemption from a worldwide ban on whale-killing.
But whalers from Japan and Norway argue that they, too, have hunted
whales for generations and are deserving of "aboriginal status."
   Japanese and Norwegian whaling interests have joined with
aboriginal groups to form the World Council of Whalers. Last month
the group opened an office in Port Alberni on Vancouver Island with
Happynook as the council chairman, the Times reported in Sunday's
   The group has plans to promote aboriginal whaling in Russia,
Indonesia and the tiny Caribbean island of St. Vincent, as well as
among the Indians of Vancouver Island, Happynook said.
   "This new organization will provide an informed, international
voice in support of communities engaged or interested in
sustainable whaling, as well as working to protect whalers'
livelihoods, health and cultural integrity," the group said.
   Leaders of the Makah Tribe at Neah Bay say they have rejected
offers of support from Japan.
   "Japan wanted to give us money, to help us buy boats, to show
us how to kill the whales, everything," said Ben Johnson,
president of the Makah Whaling Commission. "We said no because we
knew it would be very controversial, and we want to do everything
by the book."
   The Clinton administration has promised to support the Makah
whale-hunt when the 39-nation International Whaling Commission
meets in Monaco in October.
   But that support would evaporate if the Makah decided to sell
the whale meat or affiliate with large-scale commercial whalers,
according to past statements of James Baker, administrator of the
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and head of the
U.S. whaling delegation.
   The arguments that Japanese and Norwegian whalers deserve
aboriginal status have been ignored because both countries sanction
a commercial whale industry, said Scott Smullen, Baker's spokesman.
   Commercial whaling is largely blamed for driving many whale
species to the brink of extinction at the turn of the century.
   The Nuu-Chah-Nulth have been asserting their traditional whaling
rights in negotiations with the Canadian government over
sovereignty and fishing rights.
   Canada is not a member of the international whaling body, but
its government would not permit Canadian Indians to hunt whales
except for "food or social or ceremonial purposes," said Diane
Lake, a spokeswoman for the federal Department of Fisheries and
Oceans in Vancouver.