Editorial: Illegal whale hunters must be punished

"The Makah Nation has a treaty right to whale, though that right has been tied up in legal disputes for years. The five were reportedly frustrated that the Makahs hadn’t been able to exercise that treaty right since 1999, when tribal whalers took their first whale in 70 years.

The 1999 hunt was carried out under tight regulations. Federal authorities required that it be done in the Pacific, to target migrating grey whales instead of the ones that live year-round in the local waters. The whalers were required to cast their harpoon from a canoe. A federal observer had to supervise the killing.

Saturday’s travesty ignored all that, with sad results.

The whalers’ unsupervised, sloppy, scofflaw approach to the hunt produced a barbaric outcome and, unavoidably, a huge black eye for the tribe.

Federal law theoretically provides penalties up to $20,000 and a year in jail for an offense like this. Don’t hold your breath waiting for the hammer to come down on these guys.

The tribe’s criminal justice system will probably handle the case. There’s no evidence so far that the Makahs will have the stomach to punish their own for what amounted to an act of civil disobedience. Tribal leaders’ denunciations of the hunt seem largely motivated by a fear that the negative publicity and political repercussions will harm their legal case to resume whaling.

In theory, the U.S. government could prosecute the five. But the Justice Department is often reluctant to press charges against Native Americans when a crime doesn’t involve harm to another person.

Unless these five are punished, political repercussions may be the only thing that will deter a similar hunt in the future. The tribe won’t do itself any favors if it fails to mete out some semblance of justice for this crime."

Get the Story:
Editorial: Makah whale-killing both illegal and cruel (The Tacoma News-Tribune 9/11)

Relevant Documents:
Tribal Council Statement | Makah Tribal Whale Hunt | Marine Mammal Protection Act

Court Decisions:
Anderson v. Evans (June 7, 2004) | Anderson v. Evans (December 20, 2002)

Relevant Links:
Makah Nation - http://www.makah.com

Related Stories:
Makah Nation blasts unauthorized whale hunt (9/10)
Makah Nation to discuss rogue hunt on Capitol Hill (9/10)
Russian Natives, Makah Nation share culture, whales (10/25)
Appeals court shoots down Makah whaling case (06/08)
Makah Nation marks fifth year since first whale hunt (05/17)
Tribes and U.S. seek review of whale hunt ruling (03/14)
Opinion: Makah Nation whale hunt is not legal (02/12)
Makah whale hunt faces another review (12/23)
Federal judge shoots down treaty challenge (08/09)
U.S. pushes for whaling rights (6/10)
Whale hunt a go for Makah Nation (7/16)
Makah whale hunt faces threat (3/30)
Friends, foes turn out for Makah hearing (2/2)
Makah whale hunt up for review (01/16)
Court rules on Makah whaling (6/12)
Makah ruling overturned (6/9)
Metcalf's Indian history (6/9)
Metcalf pleased with ruling (6/9)