Makah whaling case set for trial in two courts

Five members of the Makah Nation of Washington who hunted a whale without tribal or federal permission are facing trials.

The Makah tribal court is holding a pre-trial hearing tomorrow. Wayne Johnson, Andy Noel, Frankie Gonzales, Theron Parker and William Secor Sr. are accused of violating tribal, state and federal laws.

The five men are set for trial in federal court on April 8. They are charged with violating the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

The tribe has a right to hunt whales under an 1855 treaty. But the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the tribe must obtain a federal permit to exercise its rights.

Johnson and the other hunters became frustrated by the slow-moving review process. So they took to the waters last September and shot a gray whale.

A lawyer who represents Johnson and Noel is moving to dismiss the tribal charges because he says his clients haven't been given a speedy trial. It's been more than 30 days since their arraignment -- past the tribe's own deadline.

The lawyer, Jack Fiander, a member of the Yakama Nation, also represents Noel in federal court. Fiander is seeking to have the charges dismissed, saying Noel's religious and constitutional rights are being violated.

Get the Story:
Makah tribe sees treaty rights at stake in rogue whale hunt case (The Seattle Post-Intelligencer 3/17)
Pretrial hearing set Tuesday in Makah Tribal Court for accused whalers (The Peninsula Daily News 3/15)