The hunt started without a hitch: Less than a mile out, the men spotted a gray whale. But Johnson, 54, and the rest of the crew decided they were too close to shore to fire the .460-caliber rifle they'd brought.
Around 9:30, the crew saw another whale. This one, about 40 feet long, surfaced and came to the two boats.
"It chose us," Johnson said.
Into the animal's flesh, crew members plunged at least five stainless-steel whaling harpoons and four seal harpoons "so we wouldn't lose it," Johnson said. They then shot the whale with a gun powerful enough to fire a slug four miles.
In traditional times as well as today, Indians had rules and rituals for hunting. Violating these practices would be cause for punishment.
This crime plays into the stereotype that Indians are creatures of impulse, lawless, vicious--in other words, savages. The Makah leadership is right to respond forcefully because the event will cloud people's perceptions on everything from sovereignty to gaming.