September 17, 2007

Hypocrisy over a whale

Bigger than a whaleThe Japanese, Norwegians and Icelanders actively hunt whales, killing many times more whales than the Makah ever dreamed of killing. These countries are all esteemed trading partners of the U.S.

Our own country's floating fish factories do far more harm to the ocean and its inhabitants than Makah have ever done. We pollute the oceans daily with plastics, drugs, poisons, carcinogens and anything else too toxic for us to handle. Our military conducts exercises using sonar that disorients whales, sometimes permanently harming their ability to navigate and find food. Our cruise ships dump raw sewage into the oceans. Our whale-watching boats follow, chase and harass whales daily. The Makah killed one whale.

One solitary whale!

Thomas Hubbard, Seattle
The next time a non-Indian hunter is caught poaching some large animal, I fully expect every person who wrote a letter to the editor expressing their outrage, horror and disgust at the Makah poaching will write a similarly outraged, horrified and disgusted letter about the non-Indian poacher.

Also, it was not the Makah Nation that killed the whale; it was five individual members of the tribe. Condemning the Makahs as a people, and calling for international sanctions and treaty abrogation for the act of five individuals, makes no more sense than shutting down Pike Place Market because some Seattleite illegally caught a wild chinook salmon.

If we have no problem attributing illegal non-Indian acts to only the individuals who committed them--and not to the entire non-Indian community--then let's be fair and do the same when an Indian commits an illegal act.

Robert Hayman, Seattle
The Times' selection of letters in response to the Makah whale hunt reflects a racism that is clearly not dead in this country [ "Whale wake" Northwest Voices, Sept. 14]. The use of "barbaric" and "brutal" to describe the Indians and the hunt could be right out of the 18th-century American West, when U.S. cavalry hunted down the "savages" who fought in defense of their right to live where they had lived for centuries.

The American, Russian, Japanese and Scandinavian whalers of the 18th and 19th centuries savaged the whale populations worldwide for money, to provide oil for lamps. Whaling was a hugely wasteful practice, but unlike the Europeans, the native people actually used all of the whale.

If you want to understand why we have endangered whales, to say nothing of salmon and other fish, you have only to look at the record of systematic exploitation of these resources and their habitats. Native people did not get us to this point; white people did.

Michael Dedrick, Seattle

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