March 26, 2008

How the Makah 5 felt

Makahs' right must be honoredImagine if the government said nobody could fire a gun while it spent untold years studying the social and environmental effects of gun use.

Even if you think that's a fine idea, imagine the protest there'd be about government tyranny. Folks would go around defiantly blasting off pistols, quoting Charlton Heston or the Second Amendment. And they'd have a point.

It's roughly how the Makah Indians feel about now.

The Makahs' freedom issue isn't guns, but whales. They are a sovereign nation with a treaty right to go whaling. Treaty rights are different than constitutional rights, but they're in the same league. They can be regulated, managed, overseen. Yet they are "the supreme law of the land." They're not supposed to be denied.

But the government isn't letting the Makahs whale. The hunt has been barred since 2003, while the feds spend untold years studying the social and environmental effects of whaling.

Imagine if one of your rights—say, the right to call me a whale hater—was suspended while the government studied free speech. You'd be seething.
Comment:  Yes, I might be seething. But would I act in a way that hurt someone or something? Probably not.

Yes, the US should uphold treaties with tribes. But this treaty didn't say the Makah could kill any whale, any time. It was a lot vaguer than that.

The crux of this argument seems to be that the government study isn't legitimate. But what if it is legitimate? Is legal complexity or bureaucratic inefficiency enough of a reason to start shooting?

For more on the subject, see The Makah Whale-Hunt Controversy.

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