The whale-hunting Indian tribe called the Makahs has been given the green light to start hunting the sea creatures again. As Correspondent Kevin McCarty of CBS affiliate KIRO-TV in Seattle reports, tensions have been simmering for weeks over this centuries-old tradition.
The Washington-based tribe has been engaged in a longtime battle with anti-whaling forces.
"My grandfather used to talk about the hunting all the time. Whaling is part of who a Makah is," says Eric Johnson. He is captain of a whaling crew, which has been looking forward to the day they will be able to set out in a canoe to harpoon a migrating gray whale.
After years of planning, the tribe says they are ready to hunt a gray whale. The gray whale is finally off the endangered species list, and the Makah tribal council issued a 10-day permit to Johnson to the delight of tribal members.
The members left the offices with permits and hit the water, ready to track their whale. All the pieces are in place for a successful hunt.
Tribal leaders may be excited. But British Columbia Premier Glen Clark says he doesn't support the hunt. He says issues like the whale hunt are only one of many tough questions he expects to face in upcoming negotiations with the tribe.
"The difference here," he says, "is the Makah signed a treaty 100 years ago, and the treaty gives them the right to hunt whales."
Nevertheless, when the whaling team heads out, anti-whaling forces will be waiting and ready to sabotage the tribe's efforts. Several animal rights and environmental groups are opposed, including the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, which has attacked and sunk 10 whaling boats around the world over the last 20 years.
But the Makah say they will stay for the duration of the migration, one way or the other. "We're not being deterred by the violence that was shown and demonstrated," said one member.
"A lot of this probably wouldn't be happening if the history books...taught the whole story," says Johnson. "It's all about Lewis and Clark and you know, How the West Was Won. Nobody talks about what we've lost, you know?"
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