Article on Makah Whale Hunt (corrected)
jcraven at SPAMclark.edu
Thu Aug 5 13:24:03 MDT 1999
Paul Watson allies with a far-right Republican in his fight against
by: M-J Milloy
It took the early white missionaries and explorers weeks to navigate
the rugged coastline of northern Washington State to reach the Makah
nation, perched on the very northwestern tip of the U.S. It won't
take that long for Paul Watson.
Sometime next month the veteran anti-whaling activist will make that
trip with a three-ship flotilla from his Sea Shepherd Society. Their
goal is to disrupt, by almost any means necessary, the first
traditional whale hunt by the Makah in over a half-century.
Watson--who promises to "talk to the whales" with Orca-like sonar
signals and may try to physically block the Makah vessels--is no
stranger to uncompromising, and very media-savvy, direct action. Like
a modern-day Hemingway hero, this not-so-old man wears his adventures
on the sea like a badge of pride. Jailed in Holland. Rammed by the
Norwegian navy. Co-founder of Greenpeace. World-wide defender of the
international ban on commercial whaling.
It's an image that sells--and his exploits and opinions are rabidly
eaten up by many in the media and trendy liberals in Hollywood
including Daniel Baldwin and "Dr. Quinn" Seymour.
But when Watson's three-ship flotilla and the Makah whaling boats
weigh anchor in early October, their conflict in the Juan de Fuca
Strait will be about more than just the fate of some unlucky grey
whales. Their clash will recall earlier battles over culture and
sovereignty between the Makah and white outsiders like missionaries
and government agents.
And there will be more than just the spirits of the past along on
Watson's armada: supporting Watson's actions are Jack Metcalf, the
local Republican congressman, who has links to the American far right.
With missionary zeal, Paul Watson has made an unholy alliance--and
chosen a no-longer endangered species over an endangered nation.
For the Makah that support the hunt--most of the tribal elders and
about 85 percent in a 1995 referendum, according to the tribal
administration--the hunt means a chance to revive Makah traditions
lost through forced assimilation and the end of the commercial hunt
in the 1920s.
"Many of us believe that the problems besetting our young people stem
from a lack of discipline and pride. We believe the restoration of
whaling will help us to restore that", wrote the Makah Whaling
Commission in a public release. No one at the Commission would speak
The Commission also notes that they are guaranteed the right to whale
in their 1885 treaty with the U.S. government, and that the Makah
would take at most 20 whales by the year 2000--out of a total
population of over 20,000.
Watson is dismissive of the Maka's claim of cultural revival. All
they're reviving is "pulling the trigger on a 50-calibre gun",
according to Watson. In addition, the Sea Shepherd Society has
condemned the hunt as an "archaic and inhuman ritual" and claimed
that traditional Makah hunting culture would include disinterring and
mutilating the corpse of a Makah child.
"Progress affects everyone living in this new era of the Global
Village. No legitimate argument can be made that the Makah, or any
other ethnic group, can move their culture forward through ritual
killing", according to a public release from the society.
Although these words echo early Christian missionaries--who condemned
aboriginal culture as savage and obsolete during colonization--Watson
isn't comfortable acting as the arbiter of Makah culture or progress.
"If you want to revive culture and traditions, how do you do that by
killing something", he said.
Watson's arrogance is almost more than one local observer, a
professor in Vancouver, Washington, and a Blackfoot, can take. "I'm
watching daily, the destruction of Indian people--and culture is a
central aspect of that. I see our culture ridiculed, mocked,
defiled...and all this emotion about whales and nothing said about
people far closer to extinction", said Jim Craven of Clark College.
For Watson, the Makah motivations are neither social good nor
cultural revival--but strictly economic gain.
"This is a community that is very well off. I've not seen any poverty
in their community. They've wiped out their fishery and now they want
to take the whales", he said.
The hunt will only enrich part of their community, and is being
supported by whaling nations--like Japan and Norway--who want to use
"cultural exemptions" to restart their own whaling fleets, according
But while Watson uses the alleged Makah connection to the Japanese
whaling industry to oppose the hunt, he has entered into his own
marriage of unholy convenience.
Congressman Jack Metcalf represents the extreme northwestern chunk of
Washington State that includes the Makah territory. Watson and
Metcalf are longtime opponents of the Makah hunt, and Metcalf has
filed lawsuits and lobbied in Congress--eventhough he is a
How do you explain a Republican supporting an environmentalist, let
alone the most militant of the lot? Metcalf's involvement in the
wise-use movement tells most of the tale.
Sometimes called "property rights" advocates, wise-users' main
concern is the defense of individuals' property rights including the
rights of individuals to own, develop and enjoy--primarily through
hunting and fishing--their private property. Aboriginal treaties and
groups stand in the way of that unfettered enjoyment.
Metcalf has been at the centre of the movement. Before being elected
to Congress in the "Contract with America" Republican wave, Metcalf
helped start the United Property Owners of Washington, a
property-rights lobby group. The UPOW is affiliated with the national
Citizens Equal Rights Alliance, which has a history of opposing
aboriginal treaty rights.
"I don't believe for a minute that Jack Metcalf cares about whales",
said Bill Watson of the Northwest Coalition, a Seattle NGO.
"It's a way to go after the tribe. It's a way to extend his
anti-Indian campaign. Believe me, if it was someone else doing the
whaling, he wouldn't mind at all."
Case in point, Metcalf had one of the lowest scores on environmental
legislation during the last session in Congress, voting against bills
for clean air and water, and for bills to weaken the Environmental
Protection Agency and logging restrictions, according to the Sierra
But there is also evidence that Metcalf is much more than simply an
anti-environment and anti-Indian, since the wise-use movement, and
Jack Metcalf, are gaining increasing support from the furthest fringe
of the far right.
Metcalf's supporters include the Spotlight, a far-right newsletter
published by Willis Carto. Carto--called "the most influencial
professional anti-Semite[in the U.S.]" by the Simon Wiesenthal
Centre--has a long history of Holocaust-denial work and links to
Republican politicians. And according to the files of the Anti-Racist
Action Network, there is also growing evidence that the wise-use
movement is being infiltrated by white-power activists, including
people affiliated with groups like the Aryan Nation.
Bill Watson hasn't heard of Metcalf's connection to Carto et al, but
he's not surprised.
"Metcalf is floating on the edge of the extreme patriot right."
Paul Watson claims ignorance of any of the links between his
anti-whaling ally and the lunatic fringe of the American right. "I
haven't seen any evidence that he's anti-Indian at all", he said.
"You have to agree to disagree on certain things and take your
support where you can get it."
Paul Watson will speak on Concordia's de Seve Auditorium on September
16 at 18h. Free. Info: 848-7483
Dept. of Economics,Clark College
1800 E. McLoughlin Blvd. Vancouver, WA. 98663
jcraven at clark.edu; Tel: (360) 992-2283 Fax: 992-2863
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property shall never be taken from them without their consent."
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