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Makah Motivation

Here is an email I received in response to one of my essays.

Makah Motivation

Al Nguyen : : 2005-10-28

Murder is murder no matter what the motive. I don’t care if the Makah are benignly killing whales. Their mental state is utterly irrelevant in deciding whether what they are doing is wrong and whether we should stop them from persisting in their brutality.

I read your webpage and essay regarding whales and the Makah people’s desire to hunt. I believe greatly in protecting endangered species and the environment. As a person of color I also understand why the whale hunt is important to the Makah people and other native americans of the northwest. Engaging in it on a very small scale is a way for them to connect with their past, heritage, traditions and ancestors. I believe it’s difficult for a white person to appreciate this since issues of cultural disintegration and identity are not a big deal for you. You believe that whales have superior intelligence and must not be killed. From my perspective this is a religious type view that I do not share but I would not impugn you for having it.

I have spent time with dolphins (small toothed whales) doing research on cetacean communication at the Human Dolphin Foundation with the late Dr. John Cunningham Lilly. My beliefs are based on those experiences, not religion. I am an atheist. I presume your beliefs are based on hearsay and the traditional attitude toward whales by both white and native cultures treating them only as food.

It’s your belief and I respect that.

It’s your superstition and since it is based on no experience with cetacea I see your patronising as like an arrogant child pontificating to an adult about sex.

My problem with your opinion is that you impugn the motives of the Makah people.

If modern day Aztecs decided to revive their ancient religions, I could understand the desire to reaffirm a link with their past, but I would have to stand firm. No human sacrifice. The rights of those sacrificed trump the rights to practice an ancient religion. I feel exactly the same way about reviving the barbaric ancient rights of whale sacrifice. Personally, I find them even more outrageous than human sacrifice.

In principle I could empathise with the Makah magical belief that reviving whale sacrifice would improve their lot, but I discovered their motives were not religious, but similar to the motives of teenagers going to get drunk and shoot gophers.

From what I read you haven’t put much effort into really understanding them.

That is not true. On, the contrary, it is you have put zero effort into understand their victims, the whales. I live only a few miles away across the water from the site of the sacrifice. The native people here in BC also had a long whaling tradition. I have studied it too. However, they, unlike the Makah of today, fight to save the whales. They respect the whales. The Makah do not. They got drunk and danced on the corpse. I saw it with my own eyes. The supposed motivation for the slaughter was a total lie.

I’m not saying you must agree with them but they are not the enemy. Native american groups and people who protect whales share much in common in terms wanting to protect animal species and the environment. This battle over the Makah whale hunt is senseless. The real enemies are the people who want to exploit animal species and the environment to support big business. Those are the people who do the real damage.

Yes, world wide, the Japanese and Norwegians are doing far more damage than the Makah. But the Makah murdered a whale right under my nose, in a rite as primitive as dashing the brains of infants and drinking their blood. Canadians made enough of a fuss that the hunt seems to be stopped, at least in these waters. Excusing the sins of the Makah because of the sins of the Japanese and Norwegians are even worse, would be like condoning the cannibalism of Jeffrey Dahmer because the sins of the Americans in Iraq killed far more children.

Native americans and animal rights activist fighting each other is absurd.

You think that way because you consider a whale as kind of big seal. Killing a whale should be treated as a far more serious crime than killing a human. You will never understand why sitting behind your computer. You have to get in the water and spend some time with them.

If the Makah and other such indigenous people abide to regulations limiting them to very few whales per year then I say concede that and move on to the more important battles.

That’s like giving the Satanists a quota of 12 infants per church per year on the ground it won’t be sufficient to risk human extinction. The reason for opposing whale sacrifice has almost nothing to do with conservation. Conservation is a separate issue. The biggest problem is Russians hogging the traditional food source of the whales, krill.

To protect animals and the environment disparate groups of people must unite. Animal rights activists who are determined to impose their views on all people in every case and without compromise are acting destructively.

I am deadly serious about this. Back then I publicly announced that I would commit suicide if the Makah went ahead with their whale sacrifice. The Makah and their supporters taunted me, then to my horror went ahead with their nutty plan. I stopped taking the HIV (Human Immuno-deficiency Virus) medications that keep me alive. The RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) arrested me and forced me to remove all references to my protest from my website. I continued my promised slow suicide. I was eventually hospitalised and too weak to resist the doctors working to pull me back from the brink of death. Friends persuaded me that my protest would be covered up and thus pointless. I would be more use to the whales alive than dead. I agreed and besides being that sick is extremely unpleasant, so here I am.

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