VP HOPEFUL'S POSITION IRKS ANTI-WHALERS
Green Party candidate backs Makah
By Austin Ramzy
Peninsula Daily News
July 28, 2000
Ralph Nader's vice presidential running mate in the strongly environmental
Green Party says the Makah Indian tribe has a right to hunt gray whales.
Winona LaDuke's position has angered ani-whaling activists who continue to
pressure the governmen to halt permanently the Neah Bay tribe's whale
The tribe hunts whales under an 1855 treaty with the United States. The
treaty guarantees whaling in exchange for lands covering much of the Olympic
LaDuke doesn't condone the slaughter of whales, said her press secretary,
Paul Demain, but she upholds established tribal treaty rights. "She said
that fundamentally the Makah have a treaty right to hunt whales," Demain
said. LaDuke supports the Makah "abiding by the opportunity provided by law
to hunt whales," he added.
LaDuke- who will appear on the nation's ballots along with presidential
candidate Nader, the famed consumer advocate- is an Ojibway activist who
lives on the White Earth Reservation in northern Minnesota. She founded the
White Earth Land Recovery Project in 1991 to buy back lost tribal lands to
As an American Indian with treaty rights to hunt and fish in northern
Minnesota, LaDuke had little doubt as to supporting the Makah whaling,
Demain said. "It's doesn't appear that within the (national) party it's
causing great concern," Demain said. "It is causing a great deal of concern
within Green Party groups in the Northwest."
"Apparently, the slaughter of defenseless gray whales within the waters of a
National Marine Sanctuary does not rate high enough to be included in (the
Green Party's) definition of 'the web of life,'" said Dan Spomer of the
Washington Citizen's Coastal Alliance."We are increasingly distressed at the
ability of the Green Party to even identify the facts surrounding the
ongoing slaughter, let alone make a coherent policy decision."
Gray whales were taken off the federal endangered species list in 1994. The
population of migratory gray whales is estimated at 26,000.
Last year 278 dead whales were reported washed ashore along their migratory
route from Mexico to Alaska. This year more than 300 dead whales have been
reported. LaDuke argues that the focus of the Makah whaling debate should be
on the environmental issues that influence the beasts' survival.
LaDuke believes that the use of Navy sonar and changes in habitat and
climate should be investigated for their impact on the whales, Demain said.
The Green Party of Seattle discussed Makah whaling at a meeting in May 1999,
one week after the tribe killed its first whale in more than 70 years. The
Seattle group did not take a stand.
But it did agree on a statement decrying both racism aimed at American
Indians after media coverage of the hunt and "the alternate demonization of
animal rights activists who oppose the hunt."
"As an organization that is profoundly concerned with the protection of the
environment as well as future sustainability, we recognize the importance of
the American Indian people and their cultural heritage to the rest of
society as we reverse the destruction done to the Earth by environmental
imperialism," the statement read.
Makah tribal officials could not be reached for comment Thursday.
Last month a three-member panel of the 9h Circuit Court of Appeals in San
Francisco ruled that the federal government's environmental studies on Makah
hunts were inadequate and had to be redone.
LaDuke "is aware of the legal status" brought by the court ruling, Demain
said, and she wants the tribe to wait until the case is resolved.
Makah whaling families huned a total of 10 days this spring, but did not
kill a whale.
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