The controversy surrounding Makah whaling is founded on the Western romanticization of native identity; the Western control over Makah whaling is intimately tied to the West’s desire to control and assimilate the Makah themselves.
van Ginkel 04—University of Amsterdam (Robert, 2004, ETNOFOOR, XVII(1/2), pp. 58-89, “The Makah Whale Hunt and Leviathan’s Death: Reinventing Tradition and Disputing Authenticity in the Age of Modernity”, rmf)
Apart from the above-mentioned issues, a considerable part of the debate relates to matters of tradition and authenticity. Whereas whales were made human, whale hunters were demonized as savage brutes. Opponents of the whale hunt believe that traditional subsistence is at odds with modernity and should be restricted to people wholly dependent on it. They often refer to ‘barbarism’ and ‘barbaric traditions’, to some extent harking back to the dogmas of evolutionism (not a particularly modernist epistemology for that matter). For example, geographer Peter Walker raises the question of ‘whether killing whales is indispensable for revitalizing Makah culture, and whether this goal outweighs the moral and political costs’ (1999:8). He clearly does not think so, alluding to the ‘inevitability’ of cultural change which ‘calls into question the idea of an unbreakable, unchanging cosmological circle between whaling and Makah culture’ (ibid.:9). Others, however, think that cultural change – for example by adopting conveniences and gadgets from the outside world – has compromised the ‘purity’ of Makah culture (cf. Martello 2004:270). Another aspect that has received much criticism is the use of contemporary equipment and gadgets of modernity, which in the view of environmentalists ‘prove’ that the gray whale hunt is not traditional. The utilization of new technology – even though this may only be auxiliary – is considered a breach of tradition that deprives the Makah of still being ‘true’ Makah. Traditions are thus trivialized and restricted to a toolkit, rather than associated with a complex of beliefs, symbolic meanings, social structures, and practices that are culturally significant. It is not the tools that count, but the goals pursued with the whale hunt. Exact replication is not a necessary condition to produce authenticity (Sepez 2002:153). Moreover, ‘[e]xpecting cultures to remain static and cling to traditional methods is both presumptuous (demeaning) and unrealistic’ (Reeves 2002:98). The environmentalists’ perception is rooted in romantic notions of Indian-ness. At the heart of the controversies vis-`a-vis the Makah whale hunt are the processes of authenticating and discrediting identity: ‘Who gets to control the expression of Makah identity – both its legitimacy and legality? Who gets to decide what is “cultural,” “traditional,” or “necessary?”’ (Erikson 1999:564). As Gupta relates, ‘most critiques of “tradition” as an insufficient justification for sidestepping international norms ignore the importance of the way in which “barbaric” traditions are exercised’ (1999:1755, n.72). Most societies have traditions that may be regarded as such, and it is problematic when ‘traditions are forcefully quelled by an extraneous majority’ (ibid.).
The Makah are well aware of the manner in which their cultural claims are berated and do not acquiesce. For instance, when some environmental organizations depicted the whale hunt as sport or recreation, Janine Bowechop said to a reporter: ‘That’s incredibly insulting and racist. : : : For them to determine what it means to us brings us back to the last century when it was thought that Indians could not speak for themselves and determine what things mean to us. I would not pretend to determine what something means to another culture.’51 Part of the opponents’ argument is that if a society has partly adapted culturally to modernity, it should do so wholly and give up its traditional aspects. Indeed, the whole idea of what the tradition should be was appropriated by some of the contestants of the Makah whale hunt. Paul Watson, for example, said after the Makah killed the gray whale: ‘People are dancing and cheering. That’s a far cry from 150 years ago when their ancestors were more sad and somber after a whale hunt. : : : They can celebrate and dance in the streets. We’ll do what their ancestors did. We’ll mourn for the whale.’52 From the very onset of the Makah’s attempts to hunt whales, Watson disputed the authenticity of their pursuit, saying their ancestors hunted to survive not out of ‘cultural or traditional impulse’.Without the survival issue, ‘the hunt is an act of make-believe, an empty gesture toward a vanished past with only one component that will have a real, immediate meaning: The violent death of a living creature that has every right to be left alone.’53 Watson and his compatriots seemingly attempt to legitimate a moral stance (‘killing whales is wrong’) by invoking a moral image of how natives ought to behave according to their culture (‘adapt to modernity completely or wholly return to your traditions’).The message conveyed seems to be that once you have assimilated, you have lost your right to maintaining or revitalizing a tradition.
Critiques of Makah whaling serve to perpetuate colonialism by creating hierarchies of morality in order to promote civility and assimilation
Enaemaehkiw Túpac Keshena9, a Makah Native American and Writes about the Makah Issues, and lives on the Makah reservation, http://bermudaradical.wordpress.com/2009/07/09/the-makah-whaling-conflict-and-eco-colonialism/)
To a disturbing extent, whaling opponents have relied on colonialist or even racist arguments to develop opposition to the Makah whale hunt. These arguments follow themes that have existed since colonial times to maintain unequal power relationships between native and non-native peoples. Colonialism is not the immediate goal of anti-whaling organizations, and such arguments do not invalidate the other points raised by whaling opponents. As well, the actions and rhetoric of a few individuals and organizations cannot represent the beliefs and attitudes of an entire movement. However, I raise these arguments for criticism because I have not in my research come across a condemnation of the use of such colonialist arguments by whaling opponents, or even an indication that these arguments will not be used in the future. Native American political activity must be “incited” by outsiders because they cannot act by themselves. Whaling opponents such as the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society have frequently suggested that the Japanese are responsible for the Makah whale hunt. The only Japanese involvement in west coast whaling has been a $20,000 start-up grant for a Nuu-chah-nulth whaling organization, the World Council of Whalers. The Makah are not members of this organization. Ben Johnson (Makah Tribal Council) has said that “Japan wanted to give us money, to help us buy boats, to show us how to kill the whales, everything….We said no because we knew it would be very controversial, and we want to do everything by the book.” Watson has not even accorded the Makah the status of co-conspirators in his chess match, instead drawing directly on an image of the Makah as a passive people easily manipulated by non-natives. This contradicts the statements of many Makah people, including Makah opponents of the hunt, about the importance of whaling and the reasons the Makah desire to hunt.Native American society can be reduced to a conflict between “tradition” and “assimilation.” Whaling opponents have extended their arguments about subsistence versus commercial whaling by speaking of a division between the Makah into “traditional” and “assimilated” camps. They suggest that Makah traditionalists oppose the hunt as something non-traditional, while the tribal council reputedly wants the hunt only for its economic potential. The Progressive Animal Welfare Society writes that “though the tribe is divided over whaling, pro-whalers are in control of the tribal government. Opposition to whaling includes tribal elders.” Strictly speaking, this is true, but the failure to note that elders also support the hunt clearly intends to feed into romantic stereotypes about “traditional” versus “assimilated” Indians.Non-natives know better than Native Americans what counts as “authentic” Indian culture.Whaling opponents have also opposed the hunt by suggesting that Makah cultural aspirations are “inauthentic,” usually in the process of telling the Makah what their culture was, is or ought to be. “I really doubt that [the Makah’s] ancestors would respect this modern day version of whale hunting,” one woman writes. She continues: This kind of romantic condemnation has been common historically in colonialist discourse about Native Americans. This opponent of the Makah hunt dismisses what the Makah sayabout themselves and their own experiences as if she possessed superior knowledge about the values and motivations of Native Americans.Technological change is cultural assimilation. Another favorite theme among animal rights activists is the assumption that technological change demonstrates the cultural assimilation of indigenous peoples. Speaking of the Makah, one whale tour operator writes: Few people would confuse Americans and Japanese just because we share a fondness for Sony Playstations, yet the Makah are told their modernity “proves” they are no longer “authentically” Makah. More importantly, the Makah have a right to perpetuate their culture, adapting it to meet new needs. The Makah should not have to choose between putting their culture under glass, or abandoning it entirely in order to participate in American society and the world economy.If Native Americans disagree with non-natives, it is because they are barbaric. Whaling opponents often explain that the Makah must accept the “progress” and “evolution” of society. By this they mean the Makah must accept the forced end of whaling as the “natural” outcome of “social evolution” along with fibreglass and shopping centers. Sea Shepherd explains: This argument would be quite familiar to nineteenth century Americans, or to the European colonizers of any continent. It is exactly the same argument made under the banners of Manifest Destiny, assimilation policies, white supremacy and social Darwinism. Non-natives set a standard for cultural behavior in these arguments that only a small fraction of westerners follow (one estimate of vegetarians in the US places them at 12 million out of 248 million Americans). To lecture the Makah on ritual killing, while our society thinks nothing of killing chickens, cattle and pigs (with all the ritual precision of factory farms) seems hypocritical. Keith Johnson, President of the Makah Whaling Commission, calls this “moral elitism.”In short, whaling opponents frequently make colonialist arguments that delegitimize the Makah’s right to whale by comparing the Makah unfavorably to an ahistorical and idealized portrait of Native Americans. Many non-natives appreciate in vague terms that Native Americans were “in harmony” with their environment. With our concern to create a environmentally sound culture and society, Native Americans form a ready target for the projection of our fears and fantasies. Just as long, of course, as real Native Americans with real needs do not intrude on these representations. Then an elaborate arsenal of colonialist arguments can be raised to suggest that it is not our own stereotypes but modern Native Americans who are wrong. Whatever one believes about the morality of whale hunting, these arguments are themselves an injustice to the Makah.
The history of colonialism is the history of relentless genocide and imperialism. “Cultural assimilation” is the constant paving over of difference, sacrificing indigenous identities on the altar of conformity. Absent freedom to whale, the Makah will be absorbed into the growing assemblage of uniformity
Sciullo 08—Department of Communication at Georgia State University (Nick J., 10/13/08, New York City Law Review, Vol. 12, “A Whale of a Tale: Postcolonialism, Critical Theory, and Deconstruction: Revisiting the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling Through a Socio-Legal Perspective”, rmf)
The arrival of non-Indians here led to multiple tragedies that have continued long after the non- Indians should have known better, and these clashes have called forth from many Indian people and tribes so multifarious an array of creative transformations of themselves that no single book, and not even a multivolume set of books, could chronicle them all.96 No alleged effect of colonization evokes greater moral indignation or fretful nostalgia than fragmentation. Colonialism breaks things. It shatters an imagined wholeness. Colonialism’s will to power creates binaries where a unified field and healthy singularity of cultural purpose once existed. The self of the colonizer explodes a native cultural solidarity, producing the spiritual confusion, psychic wounding, and economic exploitation of a new and dominated other. Colonization imposes evil, fear, and ignorance on the innocent native landscape.97 The post-colonialism debate is very much about robbery—a spiritual theft of subjectivity that manifests itself through practices of cultural superiority, xenophobia, and the oppressor’s lack of humynity. What was once whole, striated, expansive and indefinite is now smoothed by a larger discourse of dominance. The development of colonialism and its refinements and rebirths have perpetuated a psychology of control that has injured, actually and metaphorically, indigenous populations. Post-colonial critiques are often multifaceted, but all center on a rejection of imperialism and/or a rejection of the blanket concept of “Enlightenment Thinking.”98 Post-colonial critiques have also been termed “radical anti-imperialism” by Patrick Callahan.99 The argument that the United States has or is an empire is hotly debated, mostly because parties focus on indicia of formal empire—control over cultures, sovereignties, economic strength, etc. To be sure, there is a compelling case to be made that the United States is an empire when considering its relationship to the indigenous peoples of the United States. With the recent events of September 11, 2001 deployed as a call for a new imperialism, the post-colonialism critique is relevant to today’s political and philosophical discourses.100 However, perhaps the most palpable example of United States’ empire is indirect empire.101 Indirect empire often arises out of advantages in international trade, popular culture indoctrination, and the spread of a country’s commercial interests and objectives—Starbucks, McDonalds, etc. Both types of empire are serious problems for subalterns of all varieties.102 These “serious” problems pose serious threats to the existence of the Makah.103 There is clearly a war of words over the appropriateness of whaling. However, what is particularly stressing is the threat to Makah identity. Anti-whaling arguments are made in a manner that challenges the subjectivity of the Makah by debasing various cultural claims about the relationship between the Makah and whaling.104 The denial of subjectivity is the most unfortunate philosophical turn toward destruction. Post-colonial critiques often rely on historical and sociological analysis, paying special attention to the impacts of international relations not only on nation-states and large bodies, but also on the individual.105 Here post-colonial critiques pick up where standard deconstruction fails. The Makah have a long history of contact with the forces of colonization through the 19th century.106 Because post-colonial critiques involve a critique of imperialism, they are particularly effective tools in discussions of international relations and international law. They also offer important insights in the analysis of indigenous populations. There is a long history of United States imperialism107 and a clear exercise of cultural genocidewith respect to the United States’ indigenous populations. Even though Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Undersecretary of State, Sumner Welles famously declared “the age of imperialism is ended;”108 that notion has not resonated with the colonized within the United States borders. The Makah have been no exception to the deplorable treatment of indigenous people by the United States government.109 The ban on whaling is not a policy solely against the Makah, it is the support of a convention that desires to ban whaling across the globe, denying the cultural historic practices of many peoples. This is an example of international relations no longer being about East versus West, but at a deeper level being about Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri’s notions of empire.110 Although this article focuses largely on the Makah, arguments could be made that incorporate post-colonial criticisms as they relate to a number of other countries and cultures.
And any critique of Makah whaling is based on eco-colonialism. Whaling allows the Makah to resist colonialism and reaffirm their culture.
Sepez 2 – Former anthropologist at the NOAA, has worked with people in the Makah Tribe on and off for almost 20 years, former professor at the University of Washington (Jennifer, “TREATY RIGHTS AND THE RIGHT TO CULTURE: Native American Subsistence Issues in US Law” Cultural Dynamics http://www.sagepub.com/healeystudy5/articles/Ch7/Treatyrights.pdf)
The complicated views of those involved on both sides of the whaling issue cannot be monolithically encapsulated in these two perspectives. Just as contemporary Makahs do not all share the same ethnobiological para- digm (at least one tribal member became well known for embracing the whale rights viewpoint, while some others who supported the hunt were not inclined to the traditional spiritual orientation), opponents of the whaling do not possess a unified view of whale rights either. Nonetheless, the view that whaling is somehow a morally offensive activity underlay much of the popular debate. In this context, the issue was not about conservation or allo- cation of a resource as with waterfowl hunting and fishing, but about incom- patible views of morality and rights. This puts the conflict in a class with other cultural activities that offend dominant sensibilities and arouse activist passions, such as female circumcision in Africa (see Shell-Duncan and Hernlund, 2000) and the use of peyote in the Native American Church.
Within this framework, the clash of ethnobiological paradigms over whale hunting took on similarities to historical clashes over culture, religion, and language. Interestingly, this aspect of the controversy served to enhance the dedication of some Makahs to the cause, for whom it was almost a badge of honor to be disparaged by non-natives for continuing their cultural tra- ditions. The whale hunters felt a connection to their ancestors who had been arrested for engaging in potlatches, beaten for speaking Indian languages in government boarding schools, or vilified by Christian missionaries as culturally inferior savages (Johnson, 1999). With protests and other attempts to block the tribe’s efforts seen as an extension of ongoing pro- cesses of colonization, whaling and the activities surrounding it became a form of resistance to a larger history of cultural oppression.