(Greta Gaard is currently a professor of English at University of Wisconsin-River Falls and a community faculty member in Women's Studies at Metropolitan State University, “Tools for a Cross Cultural Feminist Ethics: Exploring Ethical Contexts and Contents in the Makah Whale Hunt,” Hypatia, Wiley Online Library)//BB
Historically, whale hunting was not a universal practice in Makah tribal society; rather, it was limited to individuals of a specific class, gender, and ethnicity. According to reports of ethnologists and early European explorers, as well as later anthropological studies, traditional Makah society was divided into three classes: slaves, commoners, and chiefs (Colson 1953, 15, 202-3; Swan 1857). The slaves were captured in war or purchased from other tribes, and were therefore seen as aliens to the village; their children were also slaves, and no slaves were permitted to "intermarry" with freeborn Makah (Colson 1953, 202). Early explorers reported that the Makah "prostituted their slave women to ships crews from the beginning of contact with Europeans in 1790" (Colson 1953, 57), but it is unclear whether free-born Makah made sexual use of slave women as well, since such intercourse would run the risk of creating offspring, and "any degree of slave blood was a permanent stigma against a family line----(Tlhe word 'slave' was a stinging insult" (Colson 1953, 202). The second class of Makah, the commoners of the village, were descendants of the junior lines of the extended family, but they were not wealthy and had to work for their living. At the top of the social hierarchy were the chiefs, wealthy leaders who owned smokehouses, held potlatches, bore important names, and were famous among the tribes to which the Makah were known. Some re- ports say that the status of chief was solely hereditary, while others claim that even hereditary members had to justify their status through great deeds, such as whale hunting, or otherwise fall into the class of commoners. Only men from wealthy families could afford to organize and direct a whale hunt, since only the chiefs had the time and wealth needed for the ritual preparations and for making the equipment, and the inherited privilege necessary for leading whaling crews of male relatives or slaves (Kirk 1986; Kirk and Daugherty 1978). During the hunt, whalers' wives were expected to help from shore by lying motionless in a darkened room (Waterman 1920; Erikson 1999): as one whaler's wife recalls, "her utter stillness was intended to keep the whale from acting in an unruly manner" (Kirk 1986, 138). A single whale successfully towed into the village provided "vast amounts of oil, bone, and meat—and prestige. No families received more deference than that accorded whalers' families" (Kirk and Daugherty 1978, 90). The desire for high social status and respect may explain why Elizabeth Colson, an anthropologist who interviewed the Makah in the 1940s, was told by virtually every one of her informants that while their own family was of upper-class status, descended from chiefs, other families were from low-class ancestors (Colson 1953, 205-18). It may also explain why, eighty years after the last successful whale hunt, the Makah have come to equate their cultural identity with the most famous practice of their elite, upper-class male ancestors. Tribes and nations struggling to reject colonialism and colonized identities often see the reassertion of nationalism and national or tribal identities as a vital strategy in the struggle for self-determination. In her study of interna- tional politics and the legacies of colonialism, Cynthia Enloe finds that "na- tionalism typically has sprung from masculinized memory, masculinised hu- miliation and masculinized hope" (1989,44). Women's experiences are rarely taken as the starting point for understanding colonization or for reasserting national and cultural autonomy. Instead, women in nationalist movements are pressured to "be patient," "hold their tongues," and "to wait until the nationalist goal is achieved" (Enloe 1989, 60, 62). Enloc's analysis sharply illuminates the Makah tribe's efforts to reassert cultural identity after more than a century of colonization, in both its emphasis on the whale hunting practices of elite upper-class men, and the tribe's current practices of silenc- ing the dissenting voices of women elders who oppose the renewed hunt. A descendant from a whale-hunting family of chiefs and treaty-signers, Makah elder Dotti Chamblin had initially protested that "shooting a whale with a machine gun is not a spiritual way" and that "no one in this village has a direct relationship with the whale any longer" (Hogan 1996). Long before Alberta Thompson began working with the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, both women elders were ostracized and denied services from the tribe. Thompson was even called a "slave" by Makah tribal council vice chair Marcy Parker and fisheries director Dave Sones (Hogan 1996). These women elders who have spoken out in defense of a more traditional ecological ethic and cultural iden- tity have been silenced in the name of Makah cultural whaling and a new tribal identity that is both masculinist and elite.