Date: Tue, 1 Dec, 1998


By: Rebekah Denn (P-I Reporter) Seattle Post-Intelligencer

The Makah Tribe will not stop its planned gray whale hunt in return for a promise of economic aid, tribal leaders said last night.

"There will not be any deals that would stop us from whaling," said whaling commission president Keith Johnson after a three-hour closed meeting attended by about 200 tribal members.

Tribal members told the council that any discussion with outside groups offering deals would give the false impression that they were willing to negotiate away their treaty right to hunt whales, he said.

The meeting was spurred in part by a full-page ad in the Peninsula Daily News last week placed by environmental advocate Ben White, organizer of a group called People for Makah and Whales.

White addressed the ad to "every Makah" and suggested that sparing the whale's life could provide for the tribe in a way that its death could not.

He said he was interested in exploring whatever projects the tribe would like to see in lieu of a whale hunt, with his group suggesting ideas such as a wind generation system for Neah Bay and buying back land that once belonged to the tribe.

White met with some members of the tribal council yesterday morning to discuss his offer, and said he was willing to return if the council wished.

But Johnson said after the meeting that "we will not be discussing anymore with Ben White."

Even earlier in the day, both sides had seemed doubtful that they could reach a middle ground.

White told the council that all offers from his side will be canceled once the tribe kills a whale. He had hoped that the council would hold off on a hunt until spring while it explored other options.

Killing even one whale will set a precedent, establishing a new category of whaling internationally, White said. His backers would not consider a deal where the tribe would hold its treaty right to kill other whales in abeyance after taking just one, he said.

Ben Johnson Jr., chairman of the tribal council, had called the community meeting, saying he wanted to hear from the people about what the council should do.

"People can change their minds overnight when you're talking dollars," he said before the meeting, and the council needed to know what the community wanted.

Marcy Parker, vice chairwoman of the tribal council, had said that all the money in the world wouldn't sway her from the hunt.
"Our treaty rights are not for sale, and my pride is not for sale," she said after the roughly hourlong meeting with White.

White said he wasn't trying to purchase or take away the treaty right, but wanted to offer options where the tribe might choose not to exercise its right.

White left Neah Bay shortly after the morning meeting, saying he would work toward a solution until a whale is killed.

The Makah have been cleared to whale since Oct.1 but have not yet ventured out into the Pacific to intercept the gray-whale migration from Alaska to Mexico.

(Seattle Post-Intelligencer Copyright 1998)

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