A whale-hugger responds: Had you asked us, we could have saved you reams of the valuable newsprint you were forced to expend on John Dougherty's inch-deep, mile-wide hagiography of the Makah whale hunt ("Resurrection," July 11), with the following summary: After Japanese commercial whaling reps told the Makah that a gray whale would be worth half a million dollars on the market in Tokyo, the tribe threatened to sue the U.S. unless the government moved heaven and earth to permit reactivation of the moribund "right of whaling" clause in the Makah's 1855 treaty, despite federal and international laws that now bar such an action. Rather than abide by those laws, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Undersecretary D. James Baker, National Marine Fisheries Service Administrator Michael Tillman, and Vice President Al Gore proceeded to bend, fold, spindle, and mutilate the U.S. Whaling Convention Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act, and the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling in order to give the Makah what they wanted. Period.
To us, the most arresting statement in the article was the assertion that "Protesters were largely successful in focusing media attention on a simplistic battle between anti-whaling groups portrayed as valiantly striving to prevent the needless death of gray whales vs. a bloodthirsty band of savages in a ruthless pursuit of a conscious and trusting whale."
That's odd. For the last five years or so, we could have sworn the U.S. media were closing ranks and marching in lock step behind the simplistic story of a small native band nobly struggling to relocate its cultural identity, while marginalized, hysterical (yet powerful, sophisticated) whale-huggers viciously try to block them.
Most of the "media attention" on this issue has looked a great deal like Mr. Dougherty's opus, which, in context, reads as the latest installment in a long, sorry parade and one more attempted chop job on Sea Shepherd by a reporter who called us two days before his deadline. (For the record, the absence of Greenpeace USA and the Green Party from the fray was not "because the hunt posed no threat to the overall population of gray whales," but because both groups knew the PC shellacking they were in for if they went anywhere near this issue. The Greenpeace Foundation opposes the hunt. The Sierra Club deadlocked in two votes to condemn the hunt, and thus took "no position.")
Sea Shepherd Conservation Society
Ugly times: Thanks for the detailed and careful article on the Makah's cultural rebirth. It is the best account I've seen.
I want to comment on the racism mentioned in the article. It would be nice if the hate had slipped back into the dark places, but it hasn't. Seattle-area Internet forums regularly carry vehement anti-Makah/anti-Indian postings, equating the Indians with drunken welfare cheats. Indian people in the Olympic Peninsula/Port Angeles area still deal with threats. A recent story circulated about an Indian-owned store that displayed Makah art. The store's owners were threatened. A month or so back, the grave of Chief Seattle was desecrated. The anti-whaling activists didn't cause the racism, but they certainly helped inspire even more of it.
We'll agree to a vote, but only if there are term limits for our neighbors: Great column ("Common Cause," Matt Smith, July 11)! I, too, think HOT [Home Ownership for Tenants, a ballot initiative that would let tenants vote on allowing condo conversions in their buildings] is a great idea that would benefit everyone in the city (except for radical tenant organizations' leaders). It is unfortunate that Sarosh [Kumana, the property owner behind the initiative] does not have the most sterling public image. He certainly has the energy and the zeal, but opponents' painting him as a greedy landlord seems to weaken the chances of passage. There are groups discussing how to add a spokesperson who would have more charisma or a better public image to promote HOT. I hope something can be done so it is not put on the ballot and defeated. It would then be very hard to revive. Keep up the good work.