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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

Letters

Air Date: Week of June 11, 1999

Listeners weigh in on our coverage of the recent whale hunt by native Americans in Washington state.

Transcript

CURWOOD: Many of you had strong feelings about our coverage of the Makah whale hunt. The story concerned the Makah Indian tribe, which harpooned its first whale in 75 years and resumed a tradition that was halted when commercial whalers almost wiped out the animals. But many listeners say that culture and tradition were no justification for the killing. Greg Carter, who hears us on KQED in San Francisco, writes, "Clearly, your folks on the scene must have been wearing rose-colored glasses, or are just plain insensitive to the killing of a magnificent whale, still a threatened species in spite of the downgrading by the US. Perhaps they should have spent some time at Laguna San Ignacio, where the gentle creatures calve and mate. Had your reporters done so, they might not have seen so much joy in the false tradition claimed by the Makah."

Likewise, Patricia Wolff, a listener to KUNM in Albuquerque, New Mexico, called the hunt inexcusable. "I, for one," she writes, "do not care if the whale killers were Japanese, Norwegian, or Native American. What they did was cruel, cowardly, and utterly contemptible."

And Bill Dollinger of Silver Spring, Maryland, left this comment on our listener line.

DOLLINGER: This is a massacre. This was nothing more than primitive blood lust hiding behind the phrase "native rights."

CURWOOD: Other listeners supported the Makah. Joe Sweeney, who hears us on WHYY in Philadelphia, found the protest against the whale hunt ironic.

"I cannot see," he writes, "how the people who destroyed the whale population have any room to criticize the native people who want to continue their tradition. Haven't we done enough to them already? There is a basic injustice in the fact that people who now stand on Indian land have the right to sit and criticize the way Indians live their lives."

And Debra Ann Pine, a Chippewa Indian who listens to WCMZ in Sault-St. Marie in Michigan, felt that the whale hunt was important in preserving what she calls an already fragile Native American culture. "The Makah whale hunt," she writes, "made my heart swell with hope with the taking of the gray whale. Hope in that our people will not disappear into the American cultural void."

Please, share your culture, your beliefs, and your responses with us. Call our listener line at 800-218-9988. That's 800-218-9988. Or send us an e-mail at LOE@NPR.ORG. That's LOE@NPR.ORG. Our postal address is 8 Story Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138. And you can visit our Web site at www.loe.org. Once again, www.loe.org. Tapes and transcripts are $15.

 

 

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