The Makah




The Makah are a Native Indian tribe who have recently decided to enact their treaty rights, and start to hunt for whales. These actions have caused an uproar in North America. The Natives state that they are not doing anything but exercising their legal rights. Opponents to their hunting of whales argue that the Makah are a group of uncivilized and inhumane individuals, and that they are harming nature. The reportage of the controversy surrounding the Makah can be seen as ethnocentric in many ways. Through the language used by the media involved in the controversy, one can constantly see the Native people being viewed as inhumane savages. In turn, this language allows readers to be sent mixed messages about the Makah and their position in the whaling dispute. Finally, the protestors themselves have contradictory arguments which leads one to question the motivating factors behind their position.
In order to fully understand the whaling controversy, it is necessary to understand the history of the Makah. They were a group of Native people who hunted gray whales. As a result of their increased trade with the Europeans, the \'white man\' decided to also enter this hunt for the whale. This competition between the Makah and the \'white man\' lead to the whale coming close to extinction. Due to their love for nature and respect for the whale, the Makah decided to voluntarily refrain from hunting whales. It is important to note however, that in 1855, the Governor of Washington State agreed to the Treaty Of Neah Bay, which gave the Makah a right to hunt for whales. This is what is at the heart of the controversy. The Makah have recently enacted their hunting rights of the whale after seventy years, and are now resuming their hunt for whales. The Makah reasoning is a relatively simple one. In 1946, the gray whale population was 2000, and now their count is over 26,000. They believe that it is safe to hunt for whales again. The Makah have been a group of people who have relied on whale hunting. . They used the blubber from the whale to feed their families, and they used the rest of the whale to provide themselves with shelter and tools. However, their opponents have dismissed this practice of hunting whales as inhumane.
Through the language that is being used by the media, one can see Native people being viewed as savages. The language being used is not blatantly discriminatory against the Native people, but is done in a subtle, yet powerful way, in order to evoke a message that Native people are inhumane. One of the reasons for this negative commentary regarding Native people hunting for whales could be due to ethnocentrism. This is the belief that one\'s own culture is considered to be normal, therefore, other cultures are considered abnormal. The media carefully uses words that show their bias towards the Native People. The media tries to make the Makah look like a band of savages. While writing about a recent anti-whaling demonstration, Peggy Andersen writes, "In a simmering dispute that ended with a scuffle and arrests, angry Makah Indians pelted a protest boat with rocks as the two sides bickered over a tribal plan to hunt gray whales." The wording of this opening paragraph leads the reader to think that it was Makah who were causing trouble, and that they were the one\'s that were arrested. However, if one were to complete the article, they would realize that this was not the case. Another example of media bias against the Makah people is when Jonathan Dube writes, "As much as it\'s possible for one dead animal to give new life to an entire nation, that\'s what has happened here." Dube is implying that it is impossible for an animal that has died to bring life to a nation, however, that is what has occurred. He does not understand how killing this whale could give life to the Makah, and therefore, he conveys this message of doubt to his readers. Dube is indirectly stating that the Makah need to kill in order to have life.
Many readers and viewers of the media are being sent mixed messages about the Makah and the whaling situation. As seen above, the media is using