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Wednesday, September 12, 2007 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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"What type of culture needs a machine gun to kill a defenseless animal?"

To the lost whale

Makah caught in their own net for all posterity

Editor, The Times:

I am horrified and disgusted. The senseless slaughter of a beautiful gray whale by Makah Nation members is totally unacceptable ["Gray whale shot, killed in rogue tribal hunt," Times page one, Sept. 9].

It is not their right. What is the tribal ritual of using a .50-caliber gun and a motorboat [to kill the whale]?

It upset me in the past when the Makah Tribe was allowed, within the treaty, to kill whales. Now it not only upsets me, it disgusts me that they have gone outside the treaty to torture and slaughter.

A "slap on the hand" or monetary fine is not an adequate punishment. What the Makah Nation should realize is that people like me will think only of this incident whenever their name comes up in the future.

— Mary Jo Meyers-Barnes, Woodinville

On the stern side

So the Makah Tribe seeks its "right" to harvest whales for cultural purposes — in a ritual that makes as much sense in modern times as the Incas sacrificing children to the Corn God to ensure a plentiful harvest — and then slaughters a gray whale illegally with a machine gun? That's one proud tradition.

I certainly hope the International Whaling Commission takes this disgraceful episode into account the next time it considers loosening its restrictions on whaling for the Makah, or any tribe.

— John Parker, Maple City, Mich.

Plowing the ocean

"Cultural"? With a machine gun? What type of culture needs a machine gun to kill a defenseless animal?

As a former Seattle resident, I understand culture and am appalled. After all, I have lived in Saipan for 12 years with Chamorros, Carolinians, Filipinos, Koreans, Japanese and other people from the Asia Pacific region. I now live in Guam, with people from the same area. This is the first I have heard that using a machine gun is "culturally OK" to meet subsistence fishing rights.

Animal abuse is one of the first signs leading to further abuse. While I don't want to lump all of the Makah Tribe into one group based upon the behavior of five individuals, perhaps it's time to revisit the treaty that gave the Makah Tribe such rights.

Isn't there other food they can eat? I have lived for 42 years without whale meat and I am sure they can also.

— Deborah Covington, Hagatna, Guam

Man vs. legislature

The public will be looking at how the Tribal Council prosecutes Saturday's whaling criminals, and will respond in an economic way ["Damage control for Makah," Local News, Sept. 11]. My family and a neighbor of ours were planning a trip out to Cape Flattery sometime this fall, including a stop at the museum and, of course, meals and souvenirs.

It is sad that a few individuals can create this kind of disaster. It will be an outrage if justice is not swiftly served.

If the Makah don't like the laws they live under, they should work to change them, as is expected from any community.

It is really challenging to understand the benefit (both in economic terms and in terms of the Makah sense of identity) of whaling, regardless of which treaties were signed. If you take away the legal aspects, there is still the issue of whether it is right and reasonable in the 21st century. Several generations have passed since whaling was banned.

Saturday's exercise was in no way a success, for anyone.

"The Makah, both past and present, have demonstrated their ability to adapt, survive and flourish" — Native Peoples of the Olympic Peninsula (from the Makah Web site). I hope that this ability to adapt, survive and flourish continues, and that justice is preserved.

— Chris Johnson, Federal Way

Back on solid ground

You know, with all the ongoing controversy surrounding the treaty rights of the Makah with respect to whaling, I have to wonder exactly how many people — including Makah — have actually bothered to read the treaty.

There's exactly one short sentence about whaling in Article 4 of the treaty and, contrary to common belief, it does not say that the Makah have the ongoing right to whale as they see fit according to their tribal customs. All it says, and I quote, is:

"The right of taking fish and of whaling or sealing at usual and accustomed grounds and stations is further secured to said Indians in common with all citizens of the United States."

What the treaty appears to say is that the Makah have exactly the same right to whaling as non-Native Americans do — no more, no less. And when was the last time non-Native Americans had the right to go out and kill whales, for either business or pleasure?

And if due to "cultural history" the Makah are claiming more rights than Article 4 provides, then what's next? Will they also demand the right to reacquire the slaves historically held by the Makah as noted in Article 12?

What's been accomplished by this latest whale killing, other than one more reasonably intelligent animal subjected to a painful and pointless death?

— Jim Raftery, Meridian, Idaho

Jonah's skeptics

Yes, he's hard to stomach

I was disgusted to read the recent letters to the editor [Northwest Voices, Sept. 7] bashing Jonah Goldberg's "You can't violate your principles if you don't actually have any" [syndicated column, Sept. 3].

I consider myself mostly liberal, and though I often find some of Goldberg's comments to be hard to stomach, I think he is often right, and always witty and intelligent in his critiques. I fear that the authors of the letters wrote knee-jerk reactions attacking the perceived motives of the "Bush Camp" to which Goldberg supposedly belongs, instead of actually responding to the substance of his column.

I'd like to point out that, not only has Goldberg admitted the Bush administration to be a disaster, but he has also effectively endorsed a Democratic election win in 2008 for the purposes of shocking the Republican Party out of its stupor.

Goldberg may be a conservative, but he's a damn smart one, and I think that's a good development for this country.

— Andrew Pearsall, Kenmore

Working on a bellyache

I was pleasantly surprised when Jonah Goldberg's columns began appearing in The Times to provide a small measure of political balance to the editorial pages. Now that Seattle's lefty Bush-bashers have interrupted their lose-the-war rallies to rant against Goldberg, it's clear he's having a positive effect.

— Gary McGavran, Bellevue

I say

We are still amused

Norm Nobles' letter, "Do as I say: Not as I'm due" [Northwest Voices, Aug. 22], about parents obeying their children, is amusing.

It was amusing too, in 1957 when Edward, Duke of Windsor, said it in a quote, "Obey your children," to Look magazine.

— Emmett Murray, Kirkland

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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